I’m a Beatles fan, and yes I know the song is actually “All You Need is Love.” But honestly, love is a very challenging word for me. It is a critically important word in my life because of what it means, what it can mean, what it has given me and my family, what it represents, the absolute foundation it provides for those of us who practice the Christian faith, as well as most other faith traditions. But it is challenging because of how difficult and complicated it has become in our efforts to share it and apply it.
(Please excuse me as I take a quick side trail here…)
I am now entering a phase of our ministry that will focus more attention on the practice of Preaching (in the trifecta of foundational pastoral practices: Preach, Teach, Reach.) My ministry has primarily focused on the practice of Reaching (outreach) and has dominated my chaplaincy work for the past 15 years.
As I explore what I’d like to establish as my preaching voice, I’m drawn to some personal family history. My Great Grandfather, Jakob Jakobson Ekse, was an immigrant from Norway and a Lutheran Pastor. In his obituary from November, 1930, there is a sentence that I now have posted on the wall above my writing desk: “As a preacher he was above the average and his proclamation of God’s word was solid, clear and above all practical.” And that is the foundation I hope to build my preaching voice upon.
(We now return to our primary trail of where we are pursuing care…)
Now, I can say unconditionally that I love my wife, my kids, my family, my life and my God. I share that love, I apply that love, I live that love and I am blessed to also receive that love. However, I’m challenged when I look at what my faith tradition declares as the greatest commandment (and the one that I have built this ministry upon and paraphrase here): Love God and your neighbor as yourself. I wrestle with how God wants me to love my neighbor (who to me is everyone), and honestly, how to love myself as well. And to actually preach that love in a solid, clear and practical way is even more daunting!
When I first started my chaplaincy work back in 2005, my work of reaching out and providing spiritual care to cops, firefighters and EMS responders, I was focused on providing that care… fixing/healing peoples faith lives. It was just a short time later when I learned my first and most important lesson of ministry care, which I summarized in the following statement…
36 Words of Care: “As Public Safety Professionals, before we can truly care for someone, we must learn to care about them. We need to gain an understanding of Who they are… What they do… and Why they do it…”
… And when we have gained some understanding, an understanding, but never a total understanding of… who, what and why a person really is… that is when we might be given the opportunity to do some caring for them.
And I also include here a more universal version of my 36 Words of Care that I adapted when I started sharing this message with people outside of the public safety professions.
36 Words of Care: “As members of humanity, before we can truly care for someone we must learn to care about them. We need to gain an understanding of Who they are… What they do… and Why they do it…”
So I give you this message today, just days before our elections are scheduled to conclude, to give you what I hope are some solid, clear and practical words to help you in these difficult and divisive times. I’ve given you the word care, with two simple applications, that you can use when the word love might be too complex and challenging to apply. I ask that when you are frustrated, defensive, even angry and challenged… take some time to take a breath… take some time to listen… take some time to gain an understanding… take some time to care about your neighbors… and care about yourselves as well!
With Care, Pastor Dan.