How likely are you to continue going to a dentist who is cocky, arrogant, self-impressed — who makes you feel like s/he is doing you a favor by attending to your need? Suppose this dentist is more concerned about doing his work rather than the pain you might encounter?
Would you recommend an auto mechanic who makes you feel stupid because you cannot figure out what your car needs and is unwilling to answer your questions — he doesn’t try to explain what the problem is?
Then why would anyone approach a minister or go to a Church where the minister holds himself [herself] out as a mighty lord and sovereign rather than a servant?
THE CHURCH OF JESUS has no room for cocky, arrogant, self-impressed ministers — ordained or un-ordained. THE CHURCH OF JESUS needs no minister who presents himself as one who knows what the members need because after all — he is above the rest of mankind simply because ordination has given him special status and “the voice of God.”
Jesus was an effective minister because he was approachable. Jesus was an effective minister because people KNEW HE CARED ABOUT THEM. People felt it — they did not need him to tell them how much he cared. SAYING we care — does not mean we really care.
In days gone by, we were asked to reflect on Henri Nouwen’s “wounded healer” — the minister who served from his own woundedness, not his perfection. Today we could challenge minister’s to humbly serve as a “forgiven sinner”. By God’s mercy, we are all forgiven sinners — we serve from this standpoint. Like one in a 12 step program, we know we are never really healed — by God’s grace, we work day-by-day, one-day-at-a-time, to help others — as we journey together.
People are smart enough to know what a minister’s agenda [the Church’s agenda] really is.
People have two votes: one is with their feet and the other is with their wallet. People will no longer go to a Church or “pay their tithe” to support a minister who is not with them. PEOPLE WILL GO AND WILL SEND THEIR MONEY to a Church and to a pastor who genuinely cares for them. Money follows service. A preacher who is “one in heart” with his people can speak a challenging — even a hard message — if those who hear the message know the preacher really cares — that s/he serves seven days a week … who helps because people are in need — who does not “lord it over them” how busy he is or how tough his work is.
A Gallup Poll released this week shows that 56% of Protestants in America have confidence in their Church. 44% of Catholics in America have confidence in the Church. For sure, there are many factors here —- this weekend we are called to look at the factor of care — of tending to the needs of people. Are people losing confidence in the Church because they are losing confidence of their shepherds?
In the Gospel [Mark 6:30-34] the HEART of Jesus was moved with PITY because the people were “like sheep without a shepherd” — some preachers may be tempted to preach on vocations — the need for more shepherds. However, my take on this part of the Gospel, is the problem is not about too few shepherds — but rather too few shepherds with a shepherd’s heart. The problem was not a vocation crisis — but rather a crisis of attitude within the vocation of ministry.
Some preachers may be tempted to preach on prayer and the need to go away and to spend time with Jesus away from work — ok — this is fine IF THE RESULT of this time away leads to gaining the heart of Jesus — it is not merely about spending more time in prayer or the importance of prayer over work. PUT THE READINGS TOGETHER, the Gospel of Mark and the first reading, Jeremiah 23: 1-6.
For the past 2 1/2 years I have spent my time away from parochial ministry among people who are more Protestant than Roman Catholic. The majority of these people do not go to church every week. When they do go to church, they are looking to be inspired, encouraged, challenged — they want to be FED for the journey on the word of God.
I am not talking about ‘pandering’ to people. I am not suggesting we water down or sugar coat the message —- I am suggesting that we look at where people are and HELP THEM to come to Jesus. People are looking for help with their everyday problems. Remember: before Jesus challenged people, he fed them.
While the person in the pulpit will hear a special challenge this weekend, THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO CARE …. so everyone — minister, teacher, parent, doctor, lawyer, plumber — is to measure his/her “care ability” this weekend — do we … are we ….
C – compassionate, considerate, caring: do we try to figure out what others need before we try to do something? Do we REALLY feel the pain of others? Do we adjust our schedule to be present to those who depend upon us? Are we giving from ‘extra’ time and money — or does our care cause us to do with less? Do we put ourselves in the shoes of another or remember when we ourselves were in need? What would we expect of another if we were in the “spot” that others are in? what touches our hearts, stirs our emotions?
A – aware, attentive: are we keeping up with changes caused because of Medicaid cuts? do we really know what the “Affordable Health Care Act” offers? are we listening to children, fellow parishioners, to a neighbor, to our parents, to our children? what is important to them today? are we preaching a message that is REAL to the lives of those in front of us?
R – responsive, relational — do we take action or do we think of what SOMEBODY needs to do? do we make plans, but not follow through? are we people of our word? to we keep our promises? are we giving 5% of our wealth to the needs of the world? what efforts are we making BEYOND what we have to do? how flexible are we when someone asks for help? do we pretend not to see or not to hear?
E – engaged and engaging — do people feel like we are present to them or doing what is “expected of us” — are we the good shepherd who is “with” our people, or someone meeting the clock? are we seen as distant or approachable?
Ok: so what do we expect from a store clerk who is waiting on us? how do we expect to be treated by the customer assistance representative at the home improvement store when we have questions that might be trivial to him? when we have an issue to discuss with our doctor, how soon do we expect to get a return call?
Now — let us go and treat others in the same way as we expect to be treated. Let us serve and help one another as we expect to be helped.