Each are giving their metaphor or symbol for pastoral care ministry. I would like to give an illustration of pastoral care. It is in the 5th chapter of Luke.
“On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.
And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd,
I see, at least, four ways that the men carrying the paralytic exemplify pastoral care providers or chaplains.
1. Caring for someone in need.
I am guessing these men had better things to do than carry dead weight around town, up a ladder, and do some innovative rigging to get the man to see Jesus. But they cared for this man. I assume this paralytic was a friend. Maybe not, of course. Maybe they were like the Good Samaritan who saw a man suffering and felt compassion.
During the various plagues of the Roman Empire, the church stood up to care for and serve their pagan neighbors. Quoting Charles Moore:
In the midst of intermittent persecution and colossal misunderstanding, and in an era when serving others was thought to be demeaning, the “followers of the way,” instead of fleeing disease and death, went about ministering to the sick and helping the poor, the widowed, the crippled, the blind, the orphaned and the aged. The people of the Roman Empire were forced to admire their works and dedication. “Look how they love one another,” was heard on the streets.
Our time is not unlike the twilight years of the Roman empire. The god of materialism provides no hope, the structures and institutions of society that are meant to address social needs are indifferent and cold, and the current adversarial atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion, and violence breed fear and loneliness.
Today, we need people who care, even when it is inconvenient.
2. Working as a team
The men here… probably four, worked together to help out one in need. We don’t know their names… we don’t know how many of them they were. We don’t know where they came from, although we may assume they were neighbors of Peter living in Caperneum. Outside of this one event, it is quite possible that they did nothing else that was remembered more than a generation after their deaths.
Chaplains/pastoral care providers are team players. They work together for good. They follow the Christian virtue of mutuality… bearing one another’s burdens, grieving with one another, encouraging one another, and edifying one another.
The world around applauds and supports the noisy, brash, and narcissistic…
Years ago, I was on a medical mission in Palawan and I drank some tainted water. On Saturday I was very very sick. I was suppose to preach at a church at 6:30am the next morning. Several came to my room. One gave me some medicine and water. Several prayed over me. One put oil on my back. Another made sure I got plenty of water and rest. I woke up 5am the next morning feeling great and ready to preach at Honda Bay Baptist Church. No one came up to me after and said… “Oh by the way, you were healed because of me. I was the one who did that.” No one did that. Frankly, I don’t think they were worried about any such thing. They sought to help as a team… and they thanked God as a team. How unlike the world we live in.
Chaplains take a path of silence, presence, and working with a broader team to help as God gives them the ability to help. They don’t try to take credit from Doctors, or Nurses, and certainly not from God. They are part of a team to provide care, and that is enough.
3. People of faith
In this passage, it is interesting to note what Jesus reaction is. The passage says that he healed the man… but it said that he did it when he saw “their faith” I am not sure if the term “their” includes the sick man, or just his carriers. It doesn’t matter. The faith of these men compelled Jesus to respond.
Perhaps they wondered if they could bring this man another day. I don’t know. I know the passage said that “the power of the Lord was with him to heal.” We know from Scripture that Jesus did not always do miracles. In fact, later in his ministry, apparently he pretty much stopped doing public miracles. Regardless, these men believed Jesus could heal, and was convinced that this was the day that it must be done. So when there were obstacles in their way, they did not stop. Rather they came up with a plan to ensure that the one who needed healing would be best positioned to be healed. Jesus saw their faith and healed this man.
Pastoral care providers are to be sources of faith in their parish… They are sources of Faith, as well as hope, and love.
4. Bring people to Christ.
The men that carried the paralyzed man, did not have special powers. They could not heal. They did not have special charm or great words. But they could lift up a sick man and carry him where he needed to go. And when others, due to insensitivity or indifference got in the way, they still found a way to get the man to Jesus.
Chaplains or pastoral care providers do not have magical powers, or special prayers, or deep wisdom. We may pray with a patient because we are asked, but we know that God has not given us special powers or formulae to make things better. Chaplains know how to bring those in need to Christ… or perhaps just as accurately, they know how to act as Christ’s presence coming to where He is needed.
Completing a full unit of CPE in 10 weeks more or less is difficult. I know. And if you choose to continue in this type of ministry it won’t get easier. Sometimes it will be even harder. But please member these men in this story:
Be men and women of faith, bring faith hope and love to those in need– providing care for those who all to often are ignored. And work as a team supporting each other and those who need the presence of Christ in their lives.