Thursday, July 9, 2009

Firsts

I attended a Catholic funeral mass today. A first for me.

This is but one of the new activities I'm involved in as a part-time workplace chaplain. I was happy to attend on behalf of an employee. Still, growing up as a Baptist pastor's daughter and becoming a member of  a Nazarene church does not prepare you for how to do mass. Are you getting a mental picture already?

I sat about 2/3 of the way back on a wooden pew, with many of the attendees in back of me. I had no idea when to stand up or sit down, so watching others with my peripheral vision was key. At least I knew the hymns that were played on the organ, though the organist sped up and slowed down enough that it was hard to sing along. 

The liturgy was beautiful and rich, although I seldom prayed along or recited after the priest, for fear of wandering outside of my doctrinal comfort zone. At least I was safe with the Lord's prayer, until I boldly uttered "forgive us our debts," when they said "trespasses." The NIV slip made me smile.

Then there are the kneeling benches, of course. I chose to forgo them, feeling I had my hands full just following along with the sitting and standing. But opting to sit instead of kneel presented its own awkwardness--I had to lean forward quite a bit so the man in back of me could kneel over the back of my pew without knocking me over. 

Clearly, it was a first. And as firsts go, I would call it a success. Did I fit in? Hardly. Was my presence appreciated by someone facing a very personal loss? Yes. And that is what this whole journey is about--representing the love of Christ wherever he calls me to minister to whomever is in need.

The apostle Paul talked about being a fool for Christ in I Corinthians 4--and sometimes, I admit, I feel foolish. Offering the gift of presence as a chaplain is an art, not a science. Sometimes I am welcomed and appreciated; just this week I was rejected out of hand; many times I offer the love of Christ with a smile or a simple and brief word of encouragement, spoken or written. Always I stand out from the crowd.

I've been so grateful that God is showing me how to exhibit His love without fear of rejection. I offer encouragement and comfort to others, because to tell you the truth, I've seen a lot of pain myself, and God's comfort has overflowed through every trial.

2 Corinthians 1 became a bulwark to me in the past, as I realized in the tough times that God would use every ounce of grief and struggle for His Kingdom, that somehow I would turn around and offer his comfort to someone else in need. And I have to tell you, that's EXACTLY what is happening.

2 Cor. 1:3-5
 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

Praise be to the God of all comfort. Who carries us through our many "firsts." Who can be trusted no matter what. 

Do you have your own story of how God has taught you how to comfort others by receiving His comfort first? Please post.

P.S. The seminary got back to me re: the online classes. Apparently you have to give them a reason you feel you  need this option--work schedule, etc. I'm thinking it's not so common for the few women who attend to consider having a baby while doing so. Perhaps this will be another "first"...if God wills.

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