Monday, June 18, 2007

The Least

I've noticed, especially in the last couple of weeks, much of the pain that is present in a rural community. I haven't been able to diagnose a cause of it all, but I don't know that I need to. My role, as I see it, is not primarily in diagnosis (though that component is present), but in identification and treatment.

Identification: pain. Lots of it. Everywhere. I have met congregation members who have been to prison, who have lost loved ones to drugs, who have committed crimes I don't want to mention here. Prostitution in Pembroke is too common, and the Syphilis rates for the county are among the highest in the nation. Children come into our daycare with evidence of abuse.

This week, I've been talking to one very distraught mother; her son passed away just a few days ago unexpectedly...probably from drug-related reasons. I was at the church on Saturday morning working on my message for Sunday when I noticed her standing across the road at the cemetery. She was standing by her son's grave. We talked and prayed, and I tried to reassure her. She wanted to change the way those with drug problems get help...and pointed out so many of the problems with the "system."

I'm so glad that the church is not a "system," and I really hope that we don't become one. In the midst of all of this pain that surrounds me, I realize that the church surrounds those in pain. The faithful people of this community come, week after week, when things like these keep happening. Healing occurs here, at the church. Thanks be to God.

This week, I've seen firsthand how the church as surrounded the family of this distraught mother. Also, they've surrounded the pastor and his wife. See, last Friday, our pastor had a heart attack, and is currently hospitalized. He's okay, and we thank God for that. The love poured out by the congregation has been immense. Our prayer-time during yesterday's worship service was particularly powerful. Some of the children made a giant card and went around the church getting everybody to sign it.

Isn't it wonderful that the love of Christ can sustain us in these difficult times? Isn't it wonderful that the Church is a beacon of hope in a dark world? I give thanks that God is found with the least...and I give thanks that--if we're the least--God is with us the most.

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