Saturday, March 06, 2010

I wish I could write what I want to say.  Each time I have started, I find myself hitting backspace until the screen is blank once more....

Early last fall, I found a post by a pastor on Four and Twenty+ Blackbirds asking for help from his brothers regarding one of his parishioners.  In reading through the responses, I couldn't help but think that none of the pastors really answered his request, really offered what might be helpful.  I mentioned this to Pastor D and he told me I should email the pastor and tell him so.  At first, I laughed at the absurdity of his suggestion.  After some weeks went by and I realized that there was so much Pastor was missing in dealing with wounded, anguished souls in his seminary training, I began to wonder if I should.  At the beginning of November, I did.

I wrote this long missive telling a bit of my story and then telling him what I thought might be helpful for his struggling parishioner.  He was grateful for the contact and thanked me for my ideas.

A month later, I thought of something else and emailed again.

And then I emailed about his sermon, The Wounded Body of Christ, which I posted here, because I was so comforted to hear there was a place for someone like me...and I was intrigued by the idea that I am to hide myself in His wounds.

Early this year, I got the idea of writing directly to that struggling parishioner, letting him know that he is not alone and what I have found to be helpful even as I battle sin and anguish.  The pastor responded that he would welcome a letter, but he would need to read it first.  A proper answer from an undershepherd.  But knowing that he would read it as well made what I was trying to say a bit more difficult.  I didn't want to pen words for the pastor, meaning I only wanted my words to come from thoughts of his parishioner.  I've never met the man. I knew only that he is struggling, and yet I have felt compelled to pray for him and his pastor since the moment I first read that entreaty for help.

This past week, something happened, which gave me the words to finish the letter.  Eight pages later, I had my offering of comfort.  To be honest, I am not sure if, in the end, the letter was for him or for me.

I heard back from the pastor today, with words of comfort for me.  He wrote that he appreciates my insight and candor and have helped him in more ways than he could express.  I was surprised, but I also was not.  For a pastor who could write that sermon is one who might possibly not flinch from anguish, and he has certainly tried to help someone who has been struggling for years.  Years.

At one point he wrote, I believe you are correct regarding Dr. Luther, and the reason that he is so able to wrap his readers up in Christ; and it seems to me that you, also, have been taught by the Cross to know and convey the comfort of the Gospel, even when it is often so elusive to you.

When it is so often elusive to me.  What an apt assessment.

He finished with sweet, sweet Gospel and a reminder not to think that I must somehow overcome and conquer, but to know that I may find rest in He who overcame and conquered already, He who daily forgives, restores, and renews

El recently asked if I thought I had to tell everyone my story, if I wanted everyone to know who I am.  I immediately replied no, that I had been hiding for decades.  And I know full well my story is a violation of the social contract.  But I do honestly and earnestly desire that more know what it is like to be wounded, to have an anguished soul.  To be faithful and still burdened, deeply, by your sin.  To be forgiven and yet struggle to understand that forgiveness.  I do wish that more could understand.  And I do with the damn social contract had no place in church.

I found comfort in his Gospel, but I also found comfort in knowing that, even as weak as I am, I could be of help to another, to two people really, and that by helping an undershepherd, even more.

It is why I posted a comment on another pastor's blog when he was writing about those who were missing church.  I wanted him to know that sometimes people who are missing long to be there as much as he longs to welcome them...that sometimes people are too hurt to come to church.  While he did not respond to my comment, he used a portion of what I wrote in his sermon this past Sunday.

El also told me that she once had an opportunity to hear Dr. Beverly K. Yahnke speak, where she was vehemently admonishing pastors to use what they were given, Word, Sacraments, Blessings, Absolution.  Pastor don't have to cure the anguished soul.  Christ is the Great Physician!  All they have to do is bring the parishioner to Christ and Christ to the parishioner in all the ways and means at their disposal.  Again and again and again...if that is what it takes.  If that is what it takes.

Oh, do I whole-heartedly agree.  Much of my ideas for this pastor was along those lines.

...this struggle is good, and the Lord serves you by and with that cross. 

This I, too, believe, even though I cannot fathom how it could possibly be true.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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