A Ministry of Contrasts

mountainsI held the hands of a couple married for 60 years as the wife was dying and the “until death do us part” of their marriage vows were being fulfilled. Less than four hours later I held the hands of a young couple in a prayer of blessing as I concluded the ceremony that began their marriage.

I’ve traveled across town from visiting a family making plans at a funeral home to visiting a young couple and their new addition on the maternity ward of a hospital. I thought about it and decided to make the two visits in that order, so I could end my pastoral calls that day on a joyous note.

When I get to feeling sorry for myself because of some of the things I feel I get stuck having to deal with in pastoral ministry, I think about my ministry of contrasts. I join God’s people in their mountaintop experiences and I walk with them through the valley of the shadow of death.

What a ministry, this ministry of contrasts! The fried chicken may be the same, but it somehow tastes different at a funeral dinner than it does at a wedding reception.

Whether the climate of the circumstance calls for a sprinkling of water, rice, or dirt, we, as pastors of the people, are there. We hold the babies, hug the newlyweds, and let our shoulders get wet with the tears of the one who mourns. It’s all sacred ground, a holy calling to be with God’s people in the best of times, the worst of times and, thankfully, the many ordinary in-between times too!

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