By REV ANGELA PALACIOUS
IN A small congregation, it is easy to minister to each person. As numbers increase and members live further away, it becomes increasingly difficult to be available to everyone. The ministry of a committed priest or pastor includes sermon preparation, youth ministry, Bible study, evangelism, social outreach, visitation and counselling. ?
When it comes to long-term ministry to the bereaved, every Naomi needs a Ruth. The story of Naomi’s loss of her husband and two sons is well documented in the Book of Ruth. There we find a Jewish woman who relocates with her family to Moab because of a famine in her own country.
Within several years, she is left with two daughters-in law, one of whom is persuaded to return to her own people. Thus begins the long journey from Moab to Bethlehem for two grief-stricken women with no real hope that the future is other than bleak. They find solace in each other’s company, until God blesses Ruth with a husband from Naomi’s family line from which the Messiah will eventually be born.?
Similarly, in St Paul’s letter to Timothy, he offers encouragement and consolation to the younger minister who is beginning to experience the suffering of persecution. Paul reminds him that a soldier is focused on the orders of the commanding officer, even as the athlete competes by following the prescribed rules. The reward for faithful obedience is the enjoyment of God’s reward just as a farmer who sows the seed is entitled to reap the rich harvest. Those who suffer for the sake of the gospel also need the comfort of wise counsel. Mentoring is an invaluable part of ministry.?
When Our Lord heals the ten lepers, only one remembers to offer thanks to Jesus before he goes to the priest to be declared fit to return to society. The other nine are “cleansed” of the disease but only the Samaritan who comes back is described as “made whole”. They will require ongoing pastoral care for them to experience the restoring gift of salvation.?
All of the gifts of all of God’s people need to be utilised to build up the church and bless the community. News of accidents, illness, death and disasters at home and abroad continue to bombard us daily in the media. It is impossible for the clergy to respond to suffering of this magnitude.
Ministry to the dying is always a high priority for the ordained minister, but the pastoral support of the bereaved that needs to continue for the ensuing months - and even years - will have to become the specialised ministry of the laity. ?
More than ever, our people need comfort and St Luke reminds us that comfort includes inner healing. The persons who came to Jesus found themselves transformed by the encounter. It is not enough for us to be present as a listening ear, and a loving heart; we have to also share the gospel of hope and eternal security.
There is an anchor that holds, a hope that never fades and a love that never ceases. Our people need the comfort of the assurance that their lives have direction, their existence has meaning, and that God has a wonderful plan of redemption available to all.
Now is the time to become actively involved in the work of the Lord. We were born for such a time as this.