Sunday, November 16, 2008

One of those BLESSED moments ...

My "Poverty and Justice Bible" (CEV edition) contains the following verse:

"The Spirit of the Lord God has taken hold of me !
The Lord God has chosen and sent me to tell the oppressed the good news,
to heal the broken hearted, and to announce freedom for prisoners and captives."
(Isaiah 61:1)

Tonight Tim Huff, a Youth For Christ worker based in Toronto, came and spoke at the Brandon Youth For Christ Gala. Tim authored a book entitled Bent Hope, that I have reflected on previously. (My Prairie Preacher entry from September of this year is here) (My Sermon from August of this year reflecting on his book is here)

Tim's message was simple, yet deeply profound.

He pointed out that there is a difference between being homeless and being houseless ... our house is the physical structure in which we live ... our home is the place where we are warm, loved, cared for, safe ... he spoke and noted that many people who are today houseless were truly HOME-less for a long time before they left the house ...

My mind couldn't help but wander to the stories that fill the news here in Manitoba about 5 yr old Phoenix Sinclair who was abused, neglected, beaten and murdered by her mother and step-father ... there was NO HOME for that little girl, even though she resided in a house ... her's is the extreme of the kinds of stories that lie as background in the lives of those we encounter on the streets of cities across this continent ... and tonight Tim Huff came to remind and challenge us about what we "know" about homelessness ...

He held up the work of Brandon's Youth For Christ and its breadth of programmes as a living example of faithful people taking the call of Isaiah seriously to bind up, or heal the broken hearted ...

Tim then went on to reflect on his journey and some of the moments in time where he stood in ministry, seeking to bind up the broken hearted ... his stories challenged all of us in the room to remember that there is a story behind the individual we may meet on the street. He didn't say it, but my heart whispered the old blessing - "may you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet, and may they see the face of Christ in you ..."

But the powerful exclamation point that Tim put on his conversation tonight was when he cited the place that Isaiah 43:18 & 19 played in his journey following a time of profound spiritual struggle and self-doubt.

The words of the prophet:

"The Lord said: 'Forget what happened long ago! Don't think about the past. I am creating something new. There it is !! Do you see it? I have put roads in the desert, streams in thirsty lands ...'"

Forget the past, urged Tim. "This is the hard stuff" he said - it's the point where we have to let go and let God take over - we have to be willing to be open to letting something new begin to happen in our midst ... we let go of the past, and look forward by celebrating the small victories. We mark the moments that shine with Grace ... as he spoke I looked back on the last 18 years of my life ... a journey in my life that saw me kneel in a stifling hot auditorium in Windsor Ontario and rise an ordained Minister in the Church ... a journey that has had more than its fair share of ups and downs ... a journey that has lead me out of a pulpit, but into the world ...

On Friday I went looking for the house-less individuals in Brandon to find out if they have shelter from the cold ... I found some of them ... as they are - on the street ... we talked ... the night before I had a one on one conversation with the Minister of Finance for the Province of Brandon and urged him to come to Brandon and see for himself the crises we are experiencing ... I gave him up-to-date statistics on how bad the housing crisis we're experiencing is, and how acute the needs are ... I couldn't help but wonder - IS THIS MINISTRY ??

Tonight, as I listened to Tim and reflected on his words, I had the realization that I am engaged in a ministry that is more rewarding, fulfilling and MORE meaningful than ANYTHING I have ever experienced within the bureaucratic nightmare that is Denominational Church ... my departure from the pulpit was NOT by my choice ... it was foisted upon me by small souled people who fail to see the fear they live within, and who hide behind "the way things are" trying in vain to maintain a status quo that is dying ... finding the shelter-less individuals and learning their names and their stories IS MINISTRY ... urging the Finance Minister of the Province to remember the people who are NOT at the meeting because they are too busy trying to survive IS MINISTRY ... and sitting with community, church and political leaders to share the information that is "out there" about poverty, homelessness, and food security, as they seek to shape a response IS MINISTRY !!!!

We live in a world that is changing very rapidly, and too many corners of the world and especially THE CHURCH are unwilling to face much less accept the change around them ... Tonight, the evening Gala began with a look back at the world 50 years ago when Youth For Christ came to Brandon, and contrasted that with the world today ... the opening words were - "Fifty years ago communities segregated black and white pupils in schools" ... "Today, the United States elected it's first Black President ..." and from there CHANGE was embraced rather than rejected. The Church as we know it WILL die if it doesn't embrace Change by opening its doors, its heart, and its pocket book to the WAY THINGS COULD AND SHOULD BE, rather than clinging desperately to the way things USED to be ...

Tonight I came away with the realization that I am called, anointed AND ORDAINED to ministry - I AM A REVEREND, and I am proud of that calling - that ROLE, and NOTHING that a human constructed organization that calls itself a Church can do will deny, nor remove that calling from me.


I am CALLED to be in MINISTRY.

My ministry today is far greater than a truly small congregation that wants things to remain nice, and doesn't want its minister to rock the boat.

My ministry is in the community, among the leaders and the shelter-less, seeking to bind up the broken-hearted wherever they may be found ...

Tonight I am very mindful that when Jesus stood up in his home congregation and read from the scroll of Isaiah and shared the very words Tim cited tonight -

"The Spirit of the Lord God has taken control of me!
The Lord has chosen and sent me to tell the oppressed the good news,
to heal the broken hearted,
and to announce freedom for prisoners and captives."

When Jesus shared those words the response of HIS community of faith, was to drag him to the nearest cliff and try to fling him over ...

I have been chosen and sent by God to be in MINISTRY ... it shouldn't surprise me that voices of criticism would harshly call me down ... it shouldn't shock me that people would gossip and lie about me and tear my reputation asunder ... it should be expected that the Church - the human institution AND ALL OF THOSE who have a vested interest in maintaining the legalism, the dogma, and the status quo would harshly and loudly reject me for simply doing what God has called and ordained me to be ...

Tonight for the first time in a very long time, I feel blessed to be in ministry, and I know that my ministry is no longer about being in a particular denomination ... my ministry is about being true to the GOOD NEWS.

And all of this came because I was privileged to hear Tim Huff share a simple message about living our faith and actively healing the broken hearted ...

Thanks Tim !!!
I'm glad you stopped by, and I'm very glad you got a better reception sharing the words of Isaiah then Jesus did back in the day ...

Keep the faith brother, I'll do MY best to keep mine !!!


Anonymous said...

Missed you at Presbytery,

Anonymous said...

Like Tim you have been called...not by man but by God, and you have definitely been challenged. With joy and love though you continue to make a difference in the lives of those you reach out to both within and outside of the walls of the church. Now that's faith!

Wanderin' Weeta said...

"My ministry is in the community, among the leaders and the shelter-less, seeking to bind up the broken-hearted wherever they may be found ..."

Yes! Words on a Sunday are nice, but they don't shelter the ones that the Bible constantly exhorts believers not to forget.

Amazing how the churches have somehow managed to ignore the hundreds of admonitions to "remember the poor" and waste their time on keeping themselves comfortable.

"What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Micah 6:8b, KJV (Because that's where I memorized it from.) One of my all-time favourite verses, even now that I am no longer a believer.