Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Christ in My Neighbor's Words
I’ve lately been thinking a lot about the pastor and his role in visiting the saints. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together (tr. Doberstein, Harper & Row, 1957) tells that each Christian needs other Christians for nurture and encouragement. “The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure” (p. 23). This is what I find again and again when I visit people in hospitals and nursing homes. I tell them the same Gospel that they have heard, sometimes for ninety plus years. But they need to hear it. They are in crisis and I am not. The Christ in their heart is weak, but the Christ in my word is strong. Are we interested in the same kind of encouragement when we are not in an overt crisis? As a part-time pastor I recently started finding some holes in my schedule of visiting shut-in church members. So I’ve started to try to visit church members who are not having crises. Sometimes they are resistant, suspicious about what might be wrong. Or maybe they don’t want to unload some of their struggles. It could be they aren’t ready to do that yet. I don’t know. What I do know is that it is a delight to have a call to visit someone who is wanting to share in the riches of Christ. We can encourage one another in the faith, get to know a little about each other, find out each other’s values and desires, struggles and fears. And when the times of trouble come we are ready to build each other up as well. Why do we hesitate? Why not rather join in fellowship with one another and rejoice together?