I had intended to muse on something theological today (am I a theolgical Liberal, critical orthodoxy etc) but events overtook me. Jessie, who is our MU Gaulieter (Presiding member to the uninitated) is in hospital with terminal lung cancer. I got a phone call to head up the hospital with an oil stock earlier tonight and spent about an hour there, talking with her son and then praying and anointing her. This is one the bits of priestly ministry which I both find terribly difficult and wouldn't miss for all the tea in China. I feel utterly helpless and useless at one level - nothing I can do or say will alter the outcome. All I have are words of comfort (I hope) and commendation, plus a wee bit of archaic ritual, which may make me and the family feel a bit better at a difficult time.
But I also get the inestimable privilege of sharing in and being part of God's story in her and her family's life. That is the privilege of ministry in a parish which I wouldn't get in the cloister or the College. Other privileges there would no doubt be, but not this one. Walking with very ordinary men and women on their journey with God. Ministry to the dying takes the focus firmly away from me, myself, I and onto the other - both the person ministered to and the God who is beyond time and space and our finite comprehension. So much of the Church's visible life is focused on our needs and demands that we forget to lift our vision to the transcendent and infinite Glory that calls us into eternal being. The prayer I used with Jessie tonight challenges that:
"He who died for you and rose again from death,
is calling you to enjoy the peace of the heavenly city
in which there is neither sorrow or pain,
and where weakness is transformed into strength.
He is calling you to see him face to face
that you may be made like him forever.
He comes to welcome you with angels and archangels
and all his faithful people that you may know in its fullness
the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Enter into the joy of your Lord and give glory to him,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
Go well with God, Jessie.