Why art thou downcast, O preacher? Oh, should’ve guessed — it’s us, right? Yes, yes, we the people of God are a stiff-necked-bow-legged flock, prone to not only wander but to waffle as did the fathers and mothers who so sensuously begat us. You’re in a hard place, we realize that, what with the megachurch being so passé these days and everybody going small church, but let not your heart be troubled because it won’t be long until some remember the reason they left the little church was the hootenanny music and potluck heartburn. We applaud your efforts to make us fully devoted followers but we see ourselves as part-time saints at best and that suits us fine, just fine. Tell you what, here’s a bit of advice, please "receive it in the spirit in which it is intended" which we all know (wink) is logorrhea for "this might hurt." Nevertheless, hear us out. This is what we need from you:
Remind us of the mercy.
Please, please don’t stop doing that, whatever else you may do (and we’ll put up with quite a bit because for the most part we’re docile) but please don’t stop telling and retelling us that God loves us, better yet that He even likes us. Behold, we’re in the ring with the bulls, O preacher — the neighbors can’t afford a school backpack for their little girl and the other neighbor lost her husband last week (only forty-nine, by God) and the troubled man two streets away split with his gentle wife and the ink’s not even dry on the paperwork and he’s already got an old flame burning via Facebook and us, well we’ve put our hands to the family plow only to find that briars and thorns are the usual reward of our labor and we’re just about to get the kids through school and wouldn’t you know it, the parents start breaking down and now there’s trips back home to hold Daddy’s hand as he slips beneath the surface of time and Momma is gradually forgetting the names of the children she nursed at her breast and we could go on but you know most of that because you always ask with the sincerest eyes. Still, we don’t always tell you everything that’s going on because sometimes the woolen-shame of our lives leaves us cotton-mouthed; we have lips but cannot speak.
So regardless of what bright-lights-moderate-ego conference you attend and even in spite of what the elders may say (and we’ve heard they’re squeezing you for measureable results), just keep telling us of the mercies of our God, how wide and deep and grand and fresh-each-morning they are, because that’s what’s getting us from Sunday to Sunday, that’s what’s getting us from breath to breath. And that’s really your calling. Sure, we say we want other things from you, but most days we’re mostly bluff, so do a little of that active listening you’re so skilled at and hear between our lines and don’t be disquieted, O preacher, for you see we need you, not to play the game for us, but to play it with us, to help us remember the God who so loved this cockeyed world that He gave and gave and gave and giveth still. His mercies they fail not and His faithfulness is great indeed, but we get spooked easily and thus forget. Point to the cloud by day that covers all.
Hope thou in God, O preacher, for it is He who healeth our countenance, and that includes yours, too. Amen.
P.S.: We pray for you every day. Don’t give up.