Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More than Spiritual Care

In the gospel for this coming Sunday (from Luke 24), Jesus, after he rose from the dead, "came and stood among [the disciples]." The disciples "were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a spirit." Having been reassured that he was really there in the flesh, they were given instructions about what to do next. (1) Wait for the Holy Spirit and (2) then go to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit comes in Acts chapter 2, and the new life of God bursts with power, forming a new community that always acts with love.

Part of that loving, powerful action is shown in Acts 3. We'll read part of that on Sunday too. Having been empowered by the Holy Spirit, the disciples made a huge difference in a poor man's life. The man was begging for coins because he had been "lame from birth." But the disciples gave him far more than coins. One of them said to the man: "I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk!"

The work of God's people is not only to give spiritual care and consolation to those in distress. God would have us use whatever we have in his service. If we can just listen and pray and care, we do that. But, if we have healing abilities, natural or "supernatural," we use them. If we can give refuge or safety to the distressed, we do so. If we can help the weak with visits or chores, we do that. If we can confront sin and the powers of this world that keep people in bondage, God calls us to action.

Sometimes we think our job is to help people be content no matter what their circumstances. If this was true, Christ and his disciples would not be out giving people hope through healing and releasing people from evil powers. There are times when spiritual solace is the only thing we can offer, but it's only an interim, temporary measure. The time will come when God's love will burst through and everyone will be released. Spiritual care points troubled people to that promise, letting them know that all God's enemies will someday be defeated. Sin, illness, handicaps, troubled spirits and even death will end and God will reign supreme with his amazing love.

So, during these troubled days, we pray and offer spiritual care, but we also lift up hope and take action to show that God's not dead. We feed the hungry, clothe the poor, provide healthy, positive activities, and bring sinners to repentance. We follow the example of Jesus and the disciples by not staying "quiet" or leaving "well enough alone." That boldness brought opposition for Jesus and for the disciples. In Acts 4 the disciples were arrested. There are "powers and authorities" that resist the proclamation of hope and new life. But as we continue to learn from God's Word, receiving the Holy Spirit's empowerment, we will not give in but will continue to be witnesses of God's powerful love.

The people of this church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cokato, are in the front lines of both prayer and action. Prayer ministry is being strengthened here. We are offering people the opportunity to have individual, couple or family prayer during the Lord's Supper on Sundays. We are busy beyond the walls of this church, strengthening ministries such as the food shelf, the thrift store, providing help for the handicapped, even beginning a community garden project during these challenging economic times. Youth ministry touches many lives and encourages boldness in faith among the young.

We will keep doing these things, not backing down, until the kingdom of God comes in its fullness. We will pray and act with boldness, doing all we can do to give signs of God's love. Invite a friend and come anytime during the week, and on Sundays when we worship our awesome God.

1 comment:

  1. Your post touched me.

    Feeding, clothing, sharing burdens...That's exactly what we do to be Christ's hands and arms. It's the best way to show that He Is Risen and the most powerful way to offer hope.