Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ministry of Now


Dear Friends,

In Spanish, “Mañana” literally means “tomorrow” but its common usage is to indicate procrastination. Something indefinite in the future. I’ll get to it mañana. I excelled in the art of mañana until Jackie, Burt and Alan all happened. And then it was as if God was shaking me by the shoulders and telling me to wake up. I worked at the City with Jackie. She was in another department and I didn’t know her well but we’d talked a few times. She knew I was a pastor and I knew she didn’t go to church. She was off work for an long-term illness and I found out she had Hepatitis C that had damaged her liver. She was hospitalized and then finally came back to work. I prayed for her a few times and then forgot about her. Many months later, I had a dream one night where I saw her face floating in front of mine and she said, “Please help me.” I woke up convinced that God was telling me through that dream that I needed to talk with her about her faith. But it was budget time. I was very busy at work; so I put off calling her until it was more convenient. There was no rush. I had plenty of time. I was stunned when I read the email telling us that she had suddenly died...

Burt loved Famous Dave’s BBQ and we were taking him there for his 77th birthday. We’d spent the last seven birthdays with him and looked forward to this night of celebration. Burt was full of life and we anticipated many more birthdays together. I knew he was lonely out in Palmdale and there were many times that I’d thought about going out to have lunch with him or to just spend time with him and then I’d get busy. But there was no rush. I had plenty of time. There was mañana. If only I’d known that Burt was going to die in his sleep just nine days before his birthday...

Alan attended the Lutheran church we were renting from. His pastor told me that Alan was a loner, withdrawn and had difficulty opening up to others. But at a Lenten church supper, Alan and I talked and he opened up to reveal some very personal things. He gave me his phone number and I sensed an urgent need to follow up and spend some time with him. But I ignored that sense of urgency. I was pretty busy. I told myself there was no rush. I had plenty of time. If only I’d known that Alan would die during an emergency surgery for a brain tumor just thirty six days after he reached out to me for help...

Jackie, Burt and then Alan all died within three months of each other. Alan’s death hit me hard. He reached out to me and I was too busy. That’s when God told me that my “Ministry of Mañana” needed to be a “Ministry of Now.” Because the problem with mañana is that sometimes tomorrow never comes. Sometimes we only have today.

We celebrated Burt’s birthdays because we loved him and enjoyed being with him. But it bothered me that his family would usually ignore him on his birthday and the only celebration he had was with us - his two friends. After he was dead, his whole family showed up to celebrate his life at the memorial service. If only Burt could have been there to see how much he was loved...

Alan was lonely, struggled with self-worth issues and felt unappreciated. Alan was not married, had no real friends and he felt that he had no one in his life who loved and cared for him. But after he died, over eighty people came to church to celebrate his life and to tell each other how much they loved and appreciated him. If only Alan could have been there to see how much he was loved...

Many of us have also had the Jackies, Burts and Alans in our own life and when it’s too late – when they can no longer hear our voice – that’s when we wish we had said the things they had so needed to hear from us. 

The thought of losing a loved one to death is just too terrifying to think about, but what would we do differently if we faced the reality of just how fragile our lives really are? James 4:14 What if you knew that a friend or loved one had only thirty-six days to live? Or two weeks? Or only one day? Would you tell and show them how much you love them? Would you ask for their forgiveness for something you had done or would you forgive them for something they had done to you? Would you be kinder to them? Nicer to them? Would you tell them those things they have needed to hear that you’ve never said? But of course, there’s no reason to rush things. We’re too busy today. There’s always mañana. We have plenty of time... 

The New Testament is filled with a sense of urgency for no one knows what tomorrow will bring. And while we trust in God and know that He is in our future, we need to be prepared for the uncertainty of tomorrow. To live in “mañana” is to mistakenly take tomorrow for granted. We need to prepare for tomorrow filled with faith in God and love for God and love for one another and living each day as if it’s our last. Proverbs 27:1 And when we are living our lives and responding to people as if there is no earthly tomorrow, we are engaging in the “Ministry of Now.”

The Apostle Paul tells us to meet the urgent needs of others. Titus 3:14 Who do you need to reach out to today? Who do you need to love and hug and affirm and edify and forgive and encourage today? What if tomorrow never came? What would you do if you only had today..?

No comments:

Post a Comment

The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

enter your email to receive the AMEN Corner every wednesday