Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Pastor (11/30/06)
TITLE: The Comforter's Visitation
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Alone with my head in my hands, I wilt into a pew.
Lord, You called me to serve this congregation as pastor a decade ago. You blessed my efforts, the church grew, and I earned the confidence of people like Bill and Mary and Roseanne and Eugene – cancer patients, drug addicts, destitute vagabonds; the discouraged, the lonely, the misunderstood, the abused and the abusers. My ministry flourished as You taught me how to live the gospel message and love without restraint even in despairing, confusing, and demanding circumstances. When my parishioners experienced healing of body and heart, we praised and honored You together and testified openly to those outside the church.
I struggled with difficult emotions the year Loretta and I lost our baby to crib death. But now I realize that I also learned valuable lessons about submitting my pain, yielding my heart, and serving others. My loss equipped and enabled me to direct suffering individuals into the throne room of Your grace. Yes, I still have theological questions about our baby boy and will until I die. And yet You redeemed my devastation, as great as it was.
I weep quietly into my trembling hands – hands that I long to lift to You. Is this situation also redeemable, Lord? Grasp these shaking members; lift me to some new, higher place and send me soaring like an eagle in the heavenly realm, far above the pettiness. The stained glass dove with outspread wings in the window high above offers to shed peace - and yet I crumple inwardly. Lord, I need more of You!
On this weekday afternoon I am alone in this shadowy, empty sanctuary. I can’t help but wonder at the deception in the hearts of a few who lurk like wolves in lamb’s clothing in these seats on Sunday mornings. Some say a spirit of Jezebel has invaded them; I tend to agree. The prideful worship of autonomy has conquered and now controls their hearts. They want power; they want me out of here.
The Jezebel spirits have gained support of district church elders through underground communication that has predisposed those in authority to believe lies. Consequently, my service as pastor of this congregation may soon be over. How can that be Lord, as I don’t feel Your work through me is finished? And where else shall I go, if You have called me to be HERE?
The Adversary is using these people to divide and destroy this church. What is to become of me; what am I to do?
The door creaks and slowly opens. A form resembling an older man with white hair and wire-rimmed spectacles enters the sanctuary unannounced, and then saunters down the aisle, speaking all the while. “You will continue being an open, extravagant lover of human hearts, and a scholar and teacher of the Word. You will rise above these hurtful circumstances even if ‘they’ initiate your forced resignation. You will extend grace to all as you have for the past ten years. You will persevere and emerge from this trial more whole and holy than before.” His pace quickens as he approaches the communion altar. Finally his hands touch the cloth that says, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” He evaporates as if absorbed into the altar.
I stand, raise my hands and cry, “ABBA!” The dove hovers over my upturned face.
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