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May 30, 2005

Popping Culture Reflection: His strength made perfect in my weakness.

2 Cor 12:9-10
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

As a pastor, my goal, first and foremost was to serve as a "midwife of Grace" to those in my congregation. They would trust me enough to let me enter their most private lives, traumas, crises and conflicts and I would hope to serve as a sort of touchable representative of God.

In many ways, even the most dedicated pastor is in danger of seeing himself as a kind of empowered emissary of God who can rely solely on his own ability. I learned to identify certain danger signs in the life of a church or in the lives of individuals, and found myself therefore in danger of losing the perception of that "still, small voice." I became able to solve many administrative problems creatively, and found myself in danger of losing sight of what God had in mind for the church. As a writer, I found myself in danger of writing pretty sermons that sounded great and got wonderful feedback, yet fell short of the mark of delivering the message that needed to get across.

Most dangerously, as a professional "midwife of Grace," I lost, or nearly lost, the ability to see the workings of Grace in my own life. After all, I tell my congregation that I am just another human on the journey like they are. I tell them that, and on the surface I believe it, but after serving in enough hospital rooms, living rooms, conference rooms and pulpits, it's easy to elevate yourself. To think that since you deliver Grace and point people to it, that you don't need it yourself.

And then you get sick. Really sick.

Now who needs Grace, tough guy?

I found these words written by Reverend William Chidester, also from Ohio, who had liver disease:

"During my hospital stay I cannot begin to tell you what kind of support I received from my friends. What has been impressed upon me in ways that I will never forget is this - as a minister I spend much of my time caring for and about others. I am affirmed in the process of doing this. So here I am working to earn people's love, trust and admiration by being the best possible minister I can. Yet I was never able to do enough. Then I find something I can't do, function with my own liver, and it is out of my weakness that the grace of God is revealed. Because of what I can't do, I have been affirmed in these people's support and love beyond anything I thought possible."

If I had never been sick, I would never have felt Grace in a way that didn't need to feel earned, somehow. The people of my church, my friends, have stepped up and forced me into a new perspective, and for that I am grateful. Because of their constant cards, calls, meals, gifts and other support, I am able finally to feel and see Grace, not just deliver it to others.

Posted by Dan at May 30, 2005 08:06 AM

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Dan - I keep a book in which the really important things I learn in school get recorded -- the main thing I take away from each class, or the four sentence statement on the message I'm on fire to preach about I wrote for Gail's Intro to Preaching class. I just printed out this post of yours to paste in that book.
light and peace to you, and thanks -Chava

Posted by: Chava at May 31, 2005 09:37 AM

Thank you very much. I know Gail can be a harsh taskmaster.

Posted by: Dan at May 31, 2005 09:49 AM

My long delay in stopping by to thank you for the "harsh taskmaster" comment is because I am currently being harsh 24/7 (or so it feels!) in summer school intensives! But Dan: get a grip!! I haven't had the pleasure of terrorizing you in preaching class as yet, but am impatiently praying you through this rough patch so that I can get my hands on you. So again, get a grip: you have NO IDEA what I might be saving up for you. After all, I shall owe my best in the classroom to God out of sheer gratitude for your survival! ;}

Posted by: Gail at June 4, 2005 10:09 AM

That's, um, frightening and exciting all at once. I might come to long for the simple days of chemotherapy.

Posted by: Dan at June 4, 2005 10:26 AM

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