Tuesday, June 16, 2009

6/16 Pastoral Care and the Cure of Souls

(Young Calvin visiting in a home as pastor)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

6/16- Pastoral Care and the Cure of Souls

1 "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. 2 Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: "Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done," declares the LORD. 3 "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1-4)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
(Jesus:) 11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. (John 10:11-14)
2 Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; (I Peter 5:2)

Calvin: “There are many people negligent in comforting themselves in God by His Word when they are afflicted with sickness, and so many die without admonition or teaching which is more necessary for a person then than at any other time. It will be good therefore that their Lordships ordain and make public that no one is to be totally confined to bed for three days without informing the minister, and that each be advised to call the ministers when they desire it in good time, in order that they be not diverted from the office which they publicly discharge in the church. Above all it is to be commanded that parents, friends, and attendants do not wait until the patient is about to die, for in this extremity consolation is in most cases hardly useful.” (Draft Ecclesiastical Ordinances 1541 Reid p. 68).

Calvin may have begun his career as a scholar-theologian, but he believed he was called first as a pastor. Jean-Daniel Benoit has written a book, “Calvin Director of Souls” in which he stated that Calvin was a theologian in order to be a better pastor. Today theology has crept back into the mode it was right before the Reformation. Theology has been left to academics who for the most part are disconnected from the church. But Calvin’s idea is that the study of God (which is what “theology” means) should glorify God in real life- and this means through His Church.
Pastoral Care in America has been complicated by the ever-increasing-secular-government and its HIPPA regulations. Twenty years ago a pastor in most American towns could call the hospital and they would provide a list of members of that church for a pastor to visit (this happened for me as late as 1999). That has been outlawed. Today if a pastor goes to a hospital, knowing one of his members is in there- and knowing the member wants a visit, but the member’s first name is different from his given name (eg. Richard instead of Dick McGillicutty), the people at the front desk are supposed to say, “I’m sorry but we don’t have a Dick McGillicutty here.” It doesn’t matter if the pastor has travelled four hours to go to the hospital or not. If the pastor doesn’t have the phone number of some relative- if there is one- then the visit and the pastor’s time is dead.
A pastor is supposed to shepherd his or her flock. They are to know them by name, know their needs, and make efforts to care for them. Part of the duty of the pastor is to offer, as much as possible care. Part of the duty of the church member is to allow themselves to be cared for. In Calvin’s day a messenger had to run with the news to the church. Today an e-mail (though not always reliable) or a phone call will do the trick instantly, and a car/subway can be used for the pastor to get to the member fairly quickly. It is so much more convenient. Yet there is a tendency (as Calvin inferred above) to stay by ourselves, or for the pastor not to deliver pastoral care. When the plague hit Geneva, Calvin offered to visit people but was forbidden to do so by the authorities. He was willing, as many pastors did, to risk his life to comfort others with prayer and the hope of God.

Prayer: Lord, bless the pastors who care for us today. Bless them despite their weaknesses and shortcomings. Help me to allow them to be a pastor to me.

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