There’s a list in the Bible book of Ecclesiastes that sums up life pretty well, because we’re all in about to go through or going through some of the times up there on the screen – some time…
1 For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance…
Do you know someone going through a tearing down time? Anyone on your street or Facebook page in a time of grief? Someone in the family who’s thrown away a job, someone searching for something or someone – but not finding. Someone in conflict? Someone longing for the time of healing? What do we do in times like that? How do we help?
I’ll be honest, I was made for the times – to dance! I can pull some shapes! I love the times of planting and building up, times to laugh, times of peace and embracing – happy harvest times. Who’s with me on that?
That’s good! That’s good because God says in Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice… but it doesn’t stop there… read to the end of the line and you know what else it says? weep with those who weep.
Some people are better at weeping with those who weep but find rejoicing harder when someone else is happy. But whichever way round it goes for you, we’re in Ivy’s new Pastoral series and it’s so very timely.
There’s a time for everything, and I think GOD decided now is the time for us all to look at this as a church together. At how we love. Not because there’s some big issue necessarily we need to deal with, but simply for this reason:
No matter what we say about the love of God. No matter how much as a church we talk about being like family and caring for one another. The way our friends and family, neighbours and colleagues will see you and me representing Jesus – will depend in the end a lot less on our words than we might think or hope. Words are soon forgotten – but what will never be forgotten, for better or worse, is how you care for them. Especially in those tough times. John Maxwell said, ‘People don’t care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.’ That’s one to write down!
And as part of our year of acceleration here at Ivy we believe God wants to accelerate our ability to represent Jesus – by giving us the right kinds of pastoral presence! To summarise today’s message in one line it’s this – When WE show we care, we can show the love of Jesus. (or even)
When we show up, we show Jesus.
Don’t let that phrase about ‘Pastoral care’ put you off. I know it sounds churchy. You don’t have to even use the phrase if it’s not helpful, especially if it stops YOU showing up; waiting for the professionals to turn up. The Church over the centuries has made it sound complicated, or made it a department, or the job of a few paid, specialised and qualified ‘ministers’. But the word ‘minister’ was never meant to be a title. It’s something to do. It means ‘servant.’
It is a job. The ministry job is serving. And pastoral literally means ‘looking after sheep.’ Caring about, and for, people. The job is loving! Caring. God says if you can do that, ‘You’re qualified!’ And you can do it when he fills us up with his love.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “God … has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; (If that’s not happened to you yet – today’s the day – get ready and ask and he’ll do it today) and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” (TLB).
That’s ministry. God says every Christian is a minister. I’m going to talk a lot more about that tonight and some of you really need to be here.
Not every Christian gets paid, not everyone gets a title, but God’s plan is for every Christian to be a minister. As you use the talents and gifts he gave you to make a contribution in the lives of others. You get that new life so you can live a life of love; as a giver, not a taker.
The Bible says 58 times, “Love one another. Care for one another. Pray for one another. Encourage one another. Help one another. Counsel one another. Support one another. Bear one another’s burdens”. On and on and on. And Jesus said when we love one another, we show the world who HE is! That’s pastoral care, YOU can do it.
Now we have cards with ideas, and free books with ideas to pray and ministries you can get involved in and Grow Groups you can love people in like Mary loved Tracey – AND we have further opportunities coming up for people who really feel this is it for you. The way you’re wired – this is so much part of who God made you – that you’d go further and do more training early next year. You can sign up for that from next week, but really there’s no point considering that unless first of all you are just showing up. Pastorally present.
And it’s not hard because today we’re looking at three different types of pastoral presence: in three Cs of life. Times of Conflict, Chaos and Celebration.
- Resolving Conflict – Helping disputing parties to compromise; keeping the peace. You can do that.
- Crisis – Stepping up and empathising (not just sympathising) with someone’s suffering to bring healing and restoration to brokenness. You can do that!
- Celebration – Sharing someone’s joys. You can do that.
The Bible character to help us get this is Job. His story is one of the oldest books in there. And when I first read the Bible I thought his name was ‘JOB.’ But it’s pronounced ‘Jobe.’
Job had lots of times of tears – grieving, tragedy and heartbreak in his life. You might feel like you’re Job today? You’re so welcome and we’d love to pray with you at the end. But most of us aren’t Job today. But you know someone going through pain and hurt, situations going from bad to worse.
So, who’s JOB is Job? That’s the big question here. Because his world collapses, when one thing after another happens, when it just gets worse and worse – whose job is Job?
You need to know Job is a good man, who loves God – he has a strong faith. But hands up if you know bad things happen to people who love God? Let’s be real about this. Not because God is not good, but because we live in a broken world and we have an enemy. That’s clearly seen in the story.
It starts when the devil is allowed to appear in heaven, where God is telling the angels how much he loves Job, and how much Job loves him.
But the devil says, ‘The only reason he loves you is because nothing bad every happened to him. Let me at him! Test him! Then we’ll see.’
God thinks Job would still love him no matter what, but Lucifer says ‘It’s not fair! You’ve put a hedge of protection around him.’ God does that you know? So many times we’ve been protected – and didn’t know it. But the day you give your life back to God and say, ‘I want to be a disciple of Jesus’ – I believe you get a shield, a wall, a hedge – ‘the name of the Lord is a strong tower…’ The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, to deliver them.
Now there’s a mystery to what happens next, because God allows Job to be tested. A CRISIS. All his fortune, his possessions, are all taken away from him. His life goes totally out of his control, from bad to terrible. Even family members suddenly die. Then he gets health issues, boils break out everywhere. Will his faith and trust in God still stand? Or will he take his wife’s advice; ‘Curse God and die!’ She says you might as well kill yourself too, that’s how she’s feeling.
But Job replies, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (2:10) He thinks the bad came from God’s hand. But a look behind the scenes shows that wasn’t actually the truth.
Then one day, Job’s friends show up. That’s really important. Because too often in our world, for too many people, nobody shows up.
I was talking to Gail who runs our CAP centre. Helping people with debt problems go debt free. She was telling me for lots of people round here, nobody comes. When things go from bad to worse, when the going gets tough – people back off. Scared to do or say the wrong thing. She said within two minutes of here, there are any number of people and life’s just so hard for them. Very often debt’s just the presenting issue.
(Why I give to CAP – the boy who’s Mum and Dad died).
So Job’s friends did show up. But do they show the love of God?
Unfortunately when we look at the response of Job’s friends to Job’s suffering, it provides us an example of WHAT NOT TO DO. He’s in a time of unimaginable Crisis. What’s the response of Job’s friends?
Read Job 2.11-13 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. 12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
It says Job’s friends made an appointment together, indicating they took their time to come and see him. When they finally got to him they didn’t even recognise him – because he’s sick and grief can just age you can’t it?
They tore their robes, throw ashes on their heads. That’s actually a religious ritual. I was told by a Hebrew scholar that in those days people would even have robes they used for tearing so they didn’t spoil the good stuff. That’s most likely what happened when the High Priest tore his robes at Jesus’ trial when Jesus said yes he is the Son of God. It would be like, ‘Bring me my robe so I can tear it to show everyone how upset I am!’
Those religious practices and the seven day fast were the prescribed mourning ritual for when someone died. The only problem was that Job wasn’t dead. This wasn’t the time to get religious and ritualistic. It was the time to care, and be a friend. (Recently at a visit after someone’s wife had just died. I went to get my Bible out and he said, ‘Oh just pray something!’ I love the guy and I know he was saying, ‘I don’t want religious, I want REAL.’)
Job’s friends may have had good intentions, but their religious response was not appropriate to the time, the unique circumstances Job just faced. They were more concerned about following orthodox practice, getting the ritual right – than Job’s unique situation.
But lots of people say at least the three stooges did do one thing right – they came then sat with Job in silence, during his time in need. It was only when they opened their mouths they started saying stupid stuff. Giving him advice. Telling him God is good – so JOB must be bad for this to have happened to him (which we actually know is not the case at all!)
So often when I’m going to a difficult pastoral situation I’ll tell Zoe so she’ll be praying for me and she’ll say ‘Just LISTEN. Remember to LISTEN!’ You know it’s true that we never learn anything while we’re talking? James Keys who started the Recovery ministry here at Ivy says all the time ‘Talk the cotton wool out of your ears and put it in your mouth!’
What we need most when we’re hurting, is someone to just sit with us a while. They didn’t speak till he did. Then the dialogue goes on for 28 chapters with the three ignorant friends getting worse and worse till eventually God steps in because they were not representing him well at all!
They were with him, present in his suffering. Willing to be present even if they knew they could muster no words to comfort him in this tough time.
How do we comfort someone in a time of crisis? 4Rs. You could write these down?
- Respond immediately –some scholars estimate it was months after Job’s crisis started that they got there. It’s best to respond as quickly as you can, when someone’s in crisis. So often I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit say to me ‘Go and see that person now!’ And when I’ve got it was just so RIGHT! And there have been times I missed it.
And they died. (I’m not even joking).
- Really Listen – People in a crisis usually aren’t looking for advice. They want an ear ore than a mouth. Someone who’ll empathise well. Let’s watch this video based on one of Brene Brown’s TED talks to see what that is – and what it isn’t. https://ed.ted.com/on/HGj9kQ5z
- Refer if necessary – When they are ready, you might be able to help your friend by empowering including finding a community that can support them. We really encourage everyone at Ivy to be in Grow Groups for this reason, or perhaps it’s time to seek professional help. A doctor, a counsellor. Someone on staff here at Ivy.
- Read scripture – even though when my friend said that, I didn’t crack my Bible open, I prayed Psalm 23 out of my head as part of the prayer time. Why? I know I only have a very limited amount of wisdom to offer, so I always point people toward the Bible – it’s the only real source of comfort and guidance! Especially in crisis.
Another aspect of Pastoral Presence you can do and this is another C it’s Conflict resolution.
That’s another thing we back away from isn’t it? Job’s conflict is focused on the big central question ‘why do bad things happen in the world?’ – because now it got personal! Job 3.25-26: “What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true.
I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; only trouble comes.” What he really wants to know is, ‘What caused all my misery? Doesn’t God CARE!! I thought God was good!’
And Job’s friend Bildad responds by saying, ‘He is – but you’re not. Bad things happened to you because you’ve sinned.’ Unfortunately that’s been what the world has heard and come to expect from the church too often over the centuries too isn’t it? Instead of comfort, they got criticism or condemnation.
Bildad says in Job 8.2-4: “How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind. Does God twist justice Does the Almighty twist what is right? Your children must have sinned against him, so their punishment was well deserved.” (WOW! People say some stupid things, and sometimes church people are even worse. Job really was a better man than me because I think at that point I’d have extended to Bildad the right hand of fellowship!)
How should we handle and resolve conflict? Write this down:
- Enter In. Seek first to understand rather than be understood. Think about what’s going on and how things must seem from their perspective, walk a mile in their shoes. (Then you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have their shoes! 🙂
- Open Up. Rather than just bottle up or get them to clam up. Job’s doing the right thing by asking questions instead of putting on a religious mask and suppressing his conflict with God. But his ‘friends’ became his accusers – because they were not comfortable with that kind of honesty!
- Win-win – there’s no competition here, nobody has to be right or wrong. It’s not always either/or. and when we’re mature we realise that if we’re trying to fix the blame – we can’t fix the problem. Sometimes it’s best to give some time to let it all cool down rather than rush to get a fake agreement when the issue isn’t fully resolved, that’s not a win-win!
So we just saw that’s two kinds of pastoral presence God says YOU CAN DO. You can show up and show the love of God when there’s a CRISIS, you can show up and show the love of Jesus when there’s a CONFLICT and finally you can when there’s a CELEBRATION.
Job kept on asking the same question over and over. “Why? Why did this happen. Doesn’t God care – for me?’
He never got an answer on earth. There was no answer for Job, this side of heaven. But at the end of the book, God himself shows up – and he asks Job 70 Questions he can’t answer. ‘Who cares… for the goats? Who cares… for the whales and who cares… for the hippos and crocodiles? Who cares enough to make sure the sun comes out today? Who cares t send the rain?” Did you figure all that out Job?
God never gave him any answers, he Job is now overwhelmed with his presence and finally Job says, ‘I’ll keep quiet. I don’t know how – and I don’t know why, but I do my Redeemer lives. I know YOU – the one who always cares – so I have no reason to accuse you of a lack of caring, just because I have a lack of understanding.’
God then turns and tells Job that his friend’s pastoral presence was all wrong. They didn’t re-PRESENT him. He says to them, “You haven’t been honest either with me or about me—not the way my friend Job has.” (Job 42:7, MSG).
My friend Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer. He will ask me not to treat you as you deserve for talking nonsense about me…” (42:8) Don’t you love the Bible?!
Then when Job prays for his friends, an acceleration and a celebration happens! Job 42.10-17: ‘After Job had interceded for his friends, God restored his fortune—then doubled it! All his brothers and sisters and friends came to his house and celebrated. They told him how sorry they were, and consoled him for all the trouble God had brought him. Each of them brought generous gifts. God blessed Job’s later life even more than his earlier life. He ended up with fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand teams of oxen, and one thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first daughter Dove, the second, Cinnamon, and the third, Darkeyes. There was not a woman in that country as beautiful as Job’s daughters. Their father treated them as equals with their brothers, providing the same inheritance. Job lived on… to see his children and grandchildren—four generations of them! Then he died—an old man, a full life.’
So many reasons to celebrate! And notice some more of Job’s friends come on the scene now. And you know what? Better late than never!
The best time to show up might have been a month ago. The second best time is NOW.
Don’t guilt yourself out of showing up. Listen – even if you haven’t got any answers, you can be an answer! We can show God cares – when WE care.
Even if you can’t give some theological explanation why that prayer didn’t get answered the way someone wanted it to be, you can BE an answer to prayer when you show up and you bring cake. When you wash up. When you babysit. When you’re there – in the times of tears or the times of joy.
But you have to go, to be there. I know it sounds obvious, but we get it wrong. You know people say, “I can’t be there – but I’ll be with you in spirit.’ Yeah, right.
Who do you know who’s going through something, and as I’m speaking God brought them to mind? Maybe they’re hurting. Sick? Alone? If you say you don’t know anyone, I can give you a list. Or you could get involved with refugee support here at Ivy. Or please, please join our Ivy CAP team and just be a Befriender. It’s so worthwhile and such a great need and opportunity to show up, and show Jesus loves people. YOU CAN DO IT.
Whose job is it to show up and care? Who’s job is it? Whose job was JOB? Should we just hope GOD goes and comforts them? When he’s told US that we can?!
John Wimber was a Pastor and said a woman approached him complaining, “I went to see Ralph in hospital, but the church should go and see him.’ He said, ‘Sounds to me like the church DID!’
Who’s the church? (Hands up!) If you’re not, you can be – you just turn away from only living for you and yours and start living for Jesus and his. Learning to love God and others. That’s what being a disciple is, and that’s what disciples do – I’m going to talk more about that tonight so please come along you don’t want to miss it.
Whose job was Job? To show God’s love by showing up?
Who’s job is it to care, to love, to pray, to go, to be with that person – to help the crisis, resolve the conflict, join the celebration? Who here is qualified for Pastoral presence – put your hand up if you’re willing, this week, from now on – and we’ve all blown it and got too busy but we’ve got another chance to sign up – to show up, to show God’s love, today when we pray.
Would you stand if you’re able – and we’ll pray?
You probably heard the story about the job Nobody wanted to do?
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did – what Anybody could have done.
Is there ANYBODY here? Anybody willing to pray that God would use them to help SOMEBODY? (Hands up to say ‘USE ME!)
Pray: (CAP befriender? Or someone you know? Hand up to say ‘I’ll show up… to show your love Lord…)
Lord Jesus you told us that in this world where there will always be troubles, people suffering and going through awful tragedies. Friends and neighbours, people in church or at work. You are our only source of true comfort. Not more knowledge, but knowing more of who our God is. He’s a good, good Father. Infinite. Full of mercy. Our deepest comforts do not come from knowing answers, they come from knowing you.
Lord those comforts we received, so often they came to us from your hand God, but through someone else, someone just being with us – and it really wasn’t about giving answers. But they were the answer by showing up and showing YOU. So now would you use me, to bring your presence, to show you – when I show up. To bring peace and forgiveness where there is conflict. To bring hope in crisis as I weep with those who weep, to bring joy in celebration as I rejoice with those who rejoice.