Last week was an extremely stressful and emotional week for me as I had a lot of personal things going on as well as ministry related issues. My emotions ran the gamut of positive and negative expressions. One of our dear precious saints, Helena, has been in and out of the hospital 3 different times in the last month. Helena started the week in the hospital at RWJ and was moved to JFK rehab on Monday. We had a good visit with her on Thursday but by Saturday morning when I went to see her, her condition had deteriorated to the point where she had to be readmitted by Saturday evening. Sunday evening when Deb and I visited her she was heavily sedated and hooked up to an EEG brain monitoring device and under 24 hour observation. My emotions have been riding an emotional rollercoaster with this special lady who has been a blessing to so many of us.
Wednesday was a funeral for one of our families which was a special ministry opportunity. Friday was our beautiful Easter Cantata, which is always a profoundly significant blessing to all those involved as well as those in attendance. I was doubly blessed this year to have my wife, Deb, narrating with me. This was a special blessing to my heart. On Saturday I had the funeral for the niece of one of our church ladies. As the son of Alice shared for over 30 minutes his reflection led me to think of my own mom and her ongoing health issues. At the time my mom had been with us for 3 weeks. I felt the funeral was very emotional and I too connected with that intense emotion.
At the end of my message, for the first time in 26 years of funerals, I had someone challenge me on the validity of the message I’d just preached. He challenged me that you just can’t be saved by faith in Christ alone; you have to be baptized as well. He stated his church is the only true church. Are you serious? Did he really want me to preach this woman into hell because she wasn’t baptized? Again, my emotions ran the gamut of feelings and I actually had to check my anger at this point.
Sunday was a beautiful Resurrection Day and we celebrated the fact that Jesus reigns. What a glorious truth it is that we serve a risen Savior who is in the world today. Also on Sunday Deb and I returned my mom back to her home in Hamilton. I would have preferred for her to stay with us a little longer but she had made up her mind. Once again I have mixed emotions about the timing of this decision.
When I get to the point of running on fumes in my ministry and personal life it’s critical for me to do two things. First, I want to come to Jesus with my burdens and needs. I’m reminded on these occasions of Jesus’ words in the 11th chapter of Matthew’s gospel where we read, “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my load is light” (v.28-30 NASB). I’m profoundly grateful for Jesus’ invitation to bring my burdens to Him. The gentle Shepherd is the one who knows the end from the beginning and He knows all about the burden of ministry and personal life. I think of Jesus hanging on the cross, bearing the burden of the sin of the whole world, taking the time to be concerned about providing the care that His aging mother Mary would need, even as He’s bearing the weight of all our sins. So I can cast all my cares on Him for I know Jesus cares for me.
Secondly, when running near empty, it’s very important to take time off for relaxation and replenishment. Life in ministry can be very exhausting and getting away from time to time is critical for sound mental health. This week I’m blessed also because I’ll be attending a pastor’s appreciation luncheon at Yankee Stadium on Friday. The timing couldn’t have been better. I get to go to Yankee Stadium without having to watch the Yankees. This luncheon was originally scheduled for the first week of November but got cancelled due to Sandy, which is at least one positive side effect of Sandy. Getting away and doing something different is really important for refreshment. Burn out is a constant threat and great danger in ministry especially when you’re running on empty. I’m so glad for the Yankee Stadium luncheon. Just one question, would it be OK for me to wear my Red Sox hat?
All for Christ,
Pastor Rich Sivo