Ministers are easily distracted. We are easily distracted because many of us have a desire to serve people and the inability to say no. On top of that, people know that we love them so they often ask, and expect, certain things from us, whether we should do those things or not. Nonetheless, I find myself, as a minister, being pulled in 8 different directions on any given day trying to decide what to do first; answer emails, return phone calls, schedule lunch with a friend, work on the next sermon, play with my boys, clean the house, write a new blog, or download a new sermon from one of my favorites.
So what is our job anyway? I mean, what are we really supposed to be doing? Because if you have not figured it out already, there is no way that we can do everything that everyone wants us to do.
What is the one thing we must be about? If I can answer that, it helps me sort through the laundry list of busyness that follows me around. If I can discern the ONE THING that I MUST ABSOLUTELY FOCUS ON, at the risk of accomplishing nothing else, then I have won the battle before I break a sweat. Today, I found that ONE THING, once again, though I have forgotten it many times.
Death has a way of interrupting schedules. It does not ask permission to enter, but rather kicks the door down taking all things with it. Death comes when it wants to, not when it is convenient for us. And today, in the face of the death of a friend, I received a REVELATION (or a reminder, actually) of exactly what the minister’s job is.
I preached a funeral this afternoon. Not my first, certainly not my last. It was unlike any that I have been involved in, though. A friend of mine was found dead this past weekend outside of a crack house. Though the autopsy is not finished, those of us who knew and loved him were not surprised by the news. He was 47, with 2 children, and he was loved by everyone. He had been locked in a battle to the death with alcohol and drugs for years, and he finally lost.
The church was packed and the tears fell liberally. We sang “How Great Thou Art” and 3 other ministers shared thoughts and encouragement for the grieving audience. I was the last one. I was asked to share the gospel and call people to repentance and salvation. As the moment got closer, my heart began to beat fast and my mouth dried up. What was I going to say? There were no answers! There was no explanation. He was never coming back, everyone was upset, and here I was in a dark suit with a lump in my throat and nothing to say.
Then it hit me. The ONE THING. The JOB OF A MINISTER.
I HAD TO SPEAK A WORD FOR GOD.
At that moment, all the detritus washed away and it became crystal clear. Ministers are called to speak a word, to the people, from God, for them. Nothing else mattered at that moment. Death, the great equalizer, had blown all the clouds and confusion from my mind, and I stood in front of grieving people who only needed one thing from me. THEY NEEDED ME TO TELL THEM SOMETHING THAT WAS FROM GOD. Nothing fancy. No need for theological instruction. Their hearts were broken and they needed to know what God had to say to them in their pain.
And that is where we come in. We stand in front of the people, in sermons and prayers and lessons, in times of despair and chaos and loss, and we tell them what God has to say to them in their time of need. And Satan himself will make every effort to usurp God’s hold on us, to split us from task and steal us away from this one job. Administration, dead-end debates, theological hoop-jumping, political posturing, financial hand-wringing, or even good old fashioned sermon preparation or hospital visitation. If we lose sight of THE ONE THING, our calling, we are finished. As Eugene Peterson says, we become domesticated and tame, scrambling to do unimportant and non-eternal things that people think they need, when the one thing they really need, A WORD FROM GOD, is the one thing we are called to deliver to them.