Aug 2, 2012

You Just Never Know...

A Sunday or two back, when I subbed preaching for Travis Franklin at FUMC, Salado Texas, I told a story to his congregation about how we are each called to be in ministry to others. “But how?” people like us are prone to ask. We all spend ample time and energy training ourselves and our churches to take care of those in crisis. The question is, where and when should we be ready to offer Christ to others? How do we know a crisis when we see one? Let me share what happened one day, all by accident.

“In the spring of the year, the time when preachers go out to golf” (2 Samuel 11:1), some preacher friends and I decided to go out to golf. We rarely had the opportunity for fellowship, as we were scattered throughout Central Texas—so we decided to play golf.

None of us was any good at golf—for we were not “really” golfers. However, we wanted to catch up on our lives and let our hair down a bit. On a golf course few people care about who is a preacher, thus we were just regular guys—and we were happy to be together and more or less—alone!!! We were alone, that is, until about the third hole, when Jim came out of the woods and joined us.

Jim was a much better golfer than we were, but evidently wanted some company. We confessed that we were preachers and were soon on our best behavior—no complaints about parishioners, budgets, and the work of ministry. We did not really mind the tag-along—except for Rev. Joe who was disappointed by the turn of events. Joe began to play badly as Jim hit one spectacular shot after another. Joe was on a slow boil. He kept saying under his breath, “We have one afternoon to ourselves and then ‘knuckle-head’ shows up. Why can’t we ever do anything by ourselves?”

Finally, on the 16th hole, I noticed Jim had a nice suntan and had said little. So I asked him if he had a job. He reluctantly told us that the doctors had diagnosed him with a rare inoperable brain tumor and what was the point of working. The doctors told him to make the best of the next six months because that was about all the time he had left.

We asked about his family. Didn’t he want to spend time with them? Jim confessed that his wife said she couldn’t “just sit around and watch him die,” so she and their children moved to California with her parents. Jim then said that he came to the golf course daily and tried to be with people. In fact, Jim had never played golf until the doctors gave him his bad news. Suddenly, our day of fun turned to an opportunity to do ministry. Jim ministered to us as it turned out.

I really felt sorry for Rev. Joe because usually he is the most compassionate person I know. This odd turn of events did show us, however, that we need not look far to find someone in need of community and the word of hope that Jesus provides. When God tells us to take authority, and we take it, we will surely find a use for it immediately. Jim minister to us, but we learned a lesson about being sensitive to the pain and isolation of others.

As Christians we do not need to look for people in crisis. They are already all around us. May we give God thanks for helping us with a task that is much bigger than we are!


Susan Schrock said...

Calls to mind the great advice - "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

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