by Lindsey Funtik, Coordinator of Volunteer Ministries, Ashland First United Methodist Church, Ashland, Ohio
They say that work days aren't so bad if you just hit the ground running. As soon as you have rolled over and checked that and that and that on the screen that hovered dangerously near your puddle of drool through the night, you are to hitch your pants on tight and begin the sprint. After all, we pledge allegiance to the fact that the best way to reach goals is to barrel headlong into them. You'll be fine, you'll get stuff done, you won't be swallowed by the arduous, existential slog if you just book it.
The Church is not exempt from this. Observe, for example, a dark-haired woman, late twenties, as she enters the belly of Christ's Bride laden with bags and the will to dive as gracefully as possible into the waiting to-do list. She says hello to some friendly faces, pauses long enough to brew some energy, and then her office becomes a breathing beast of activity, panicked and driven and probably a bit neurotic. We have to proclaim the Kingdom! We have to build the Kingdom! We have to prove ourselves for the sake of God’s great Kingdom!
But, inevitably, there is a knock. There is a phone call. There are warm voices with encouragements and jokes and there are trembling voices with shreds of hope flapping in the wind like the muddy flags of conquerors. The perfectly mapped line from Point A to Point B is laden with unforeseen obstacles–how will we ever wrap ourselves in that New Creation if we can’t even seem to be able to send one, single email? How can the world know the name of True Love if we haven’t met the quota once optimistically set for ourselves?
How are we supposed to do ministry when ministry keeps getting in the way?
I wonder what day of the week it was when a certain traveling Rabbi found Himself going about the good work of God by walking toward a little girl that needed to be woken with a wave of healing. Her daddy had come searching for Him, desperate for the kind of hope that does not exist apart from the Divine, and so this holy man of the road, Jesus, laced up His sandals and headed out to show that the Kingdom was indeed in their midst.
But, what was that? A disturbance in the force. A grubby, quivering hand had clutched the dusty fibers of His woolen hem. The insidious red blooms of isolation and shame which had long stained a woman who was broken suddenly closed up their buds. Freedom.
"Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you."
He took too long. The little girl was dead. But, lo and behold, the Kingdom came anyway.
"Little girl, I say to you, get up!"
It would seem that ministry happens on the way to ministry. Being swept along in productive currents is all well and good, but richness can also be found in the quiet tide pools that are out of your way. Look at the shells, the urchins on the margins, all those details you miss for the sake of forward motion.
Love can be found in the interrupting phone call. Grace can be found in that which only seems unproductive. The Kingdom can be found in both a bleeding woman and a risen girl.
Cross-posted from "Reflections on Faith, Words, and The Holiness of Today"