It’s only in the last few years that we have felt the Lord lead us to adopt a theme for the year. Last year, before many of us went into lockdown in our homes, we had felt the Lord put on our hearts the theme, Welcome home. This year, we have felt the Lord lead us to focus on the theme, grow. The word grow conjures up different emotions in me. There was a time, quite early in my pastoral ministry, when it was recommended to me that I engage a ministry coach. It was my desire to do all I could to see our little church at Legana grow. The ministry coach agreed that this should be my focus. It just so happened that at this time I was in the throes of my doctoral studies.
Anyone who has experienced being a part of a relationship as a friend, spouse, in business or within an organisation will probably appreciate the importance of maintaining a good connection between the persons who are interacting within the relationship. When our connections become intermittent or cut off completely, communication also breaks down and the relationships that we value can become degraded as a result. Examining the reason behind degraded connections is the first step in repairing them.
“I am about to – or I am going to – die: either expression is correct.” These were the last words of French grammarian and Jesuit priest, Dominique Bouhours. While his last words clearly demonstrate his passion for grammar and devotion to language, I’m not so sure that I would choose them to be my last words.
Do you ever wonder what your last words will be? I would like to think mine will be profound, or memorable. I’d like to think they would honour Christ and leave a lasting impression on those with me. But who knows what they will be? Will I even have a choice? Maybe I’ll tell Stephen to make sure he tucks his chair under the table when he gets up.
In the lead-up to Easter, I spent time considering Jesus last words on the cross. There are seven sentences uttered by Jesus on the cross, collated from across the four gospels.
One thing that struck me was that three of the seven sentences He uttered were expressions of love and care for others. He hung on the cross in excruciating pain and agony. He had been betrayed, deserted, beaten, humiliated, stripped, flogged, had a crown of thorns placed on His head, and then nailed to a cross.
Did He rail against the injustice? Did He curse those who crucified Him? Or those who betrayed Him? Did He exhibit self-pity?
Jesus asked His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. He assured the criminal on the cross next to Him that he would be with Him in paradise. He commended His mother and His disciple John into the care of each other.
While we live in a generation where many people view ‘religion’ as a private and personal experience that bears little relevance to the real world, the Psalmist saw his connection with God as a vital, passionate, life-enriching connection, that he needed more than the air he breathed or the water his thirst longed for. It is my pastoral mission to help those whose hearts are inclined toward God to join with the Psalmist and to pant after a deeper communion with God.