I was tired. Tired of the apathy an affluent community felt for religion. Tired of cajoling people with packed schedules to make room for worship. Tired of begging people to give a little more money to the church instead of a coffee shop. The joy had gone out of ministry, and I was spiritually dead.
With news reports of refugees spilling out of Syria and Nigeria, children fleeing gang recruitment in Guatemala, and a people wanting to build a wall, it just didn’t seem that anything we did in church really mattered. Preparing good sermons and meaningful Bible studies felt pointless. No one would show up anyway. I wanted out of local church ministry. I knew I wasn’t doing the church any good in my current state, but I couldn’t see other options for income. I told God to either make me love ministry again or get me out of it.
And I gave up. I quit trying to get people to come to events; no amount of catchy titles and compelling series had worked. I eased my furrowed brow and didn’t sweat the church budget. I couldn’t make people give more money. I accepted that worship would take a backseat to sports and the desperation of families for a quiet morning.
I surrendered to the power of God. The Common English Bible translates Psalm 138:7 as, “Whenever I am in deep trouble, you make me live again.” That was my experience. When our church worried how we’d make ends meet, I took a staff member’s suggestion for a noisy coin offering but designated it for missions. Sermon writing became a process of spiritual discovery, not marketing. Most surprisingly, Monday night Bible study became a place where my own spirit showed up. I gave up needing to be in charge, and the conversation about scripture’s intersections with our lives deepened. I found life.
Merciful God, thank you for saving us in so many ways. Amen.
We sometimes struggle to believe in the power of a God we cannot see. The psalmist declares that God is greater than any earthly king and will preserve us in the face of our enemies. However, in the time of Samuel, the Israelites demanded a human king to lead them into battle, as other nations had. God was not enough for them. Paul admonishes the Corinthians not to repeat this mistake. We should not think that what we can see is the ultimate reality. What we see is temporary; what cannot be seen is eternal. Perhaps Jesus is teaching a similar idea in this somewhat troubling passage in Mark. Jesus is not against family, but he is emphasizing that human families are temporary; spiritual family is eternal.
• Read 1 Samuel 8:4-20. How influenced by culture and neigh-
bors are you? How do you attempt to keep your priorities aligned with God’s reign?
• Read Psalm 138. How do you evaluate the “gods” in your life? How do you recognize when those gods have gained control of your life?
• Read 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1. When life’s circumstances over-
whelm you, how do you avoid losing heart?
• Read Mark 3:20-35. Who is your spiritual family? Whom do you identify as your brothers, sisters, mother and father?
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