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Larry's Lines

September 01 2021

After dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Well into the night, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)
Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed.” (Matthew 26:39)
During those days he went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12)
But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)
About eight days after this conversation, he took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.” (Luke 9:28)
 
 
There seems to be something to learn from the many times Jesus went away to pray or to be alone.  If we do some looking into the context of these times, we see that in almost every situation, Jesus has spent time in a stressful situation and needed to now be away from that situation.  It seems that he did this so that he could be better prepared to continue in his ministry. 

One thing we learned after Hurricane Katrina was that pastors needed to get away.  I still remember the first time I left the coast after Katrina - it was about two months.  I drove to Jackson to find some shoes because the one pair I had left got torn apart.  I remember noticing there weren’t piles of trash by the roads, no muddy smell of trash; people were just going about their lives.   I even saw a McDonalds that was open: that quarter-pounder and fries tasted heavenly!  I came back home the same day, but just getting away for a bit and seeing that others were living a “normal” life (not in the muck) was good for my soul.

One of the things that is so much harder with this COVID pandemic is that there is no getting away from it.  None of us want to be dealing with this pandemic.  I promise pastors do not either.   Ministry is stressful.  It was stressful for Jesus and ministry continues to be stressful for ministers today.  Barna released a recent poll that said, “29% of pastors have considered a career change in the last year.” Notice the wording: they considered a career change, not considered whether God called them to ministry

Some of us have begun to use the phrase “clergy fatigue.”  I am seeing more and more pastors who are struggling.  Pastors are telling me that they are seeing the same thing among congregants.  As the old saying goes, “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.” 

I am going to ask us all to consider something: if Jesus needed to get away, then don’t we?  For many of us, we use worship for that time away to just be with God.  Your pastor doesn’t get to experience worship that way.  Your pastors are preparing to lead worship, have their sermon running through their minds; probably even wondering about making an edit or two.  Then there is a parishioner who comes up and wants to add an announcement or complain because an announcement isn’t in the bulletin.  Now we must add those who are upset about wearing a mask or the choir not being able to sing; Sunday worship is the most stressful time of the week for many pastors. 

I hope that you all are finding ways to “get away” like Jesus.  I also would like for you to check with each other, please, especially check with your pastors. Make sure all of us are getting that time away to pray and rejuvenate.  Maybe even try to understand that none of us like wearing masks; none of us enjoy not singing like normal; none of us like the way the pandemic is affecting us, but it’s where we are.  I know pastors who have done more funerals in the summer of 2021 than they have done in any YEAR of their ministry. 

This is not a political letter from me but one of concern for all of us.  Please, take time to care for yourselves and to check on each other to see that we are all spending the away time we need.  If Jesus needed this spiritual practice of “awayness,” then certainly we do.

Grace and Peace,
Larry