Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Tuesday - Lent 4

Two years ago the Presbyterian Church in Canada had a National Conference called "The Emmaus Project".  It was a time of meeting and meditation and reflection.    One of the speakers was Mr. Bill Easum.
Reading through Bill Easum's  "Ministry of Hard Times" yesterday was fascinating.   Mr. Easum commented on something that I've been mulling over in my mind lately.     Prayer and Fitness.    Our clergy and sessions must do a good hour of prayer and devotional each day.  And this is prayer, meditation, and study outside of Sermon prep or Sunday School prep time.    Mr. Easum says if those who are called by God to work in the Church do not set the example of good devotion,  then the standards of those sitting in the pews drops.    
Mr. Easum suggests that Sessions would be smart to have each Clergy (and I'd include Elders in this too!) do three other things...
1.  Take regular Continuing Education.  And this doesn't mean going to a fancy hotel with your family and taking books along that never get read.  Continuing Education means going to a class somewhere or taking a class online. Learning stimulates creativity and new ideas and brings about fresh sermons for those of us who sit in a pew.   If Clergy never go on Continuing Education,  the Sermons become dry like an old Fall Leaf.  
2.  Regular Retreats away to a lonely place.   Yup, lonely.  Lonely not in "I"m sooo alone"  but lonely where there are no distractions.   No cell phones.  No phones.    No e-mails.    Possibly laptops to do online retreats and writing.  Or better yet to a Retreat Centre with Spiritual Directors.
3.  Keeping physically fit.  Clergy must do something physical each day.  Builds up the serotonin which makes for happy ministers.      Best advice one Elder gave Husband Mine many years ago was,  "When you are frustrated with the congregation,  get out your rake and shovel and go dig in the garden!  Better to take out the frustration on the ground than it is on a person!  And while your digging,  say your prayers".  Smart Elder.   Thanks Jim Carr from Port Carling Ontario!

When times seem tough,  O Lord,  and we think we are the only one’s working in Your name,  open our eyes to the miracles You bring each day.  When we think there is no one else to help us do Your work,  open our mouth to ask others to be Your hands.  Lord have mercy.  Amen.

Read:  St. Matthew 9:  35 – 38

The two chapters of the miracles of Jesus have now ended.  St. Matthew describes the
work that Jesus continues to do each day.  Yet one thing stands out in reading that Jesus visited towns and villages… he had compassion.  He healed the broken hearted and the broken lives because he had compassion.    He taught from the scriptures because he had compassion.    He healed diseases and sickness because he had compassion. 

“What a huge harvest” Jesus said to the disciples,  “How few workers!  On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”  (The Message translation  Matthew 9:38). 
Jesus knows that he and the disciples alone can not be the only workers to bring in the harvest.. together they pray for others to help them spread the Good News of Jesus.. the Good News of Jesus that begins with compassion.

Today is no different.  We look at all the people who need help or healing or teaching  of scripture today  and it is in the millions.  Then we look at how many are still attending Church and we get discouraged.  Yet,  did Jesus get discouraged?  Does it mention in these verses Jesus and the disciples giving up because the task was too great?   No,  not at all.   Read again what Jesus and the disciples do in verse 38.   Some translations say “Get on your knees and pray”.     Other translations say “Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into his harvest field”.    

These verses are a great example for us today.   Jesus  did not try and do everything himself and get discouraged with his efforts.  Instead,  he prayed about the situation but didn’t leave the prayer request and sit on his hands.  Not at all.   Jesus offered up prayer for help with the “harvest”  and then took action… and then what happened?    You will just have to wait until tomorrow to find out  (or read ahead today if you can’t wait for the answer).   

This day remember when you pray to ask God to lead your prayers from prayers of “the task is too big and I can’t do it alone” to prayers of compassion with action.

Almighty God,  from whom all holy desires,  all good counsels and all just works proceed;  give us,  Your servants, that peace which the world can not give, that our hearts may be set to serve You faithfully, and be ever free to praise You with joy,  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.    (Taize  “Praise in all Our Days”  Mowbray,  1981).

Many blessings!

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