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DeacoNote 5: Mourning Into Gladness

September 14, 2022

A long time ago I had a friend who used to joke, that if you wanted to hear God laugh, just tell Him your plans. It was an allusion to the fact that our ability to plan, what is best for ourselves and others, is often questionable.

Sometimes it is a matter of perspective. I recall when I was newly out of college, starting my first regular job, I usually took the bus to work. On occasion I would oversleep and found myself rushing to get ready before the bus came. I would find myself softly praying that God would cause the bus to be running a few minutes late that day. But then I would stop myself and wonder what God would do, if someone else along the route was praying for the bus to be a little early because of some urgent need in their life? There is comfort in the promise that God cares enough about us to intervene in our lives, But also a concerning realization, that as we look beyond ourselves, and consider any impact on those around us, it can get rather complicated quickly.

Sometimes it is our vision that is clouded by the storm in which we find ourselves. We are like the disciples caught in the storm as they rowed across the sea of Galilee in John 6. Their vision was so clouded by the storm and their own fear in the situation, that they did not recognize Jesus for who He was, and were hesitant to take Him aboard. This can be especially true when we are hurting.

At those times we find ourselves asking, "why?" or worse, find ourselves falling into an angry resentment. In such a state, our ears turn deaf to the promise of verses like Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." While exegetes the world over have debated for centuries the full significance of these verses, most believers agree that God can and does use all situations to bring about good.

I am reminded of a Sunday many years ago - almost a quarter of a century ago in fact - that I was serving as the worship leader in a small church in that portion of south central New York, historically known as the "Burned Over District." It was one of the many little churches that popped up in the early 1800's during a huge revival that occurred there at the time. The worship leader's job was pretty straight forward in this church - it was to greet the attendees, read the Scripture for the day and lead the congregation in the opening prayer. On this particular Sunday, however, there was a heckler in the audience. He stood up and angrily began to take issue over something in the liturgy.

Fortunately, this was a small church, much like ours in many ways. Everyone knew his name and who he was. He was a devoted husband, whose wife had passed away just a few weeks earlier, and he was stuck in the anger stage of grieving. He was angry at God. He was angry at the Pastor, and expressed anger toward many of the people who tried to help him. We did not condemn him or judge him. Instead, we abandoned our planned service and devoted ourselves to loving and praying for our hurting brother. I won't say that his anger completely left him that day, but I will say that healing began. The memory of that Sunday serves for me as a constant reminder, that while we may think we are going to church to be ministered to, some days we will be called upon to be the one, through whom, God will minister to someone else.

Jeremiah 31:13 "I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."

I pray that we all remain open to being used by God to minister in large ways and small to those around us.

Your Brother In Christ,

Warren Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons United Church of Colchester

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