Cardboard ministry

1 Peter 5:1-11

I have a new image that illustrates what I do as a pastor. It came to me at one of the toughest times to do what I do. Within the last six weeks, two youth from church have passed away. Let me tell you, burying young people is painful.

Just because we don’t weep as those without hope doesn’t mean we don’t weep. I have. When I first recognized this new illustration, weeping filled the room.

I was standing behind a flower arrangement as people came to pay their final respects. Then I saw it. Actually, I had seen it all along. Then I paid attention. I don’t know what to call it, but I noticed the piece of cardboard that held the flowers up. It was the shape of a heart. Others have different shapes, a box, circle or a cross.

The backside of the arrangement is unassuming. The real action, of course, is up front where everyone can see what the florist envisioned. As a pastor, I’m that piece of cardboard. Not entirely out of the picture, but not at all in the way.

I spend much of my time praying for my church. It is God’s church, of course. So, I want to ensure we follow the Spirit’s lead in the dance of ministry. My job, then, the praying and discernment give shape to what we do. It’s the basic shape God’s people take on as they flourish in ministry. The flowers get arranged by the shape of the cardboard. That’s the beauty everyone else sees.

The world doesn’t need to see the pastor all the time. She “works” for the church. Of course, she’ll talk about the church. That’s called job security. But the beautiful ministry of the children of God is what people notice most. That’s when the world sees the goodness of God. It’d be silly to turn the arrangement around and hide the flowers just to show the cardboard.

Now, to be sure, the pastor isn’t the foundation. No, a three-legged stand holds and supports the entire arrangement. Resting on that sure foundation, it’s a joy to watch the church take the shape of God’s grace and grow. To find fruitful ministry to be God’s presence in the world.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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