by The Reverend Rick Sosbe
Delivered at the MCC Board of Elders Meeting, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on August 24, 2006
When I was first asked to share a devotional with the MCC Board of Elders, I felt very blessed to receive the invitation. But after accepting, I began to think to myself, "What in the world do you share with the entire leadership of your denomination?" So I immediately went to prayer, asking God to direct my thoughts in terms of what to share.
One evening while driving home from jail visitation, I was praying about the desperate situation of the person I had just visited in jail. From a sheer human side, I was also thinking about how tired I was and how good that pizza was going to taste after I picked it up and got it home!
A scripture came to my mind during the drive and I'd like to share it with you. It's from Galatians 6:1-10, which says,
"Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore that person, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others.
"Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.
"Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, will be harvested. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others -- ignoring God! -- harvests a crop of weeds. All those types will have to show for their lives are weeds! But those who plant in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in them; will harvest a crop of real life, eternal life.
"So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith."
While mediating on that scripture, I also thought about my time with the MCC Board of Elders. The verse that really stood out for me is the one that says, "So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good." Other translations say it this way:
"So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time." (New Living Translation)
"Don't get tired of helping others. You will be rewarded when the time is right, if you don't give up." (Contemporary English)
I imagine that God’s calling on you to serve as Elder and leader in this great Fellowship brings with it opportunities to grow weary; I know being a pastor certainly does! There have been times in my life and ministry where I've wondered what in the world God was doing -- and I've certainly wondered where more than one parishioner came from!
But I've learned -- and I continue to learn! -- that I indeed do grow weary sometimes. And maybe you do as well. I'm not so sure the Apostle Paul in writing this portion of his letter meant we were to literally not grow tired in helping others. I believe he was saying that it's OK to grow tired, but we must not allow our fatigue to blur our focus and cause us to stop helping, to stop caring, to stop loving, to stop leading, to stop guiding.
In the context of the passage, Paul has led the Galatian believers to understand the historical and theological background for the crisis in their churches and given them general principles about life in the Spirit. Now he spells out specific responsibilities for those who are led by the Spirit so that they can strengthen relationships and rebuild some that have been broken.
Paul exhorts the Galatians in terms they understand; that of sowing and reaping. Hear the words again:
"Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, will be harvested. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others - ignoring God! - harvests a crop of weeds. All those types will have to show for their lives are weeds! But those who plant in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in them; will harvest a crop of real life, eternal life."
Here's what I glean from this: Even though we may grow tired, it's OK but even in our frustration and fatigue, we must continue to sow the seeds of the Spirit wherever we can in the hopes of building relationships with others. Even in our times of fatigue we must continue to cast seeds of grace that will fall where they may - and trusting that some will take root.
As Moderator, as Vice-Moderator, as Elders, as Executive Director, as leaders of this great Fellowship called Metropolitan Community Churches, you are asked to carry the burdens of others in healthy ways. And that requires in-depth participation in their pain and sorrow. It requires being the Living Christ to them. Your callings require you to cast seeds of grace on a daily basis.
And the rewards for all this sowing are realized not only now, but for all eternity. As Paul says, "But those who plant in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in them; will harvest a crop of real life, eternal life."
Sometimes casting those seeds are easier than at other times. There are times we must stand in the face of the injustices of society and cast the seeds of truth and justice. There are times we must stand in the face of evil in our churches and cast the seeds of righteousness. And in the end, the seeds we sow against injustices and evil will reap a harvest of good.
I experienced this in my church no too long ago. We've all seen it: It's possible for people to get so enmeshed in something - even in church ministry! - that doing good comes to a screeching halt and personal agendas and control issues take over. This was a long and agonizing experience - in short, a member in leadership attempted to sabotage the church. I sought counsel from Rev. Elder Lillie Brock and Rev Elder Nancy Wilson. Following a visit from Lillie, that member is no longer with us.
In the aftermath of that experience, the church remains strong. We were saddened to lose a member and that member's partner. And we also lost one other member who had been their friend for over 10 years. I believe this minimal damage happened because the rest of us were out doing the business of ministry, trying not to grow weary as we cast the seeds of grace in our community.
The task to which God has called you as leaders in our great Fellowship,is an amazing one. As one of my parishioners used to tell me when I was pastoring in the Assemblies of God, "You need a soft heart and the hide of an alligator!" There’s great truth in that.
A college professor of mine was fond of saying to clergy students, "If you can do anything else other than pastor, do it, but if you can't then you'll make it." His point was that pastoral ministry is hard enough when you're called and you'll never survive if God hasn't called you. I believe there’s real truth in that statement as well and I believe all of you are where you are for such a time as this.
Just as Paul exhorted the Galatians, so, too, I encourage you not to grow weary in doing good. As you sit in Elders' meetings, you are doing good for our denomination, and you are planting seeds that, in time, will yield a harvest. As you interact with one another, you are planting seeds that will yield a harvest in God's time.
As you travel to the churches you serve -- whether to preach an uplifting anniversary service, dedicate a new building or mediate meetings with pastors, board members or church members -- do not grow weary in doing the good you do. You are planting seeds that will harvest a crop of real life, eternal life.
I take a morning prayer walk each day with my Jack Russell Terrier, Zoe. She's the most spiritual dog in the neighborhood because every day she listens to me as I pray out loud. And during my morning prayers, I pray for you - that God will continue to bless you, that God will give you wisdom as you lead us in the way we should go.
"So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and don't give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time." (New Living Translation)
The Reverend Rick Sosbe
Metropolitan Community Church of Naples, Florida