Wednesday Word: Pain
I was at a clergy gathering last week discussing various readings and how we might preach them. One of the readings came from 2 Cor. 12:6-10 – Paul's discussion of being tormented by some physical distress and how he handled it.
As we talked, we began to mull over an idea that what binds people together is pain, because pain is universal. Whether it be physical, spiritual, or emotional, pain seems to be ever present. A child dies. Innocent people of color and other faiths are killed by angry white “Christian” men. People of all kinds are killed by random or planned acts of violence. Jobs are lost. People say hurtful things.
One of those present said, “A parishioner of mine told me that she comes to church because it's a place where she can cry.”
That sounded (and sounds) odd at first. But the more I/we think about that statement, the more I/we can see the truth in it.
So often people envision church as a holy, righteous, peaceful place full of nice, godly people. Or, as one person called it, “A hotel for saints.” As much as we would like this to be so, we are faced with the reality that the church is full of fallible human beings. Nobody can live up to the expectations placed on the church and its members at all times. So instead of a hotel for saints, the church is, in all actuality, “a hospital for sinners.”
On any given Sunday any one of us is experiencing some type of pain – whether that be internal or external, personal or environmental, intentional or accidental. It is in those moments of pain where the church body becomes so important.
Are we willing to walk with a person who is hurting? Are we willing to care for those who are suffering? Are we willing to cry with those who weep? More importantly, are we willing to recognize that it was us who inflicted pain on another person, and are we willing to ask honestly for forgiveness? If we are the injured party, are we willing to grant forgiveness.
In Lent we are reminded of the pain that Jesus suffered at the hands of family, friends, leaders, and, ultimately, humanity as he was nailed to a cross. This is what makes Christianity different from all other religions – we have a God who walked the way of pain with us and can relate in a very personal way to the painfulness of life.
If you have caused pain, come to church, confess, repent, and strive to walk in holiness. If you have been caused pain by the actions of another, come to church and work toward forgiveness. If you have pain but don't know where to go, come to church and cry at the feet of our Lord.
Pain is universal. And in this beautiful hospital of the Lord, this should be the one place where we begin to heal.