PLUM Pastoral Message
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14: 13-14)
The vocation of being a pastor comes with many opportunities for growth and beautiful moments of joy and witnessing the Holy Spirit at work. In this journey of being your pastor for almost 4 years (can you believe that?), I have certainly experienced those growth, joy, and Holy Spirit moments. However, over time, there is one thing I have encountered that I must admit makes me sad. It is the phrase “Pastor, I know you have a lot on your plate”, or “I know you are really busy” as the opening to a conversation. As your pastor, I want to be there with you and for you; especially in those moments when you are at a crossroads, experiencing a difficult time, as well as to share in your celebrations and joys. However, what makes me even sadder is to learn afterwards that someone chose not to reach out because of concern for “bothering” me. There is an old saying “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” I have come to realize that is not a true statement. Lack of information only prevents one from extending care and support at best and serves to create division and harm at worst.
As your pastoral team, we recognize and acknowledge that caring for 10 congregations carries with it a lot of responsibility, the need to prioritize our tasks, and to have flexibility in our schedule to adjust to the unexpected. We are constantly learning the importance of balancing the care for our congregations, with care for our families and for ourselves. However, what we have learned, and what remains true, is that we cannot be present for you if we are unaware there is a need or want.
In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 14, we read the story of the beheading of John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus. Upon learning of the death of his cousin, Jesus naturally wanted to take a moment to grieve. However, the crowd followed Jesus. What was Jesus’ response to the crowd? He had compassion on them. He stopped and he cared for them.
Being present to care for the crowd was an important part of the interaction between Jesus and the crowd. The crowd making known their concerns was also necessary. We, as your pastors, fully acknowledge that, for us to be better together, we must rely on each other…our shared partnership. Caring for our community is not an exact science. It is relational. And relationships are messy. Even the best efforts to care for one another will result in missing cues, misreading signs. The most helpful way to maintain healthy relationships is by transparent conversations. Sometimes, those conversations are not easy and may not provide the desired outcome for everyone; however, we cannot learn what is needed without open dialog. This dialog helps us to faithfully respond to what we are commanded to do – love our neighbor.
The grace-filled portion of the story, however, does not end at the compassion and caring. As we look further in the narrative of Matthew, chapter 14, we see that this was the beginning. This narrative also contains the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus. So often, we see this as a miraculous moment where Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fishes. However, it is more. This miracle is also the result of team effort. The disciples had to make known their concerns for the crowd to Jesus. They had to search for a means to feed the people. The loaves and fishes came from someone (a little boy we are told in the gospel of John 6:1-15). Could Jesus have done the miracle without the aid of the disciples and the little boy? I believe so. And yet, Jesus’ actions remind us that God works through us and with us.
Let us continue to care for one another by being present for each another. The next time a concern comes up, know that you may reach out to us – we are not too busy to stop and care. AND, trusting the presence of God to work in us and through us, we will be the family that God has called us to be.
In community together,
Pr. Brenda on behalf of PLUM Pastoral Team
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773