Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is truly a spiritual retreat to be able to focus on study and learning for two weeks. I could not believe Cultural Anthropology would touch on theology, sociology, psychology, political science and so forth. Our professor made it clear to us that he was not trying to give us answers for our subject matter, but to give us questions to motivate us to conduct life time study and research. Indeed, he did cause me to re-evaluate different perspectives of my ministry over the last 30 some years. How easily we could be blinded by our enthusiasm and passion to serve or work, without carefully examine the attitude and orientation of our relationship with God. Eugene Peterson is one of those teachers who remind us to meditate on some little conversation in life that could change the whole focus of our ministry and life orientation.
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose (Proverbs 18:21). When my daughter, Karen, was young, I often took her with me when I visited nursing homes. She was better than a Bible. The elderly in these homes brightened immediately when she entered the room, delighted in her smile, and asked her questions. They touched her skin, stroked her hair. On one such visit we were with Mrs. Herr, who was in an advanced state of dementia. Talkative, she directed all her talk to Karen. She told her a story, an anecdote out of her own childhood that Karen’s presence must have triggered, and when she completed it, she immediately repeated it word for word, id then again and again and again. After twenty minutes or so of this, I became anxious lest Karen become uncomfortable and confused about what was going on. I interrupted the flow of talk, anointed the woman with oil, laid hands on her, and prayed. In the car and driving home, I commended Karen for her patience and attentiveness. She had listened to this repeated story without showing any signs of restlessness or boredom. I said, “Karen, Mrs. Herr’s mind is not working the way ours are.” And Karen said, “Oh, I knew that. Daddy; she wasn’t trying to tell us anything. She was telling us who she is.’’
Nine years old, and she knew the difference, knew that Mrs. Herr was using words not for communication but for communion. It is a difference that our r culture as a whole pays little attention to but that pastors must pay attention to. Our primary task, the pastor’s primary task, is not communication but communion.
In a functional and technological world that we are in, we emphasize on efficiency and effectiveness in communication. The focus is more on the speed and content of the message but not so much on content of the relationship. Communication is a means to fulfill the end, which is a need to resolve a problem, or a need to achieve your goal. Communication becomes a form of manipulation because the end is not on the one you have communication with. Communion, on the other hand, focuses on relationship. It does not matter what is communicated but the time to have communion in knowing others. The goal is to interact or reach out to the one you care and love. In a high tech communication society, we need high touch communion to build community of faith or Body of Christ. Hope you are not too busy today to enter communion with Christ and with each others.
Love you out of communion with Christ.