General CBF

The Minister: A Person Who Grieves

A minister knows only too well that the minister is a person who grieves. The challenge is that most often the grieve work a minister must do takes place at the same time the minister is serving people during their own particular grief.

I was moved by this thoughtful word from Courtney Krueger, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pendleton, South Carolina, concerning the sharing of grief as pastor and people.

When We Cannot Be Jesus
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 2:48pm
This is what I said from our pulpit Sunday. The scripture reference is Mark 5:35-43 – the raising of Jairus’ daughter:

Last night, as I stood in the hallway of the E.R. I thought of that story. It has always been one of my favorite stories of Jesus. For some reason, Mark chooses to let us hear Jesus speak Aramaic – his native tongue. It is such a tender story. Jesus bending down by the bedside of a lifeless little girl and softly speaking to her, “Talitha Cum” which means, “Little girl, get up.” And she does.
I wanted to go into that room where Tripp and Tasha were grieving so much and say to Elizabeth, “Talitha Cum…little girl, get up.” I prayed it, I prayed it. But I knew I couldn’t go in there and say those words because I’m not Jesus. To go in there and say those words would only compound their grief – to mock them. Because I’m not Jesus. You aren’t Jesus. Call it a lack of faith on our part or an acknowledgment of our mere humanity, but no matter how much we want to – and I know we all want to – we can’t say “Talitha Cum” and it be anything more than ancient words.
Since then, I’ve heard so many of you say, “What do we do? How can we help?” I’m struggling with that question. It just doesn’t get much harder than this. Because we have no choice but to move beyond helping Elizabeth and her family in the way we wish we could to helping them in the only ways we can.
Let me suggest that as we struggle with that question, “What do I do?” we respond first like Job’s friends responded. When they found out his children were gone they rushed to him. They tore their clothes in grief. They sat with him for seven days without saying a word. They knew there were no words that could be said. So they sat with him in his grief. That is ministry. It doesn’t take words. It doesn’t produce miracles. It simply says, “I don’t know what to say, but I will sit with you and cry with you and ache for you because that’s all I know to do.” We can be like Job’s friends.
But after seven days, Job’s friends opened their mouths and then they inadvertently stopped being ministers. They said things about God that aren’t true. In their good-hearted desire to make sense of all of that tragedy, they spoke nonsense. In our good-hearted desire to make sense of yesterday, let us not speak nonsense.
* Do not say of situations like this one, God never makes mistakes. Although it is true that God never makes mistakes, people do. Accidents happen and there sometimes isn’t a reason other than someone made a mistake. God doesn’t take the lives of little girls – Jesus proved that at Jarius’ home in that story I read a few moments ago.
* Do not say of situations like this one, “God needed another angel in heaven.” Although we are not aware of it, God is just as present to us now as when we are in heaven. God does not need us somewhere else because God already had us now. God would not cause this kind of pain to a family so that there was another angel in heaven.
* Do not say of situations like this one, “We can’t question God.” Some of the most powerful, Biblical prayers are not prayers that raise the dead, but prayers that raise the question, “Why?”
We CAN question God, we simply must recognize that we aren’t God and that such questions may not have answers on this side of eternity. We aren’t Jesus.
But when we ask, “How can I help, what can I do?” part of the answer IS that we can be like Jesus. We can go, we can care, we can love. It isn’t enough. But it is all we have. I remember hearing the story of Jess Trotter, the late Dean of the Virginia Seminary, whose son died a tragic death. Months later he told his students, I thank you for your understanding. I thank you for your presence. Your prayers have made a difference. Where I’ve been and where I am, I can tell you but a little. I’ve been to the bottom and found it firm. If, months or years from now, Tripp and Tasha and James are able to say this, it will be because they found us at the bottom – because they were able to stand on our shoulders – because we WERE like Jesus: because we went, we cared, and we loved.
Finally, let me suggest that we not only be LIKE Jesus, but that we TRUST Jesus. Jesus does come. Jesus does care. Jesus does love. He tells us he will not leave us orphaned. He is with us always – even when it feels like it is already the end of the age.
Several weeks ago Elizabeth came forward at the end of a service and picked up a cross from this table. She did so to say to us that she sensed God working in her life in a new and mighty way. What a memory that is, what a gift that is – a response of faith. It may seem crass that we respond to this by gathering here and doing what we do every Sunday including taking up an offering, but we respond in that way because it is a response of faith. They laughed at Jesus because he came offering resurrection. They can laugh at us for believing in a God of resurrection on a morning like this. But this is a God who loves each of us and who tenderly whispers in our ears, “Little girls, little boys, get up.” I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know what better we can do than to respond in faith.!/notes/courtney-krueger/when-we-cannot-be-jesus/365292382606

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