Pastor’s-eye view

25 01 2008

Can I try and explain this ‘experience’ thing by a story, or at least part of a story:     
The pastor stood before his congregation on a Sunday morning. He looked out over the many faces before him, some apparently eagerly alert waiting for his words of wisdom and revelation, others just sitting. They appear a typical congregation, mostly looking quite relaxed, and mostly there is a general sense of well-being. He had been there when people started coming in and heard the Welcome Team with the traditional “Hi, how are you this morning?”, and the traditional, “Fine thanks”.               
“Lord”, he breathes, “thank you for this people. Thank you for giving them to me. Thank you for the peace and well-being that you have given us. Thank you for these people, so many of whom serve you so faithfully. Thank you that they are here”.  He goes to open his mouth to start the ‘message’, yet before he can say a word there flashes before his mind, “Man looks on the outward, but God looks on the heart”. He has a slight sense of disquiet that makes him pause for a second more. The people look on and simply see their man scanning the crowd. They are unaware of what is going on inside him. Suddenly he’s aware that as he looks at different people sitting there before him, he knows what is going on in their lives. Suddenly all is not as it seems!               
 To the side is sixteen year old Jenny. On the outside all looks good. She’s well dressed, well groomed and has a bright smile – but inside! Inside Jenny is worrying about her parents constantly arguing, worrying about the fear that her best friend has shared with her earlier this morning, worrying about her forthcoming exams, and worrying because she can’t seem to find or keep a boyfriend. Jenny’s life is full of worries but she daren’t tell anyone because she’s been told “have no anxiety about anything” (Phil 4:6) and good Christians don’t worry.                
Three rows behind her is tall and handsome Darren who is now twenty and who also looks good. Darren is a model young Christian who always seems to be ever striving for greater things in ‘the
kingdom of God ‘. Indeed only last week the youth leader confided in the pastor that he would be recommending that Darren lead the junior youth work next year. But now as the pastor looks on he sees the young man filled with excruciating pain from the abuse he received from his father many years before, which no one else knows about. If you mentioned it to Darren he would deny it, for deep inside him is guilt and shame over what happened during those earlier years.            
Across the aisle from Darren is Shelley, a single mum. Shelley is twenty six, has two young children and her husband walked out on her for another girl just three months ago. As Shelley sits there looking attentive, her mind keeps straying to the last three months, and particularly to last night when she almost threw the baby across the room. “It’s all right for the rest of them,” she thought, “they don’t have to cope on their own! If only someone would understand. If only someone would help.” But they don’t because Shelley looks so competent, so in control. Only last week she couldn’t help overhearing two elderly ladies commenting, “Isn’t it wonderful how our Lord seems to be undertaking for poor Shelley, she’s doing so well looking after the children on her own now.” Yes Shelley SEEMS to be competent on the outside, but inside she’s screaming, “Help! I can’t cope with this much longer!” but as one kind soul reminded her recently, “Well as it says in the good book, my dear, God says ‘my grace is sufficient’ and you only have to ask you know.”               
Sitting just in front of her is Laurie. Laurie looks good on the outside, in fact she looks blooming, which is perhaps because she’s pregnant. The only problem is that she’s only just found out she’s pregnant and the father was just a passing bad experience at a foolish party. Oddly enough, it’s not so much that she’s pregnant that is worrying her but rather what people in the church will say when they find out. Perhaps it’s time to leave church and move on somewhere else where she’s not known. People here won’t understand.
Life is full of these sorts of things. No the whole congregation isn’t like this but in any big church, a lot are. Can I say something that to some may sound trite, but it is true: Jesus knows, Jesus understands and Jesus wants us to be him to one another, loving, accepting and caring for one another. That’s what he did two thousand years ago and that’s what he still does.




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