Written by Rev George Vink,
Regional Pastor of Classis Grand Rapids South
This morning as I listened to historian Doris Goodwin reflect on the need for strong, assuring leadership in times like these, the need for such pastoring came to mind.
As individual Christians, but especially as pastors of congregations, we have daily opportunities to lead families, friends and congregations, empowered by our faith and convictions. Turning to my email, there Henri Nouwen challenged me, “I really want to encourage you not to despair, not to lose faith, not to let go of God in your life, but stand in your suffering as a person who is deeply loved by God.” (The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming)
“Loved by God…” How does that come home to me personally? What does that mean when I have to keep “social distance” and our streets seem abandoned?
I can think of nothing better, no more to the core way than how a young pastor and professor put it over 450 years ago. It addressed a need for those times when persecution for one’s faith would include burning alive, for those cruel wars lasting years and taking millions of lives, and for the adventurous migrating to foreign lands.
They began with the question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”
Asking it that way made it obvious. It wasn’t going to be one among others. It’s the only one! Don’t despair and look for others!
And then they chose the word “comfort,” originally “trooste.” A German word used to describe what’s needed in sad, trying, disturbing, challenging, world-changing circumstances.
Times when a virus claims too many lives and fear appears to triumph.
The assurance, the strength of “comfort” comes in its answer, an answer believers, pastors and princes have confessed with conviction again and again. It was whispered with dying last breaths as well as stated boldly in the face of persecution.
We’ve recited it boldly at the gravesides of aged saints as well as stumbled tearfully through them at the small graves of tiny toddlers.
It’s an anchor as well as a hug. I’m loved because I belong. I belong because I’m loved.
The Catechism’s authors answered the question. “My only comfort in life and in death is that I belong to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” The words shout it out. It’s not about me!
It’s about belonging to Him who holds the world in His hands. I’m in His family. I’m not alone. We can sing, “I believe for every drop…..” as well as “In Christ Alone.”
Here we have ancient words, timeless words of comfort to be shared and demonstrated as believers and pastors. They are words revealing our conviction: With the Holy Spirit’s empowering, we must live, minister, and die in the assurance of eternal life. (John 10:10)
We’re in his world for times like these….