Sunday, August 22, 2010

Touched by the Church

I spend most of my days trying to figure out how God can use me to be a blessing. My vocation as pastor is one in which I seek to be poured out for others - visiting people who are sick, comforting the lonely, offering a word of hope to those who mourn and being present when people need me. Providing pastoral care is a large part of my assignment. But last weekend, I was not providing pastoral care. Instead, I was the one receiving it.

The weekend started rather normal. I had a relaxing Friday morning and was getting ready for the rest of the weekend. I was starting to dry my hair when I noticed myself becoming dizzy. A few moments later, I was getting up from the floor with a huge knot on my head that happened sometime on the way down from fainting. I got up, placed some ice on my head for a few minutes and then went about my day. It was unusual but not that unusual. I have passed out several times so did not think much about it... until Saturday when it happened again with my husband watching the entire thing.

We called the cardiologist and drove to the Emergency Room. The ER doctor performed a few routine checks and an hour later I was being informed that my "room upstairs was ready."

"Excuse me?" I asked. "I cannot stay here. It's Saturday. I'm a pastor. I have to be at church tomorrow." The doctor looked at me with patient eyes, shared how I could spend the next week going in and out of physician offices or I could stay in the hospital and get whatever was happening to me treated as aggressively as possible with a series of tests. I obliged very reluctantly. And the church started to act.

I placed a call to a member engaged to one of our newest members who is a seminarian. I invited the two people to lead worship the next day. At the same time, my husband called one of our longtime and active members. When we hung up the phone, this person started calling people. He worked hard to make sure that every aspect of worship would be cared for. He must have made close to 20 calls. He invited a variety of different people to help with worship. He did whatever he could to make sure that worship would be faithful and inspiring.

When Sunday morning arrived, three different people showed up ready to preach. Three people came prepared to be used by God. The sermon was given by an 88-year-old saint of the church. Mary Elizabeth told the story of the Prodigal Son in such a way that blessed many hearers.

Following church, I was visited by three people. The church came to me. Jerry, Mary Lou and Christine came to provide care to me. I cried in their midst. I expressed anxiety about my current reality and some of the changes coming my way. They held my hand, comforted me, and cared for me. They were the church to me.

Calls continued through the week. One of our members left a message and then called back to leave a prayer on our voice mail. Cards have come with scriptures that I would normally read to others. Rides have been provided. My 102-year-old friend, Howard, had a rose ready for me when I showed up to Bible study. Hugs have been extended. Prayers have been lifted - countless prayers.

I have experienced the church - I have been touched by the church.

Mount Vernon Place is filled with so many remarkable people. Many of them have been coming to church for eight, nine or even ten decades. They know how to be the church. They know the words of James - that if one member suffers we are all called to suffer together and we are called to pray for one another. They care for each other. And, they are teaching our younger, newer members how to care for each other. They embody the Body of Christ with their actions, and their actions are teaching others how to be the Body of Christ. It is really quite beautiful.

My church carried me through last weekend. My church touched me with the hands of Christ. My church anointed my head with oil. They reminded me that no matter what happens, my cup overflows. It was a pure gift to receive the blessing of the church.

I desperately needed the church last weekend, and the church showed up in ways more powerful than I could have ever imagined.

How do people live without the church?

1 comment:

Jerry Roberson said...

It was wonderful to watch how the MVP members came together to lead worship on Sunday. They did a great job. However, you were definitely missed!