And you became
imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you
received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the
Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but
in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no
need to speak about it. For the people of
those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10, NRSV)
I admire those people in Thessalonika. They found joy and practiced hospitality and did it all in the face of persecution. I am finding joy and kindness a challenge this morning as I contemplate questions about whether the work I feel called to do will continue to exist.
In a discussion of the economy on one of the morning shows, a woman said, "We don't know what jobs will matter in the future." She was talking about how the economy will develop, that we don't know what categories of work will matter to us. But it left me wondering, does an educated clergy matter *more* or *less* in times of economic hardship?
I worry about this selfishly. Now that I have a "pre-existing condition" my choices are maintaining my denominational insurance or? My husband has insurance only when he is actually working, so he would be without insurance, too, should I lose mine. He could probably get a year-round nuke job, but it wouldn't help me, since I have that pre-existing condition. I don't really understand these things, have heard scary words about spending down all your assets to get Medicaid. Since I have an illness that left untreated might well be crippling, I have to find a way to get that treatment. I really can't make sense of this at all. I did nothing to bring this illness on myself, and I am trapped by it. I am haunted by worst case scenarios.
I'm hearing alarmingly casual conversations about all ministry becoming bivocational, about the desirability of simply making a gift of our training while working at another job. With my wrists and fingers, I'll never make a barista. I never trained to do anything else. In a time of economic crisis, are pastors less important to people, really? Or is it that even though we might matter, there just aren't enough resources to go around?
This is not persecution, of course. It's a collision between my medical condition and the world economy, and it's only anyone's fault in the collective sense that the latter situation arose from all of us. I've deleted as many lines as I've written here, because I am angry, even bitter, about my circumstances, and I don't want to express those sour feelings here. I want to find a way through them and beyond them.
How did the Thessalonians do it? Was there not one among them feeling as I do, in desperate need of an encouraging word, saying to herself or himself, "Everyone else is taking this so calmly! What is the matter with me?"
What *is* the matter with me?
And how do I move through this, both the reality and the anxious concerns attached to it? Pastors, even the ones who may not have the same level of concern about their health plans, must be asking the same questions. How much is it reasonable to expect a church to do? Are we among the people who have to lose our health insurance to move the public to support a nationalized program? Is that our sacrifice?
I really hope not. I really hope not. I'm thinking of myself, of the fingers and toes I hope will not be deformed by my illness, of the treatment needed to prevent it. It's direct and explicit and personal. I guess that's selfish. I know it is. But it's where I am, on this particular morning.