Monday, September 17, 2007

Showing Up

I had three funerals this week – all unique in some way. One was for a 37 year old who died of a heart attack that may have been induced by illicit drug use. Second was for a baby born prematurely at 25 weeks and lived for only 2 more. This one was tough (open casket!). The third was for a 76 year old man who died without family, – the building superintendent was his executor, his neighbours gave the eulogy – and only eight people showed up for the funeral plus me and a couple of funeral directors.

I also went to the hospital to visit the wife of one of my mentors – she has had a relapse of cancer and is not doing well. My neighbour came over on the weekend to talk because his mother is also sick with cancer and fading fast. Then we heard at church on Sunday another neighbour of someone else in our congregation who has been diagnosed with stage three (of three) of an aggressive type of cancer. And coming up this weekend is the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to say to people to encourage them or to give words of comfort. But often it’s more important to just show up, to be there to be present with heart and soul. If we have a theology of the immanence of God and the fact of the incarnation where He became Emmanuel – God with us, and if we understand the Scripture that says “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world,” then we know that when we show up, God shows up. Actually God is already there and we join Him in His work. Maybe that’s one of the most important things that we can say to people – God is the God who is already there. I think it was Woody Allen who quipped “Ninety percent of success is just showing up.”

This is not just true of helping people in times of difficulty but in all of our life’s mission. Alex Dyer said it this way:

“One important lesson I continue to learn in mission is that I am not in charge. It is God who extends the invitation and God who is in charge of the mission. Being open to God's mission means discerning where God is leading us, without our own expectations getting in the way. With this re-orientation, our mission is not a to-do list to remedy all the world's problems but rather begins with discernment on what God is calling us to do. We realize we are part of something beyond ourselves and we leave behind the delusion that this is dependent upon our performance. Our call to mission does not come from a sense of duty, rather from a sense of wondrous anticipation about what God has in store for us.

"We realize we are NOT called to solve all the world's problems. We are called to participate in God's mission. DAILY! After a few months in Cairo, I told my supervisor that I did not feel much like a missionary. I spent a lot of time talking to Sudanese refugees and drinking tea with them. My supervisor told me that is where mission work happens. It is the engaging with one another, in being present and sharing each other's stories. A large part of mission work is having tea.”

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