It Was Almost Too Much
I’ve been carrying it around for three days, now. A printout, 23 pages long, single-spaced. A running list of what I asked from you in an e mail last Monday. I asked you to share your deepest experience of loss, and it unleashed a torrent! Death, disease, abortion, desertion, divorce, imprisonment… the words on the page almost cried out to me.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more keenly the privilege …and the weight… of being your pastor than I did in those moments. And, frankly, the inadequacy. That stack of papers is a physical reminder of what I know, what I have always known, but can sometimes forget: that every Sunday morning, filling our pews, are people with stories that include moments of deep pain and loss. Joy and success too, of course. But also scarring loss that leaves its indelible imprint. I can only share some of these on Sunday but I want you to know I have read every single one, more than once, and prayed over your stories.
My LifeGroup is memorizing Romans 5: 1-8. In that passage Paul speaks of rejoicing in “hope of the glory of God.” He then continues: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…” It is easy to memorize and recite; harder to believe and live out, isn’t it?
This Sunday I preach my first in a series called “Encounters.” We are going to look at five of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. The first will be tearful Mary. I pray and believe that what we learn from her encounter will encourage all of us to rejoice, even in our sufferings, because we believe that the resurrected Jesus it is leading us on a path to hope that does not disappoint.
And men, I know some of your wives are away on retreat. Man up! You can get the kids to church all by your lonesome! I look forward to worshipping with all of you.
P.S. I need your help again for my next message: “The Fearful.” Would you be willing to share with me, in two or three sentences, your most frightening moment? You may reply to firstname.lastname@example.org