Pastoral Reflections Dwight A. Moody May 19, 2022   Lots of things are on my mind today even as I prepare to lead worship and preach this coming Sunday. I don’t know yet (and may not know until the preaching hour!) if and how any of these things will seep into the preparation and delivery of my sermon on Sunday. But perhaps this reflection will at least inform you of some things and perhaps awaken you to things that God would have you know.       Mental Disease: This morning I called the hospital in Lexington to report on my son Allan (who is staying with me after his discharge ten days ago). I left a message for the psychiatric nurse, saying the medicine had effectively tapped down his schizophrenic voices but had also sapped his alertness. I hope she will call me back and announce they want to reduce the dosage of his medicine. For twenty years my son has been struggling with this adult onset, this interruption of his life, this interruption of our lives (mother, father, brother, and sister). It is not an easy thing, coming as it did on the heels of the addiction problems of his younger brother. Our attention has oscillated between the two of them, both illnesses not quickly noticed by others but each debilitation for the individual and, frankly, depressing for the family. Some of you are dealing with one or both of these conditions in your life or family, and I extend my sympathy. Just this morning, I was engaged in a conversation with a nationally-known journalist, living on the West Coast. She is a Christian and a person I have never met in person: only on line. Our exchange, in part, went like this (in part, picking up on earlier themes and issues in our long-running, long-distance correspondence, but triggered by her birthday!): ME:  Happy birthday, —-. Health and hope to you all year long. PS:  my son spent 10 days in the mental hospital and they released him into my care 10 days ago. He is staying with me. I administer his medicine and try to keep him active. He is 47. How are you?   HER:  Am pretty depressed. Dwight, does this ever stop? I cannot imagine [my daughter] living an independent life; I can’t see her getting married and [our state] doesn’t let people go to a mental hospital unless they’ve committed a crime.  There is no one to take care of her; I can’t leave town because she can’t handle rides on planes. My family is of no help whatsoever and I am so alone.   ME: I am so very sorry. There are thousands of people like us taking care of people with mental diseases. I’m glad to talk about it with you. Any time. 859-229-8642.  Does she realize she is sick?  Does she take her medicine?  Have you ever attended NAMI support groups?   HER: I tried a NAMI support group where I live and it was awful. There might be better stuff further away but that means leaving her alone at night. I have no back-up.   ME:  Is she a threat to herself? Would she leave the house? Are there day care centers for adults in your town?   HER:  NO day care centers. She’s 17, so there are some services for her. But once she hits 21, it’s a black hole. Not a threat to herself at this point but I’ve still hidden the knives. It’s just never-ending.   ME:  I’m sure you fear what I fear—our adult children being on their own with no caregivers, no safe place, not even a place to sleep. It consumes my mind. I am still working at 72 hoping to accumulate enough money to leave him a place to live.  I am praying for you.   HER:  Yes, I am working at 66! I fell into a job with —– last year and it pays well. At least we’re not on food stamps like we were for our first 6 years here. But the stress is never-ending. While she was in the institution, I lost 20 pounds. It’s all come back. Everyone says I am clearly aging fast.     Christian Mission: My move back into regular weekly ministry at Providence in Hendersonville was a surprising turn of events for me. It has given me a local, practical, and typical expression of Christian living, worship, and ministry against which to test all the ideas and proposals for the future of our faith. All over America affiliation and attendance is down: way down; and this has drawn much attention in the press. It is, in reality, but an immediate and highly visible response to a long-running effort by the Christian community (of all traditions) to respond to the conditions of modernity: science, information and the virtual world, sexual behavior, global mobility, interfaith encounters, economic growth and disparity, democracy and autocracy. Christianity has not responded well to these modern realities and the dominance of the Christian story and Christian values in Western culture, even world culture, has been seriously undermined. Recent books and articles describe the series of secular and largely democratic revolutions in a number of countries, followed by the reaction of powerful and conservative religious forces (India, Algeria, Israel, Poland, et al). This is what we are seeing now in the United States. After 70 years of progressive, largely secular and democratic changes, a powerful conservative religious tsunami is sweeping over our country. They are determined to take it back and restore “our Christian nation.”  One U S representative stated it well: “I am so tired of having godless people run this country. You and I are going to take it back.” While it is unclear who these “godless people” are, the “you and I” include Donald Trump and, apparently, the Supreme Court. In the mix off all these ideas and events I am reading (among other things) Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church, by Austen Ivereigh. He describes Francis, even when he was Archbishop Bergoglio of Argentina, as rejecting both the secularist future and the religionist future in favor of a truly Christian future, one that requires the conversion, not of the world but of the church: a conversion to listening instead of telling, assisting instead of demanding, going instead of coming, sending instead of gathering; of seeking the face of Jesus in the eyes and hearts of the poor. In a 2015 speech in Paraguay, he asserted that we “do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by simply learning how to welcome them.” He was referring to an earlier speech where he said; “Jesus didn’t proselytize, he accompanied….Closeness: that’s the program.” I read it all with our own congregation and community in mind. And I like especially this apt metaphor, from the imagination of the papal preacher Father Cantalamessa, who invited his listeners to imagine the ship of salvation, the Christian Church, not as a rowboat driven along by the efforts of Christian people and institutions, but as a sailboat carried along by the winds of the Holy Spirit. I have some ideas for Providence, but mostly I have hope in my heart and joy in my voice!! Finally, Pastoral Care: For seven months I was the Sunday Preacher for Providence (June to December), and since then (January 1) I have had the title Interim Pastor. Discussions are under way to drop that Interim word, for both me and Interim Associate Pastor Marcy Mynatt.  Those distinctions in title and responsibility came into discussion recently when church leaders gathered in person and on line to talk to us about how we can move forward with these new titles. One person took the opportunity to confront me with my deficiencies as a pastor. This person only mentioned pastoral care, but had he/she known me better or longer, he/she could have named a dozen other failures. I keep a list of these things (my pastoral shortcomings) in my head. Clearly he/she did as well, for the failure in question happened six months ago. I apologized for this lapse in my pastoral work, and as a pastor I genuinely felt compassion. I promised to call and meet for a longer discussion. I will listen, but one of the things I will say, privately and publicly, is that the care of souls, in life and in death, is the work of all of us, every one of us. Each of us, not just the pastor, is the presence of Jesus to others. May we all be open to the interruptions this ministry entails, after the manner of Jesus himself. But this episode, so fresh on my mind and in my heart, pushes me to recognize my limitations and to ask you to do so as well. No only am I trying to stay connected to my scattered and suffering family, I am trying to sustain my own ministry (TheMeetingHouse, and serve this precious congregation in their time of need.  Providence, like many churches, is a fragile gaggle of gospel folks, eager to keep it together and keep it going. We are encouraged as we feel the winds of the Holy Spirit fill the small and shredded sails of our gospel barque. I honor those who have grabbed the rudder, trimmed the sails, and held on for dear life during recent times of turbulence; and I give thanks for those of us who have come along, jumped on board, and volunteered to do our part. This past Sunday, of the 21 people in the sanctuary, 12 of us were not connected to the church one year ago. We are glad to be on board; in fact, we consider this little church an answer to our own prayer. We like where this gospel boat is going, and we want to go with you. I plan to formally join this church on Pentecost Sunday, June 5. I dislike this language—member, join, etc—for it creates a false and unsatisfying distinction among us. We are all members of the body of Christ. We are all members of the Christian Community. We are all members of the Human Community. That is, I think, enough “membership” language. I consider all 21 of us gathered last Sunday as members of Christ’s community at Providence. I extend that to those unable to come, especially those who join with us on line, through our broadcast. Many of our virtual “members” are more engaged than some of our organizational “members” and for this we all give thanks. If others wish to “join the church” with me on June 5, I am available to talk about this with you, if you wish; but you must call me, or email me, or text me. Let me know what you need and how I can help. God bless us all in these consequential times. As always, I am sailing along, singing for joy and living with hope. Dwight A. Moody, minister of the gospel and a sinner saved by grace and living in hope.          (I apologize for the way this is printed on the page. I could not figure out how to make it look like I want it to look.)

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