Monday, September 20, 2010

Ministry of Presence

This past Sunday our Pastor spoke of the "Ministry of Presence." I was already listening intently to the sermon, but my mind locked on those three words. Something clicked. Ahh...mercy, serving a meal to the sick, helping the elderly with laundry. All of these ministry activities so important. As Pastor Bernard continued, those three words cleared the confusion in my head. So there is a ministry where I need say nothing, solve nothing, do nothing but be there??? I always thought I had to be a Super-hero, a Mother Theresa born in the good ole' USA - - why try? Usually I would just make a meal and have someone deliver it as I felt inadequate to minister face-to-face.

How often do we not go to a sick person's room, someone losing their hair after chemo because we do not know what to say? We rationalize that we do not relate as we have never been in their situation. Someone else is better able to minister in that capacity. How often have we avoided a funeral service because we felt awkward and unsure about how to approach grieving family members?

I have to admit I am a "No Show" far too many times because I feel inadequate, unprepared and just downright at a loss in the "what to say" and "how to say it" department. So I just don't show up.

But God had a lot to say about "just being present" this past Sunday as our Pastor continued his sermon on "just being there". The Ministry of Presence is sitting quietly and not trying to do anything. You become a human being and not a human doing. A sort of Mary in a Martha world and just as Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and was enjoying His presence we can sit with others (or stand or lie down - no matter!) and be that sweet silent presence to them. For we are there because we care. We are there not to solve their problems but to pray over them and beseech the Only One who can solve their problems and heal them in the first place (physically and spiritually) - the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ahhh! This Ministry of Presence - such a peaceful concept. Where did it begin? I think of John 20:19, "On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" John 20:20, "After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." John 20:21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."  John 20:22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."

The disciples no doubt were comforted and encouraged - actually overjoyed no doubt  (I would be! How about you?) when Jesus's presence was apparent. For they had been fearful up to that point, most likely asking "Why?" "What happened?" "What now?" I can envision the Apostles pacing in the room - back and forth - back and forth - back and forth - dirt flying into the air as feet already caked with mud become dusted with more dirt each second.... Then in enters Jesus and all is suddenly well again.

We true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have the power of the Holy Spirit in us that Jesus left the disciples with.We can share Christ's enduring presence in the lives of others. It is an awesome responsibility to go. To be there as we know we are called to do (Matthew 25) and just be present. But the going need not consist of problem-solving, deep counsel or a To Do list as long as your arm. Just go. The Ministry of Presence, the first time I heard it ever this past Sunday - intrigues me and calls my name. I will never be the same! The yoke of doing that I put on myself has now been flung off and I feel free!!!

I don't have to perform. I don't have to be perfect. I don't even have to participate. I just need to be present. The Gospel must also be present in the Ministry of Presence. For if not, consoling and comforting through this silent ministry will not be possible. Christ's powerful presence will shine through a servant in this ministry of mercy, allowing light to overpower the darkness of fear and questions of the future. Perfect love casts out fear and we must invite the Lord in when we minister in this capacity.

A Ministry of Presence helps victims become survivors, which is necessary to recovery and renewal. After all - - there is only Victory in Christ.

How many party invitations have I sent out that I have scribbled at the very bottom, "No presents. Your presence is all we ask." Yet, when we are at our lowest whether it be physically ill, spiritually low or emotionally hurting - - why do we not ask for the presence of others? For the presence of others bringing the sweet perfume of the Lord is exactly what we need at that time. We may receive a bowl of soup but it may be the very hands of the giver of the meal that we need in prayer beside us reaching out to the Lord.

I am so grateful to have heard the sermon this past Sunday. I am excited for what the Lord will do with this Ministry of Presence. There truly is freedom in knowing our present is our presence. True mercy in silence. Sign me up!
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