This week’s Incubator Meeting was one of acceptance, love, and faith. We opened with a discussion about suffering: Who or what helps you when you are suffering? Our participants emphasized how important it is to have loved ones surrounding you in times of need; this included pets, children, parents, and close friends. Some, including our guest speaker Pastor Steven, brought up different outlets that help them cope, such as singing, therapy, beading, yoga and entertainment. Others discussed how prayer and faith in God help them through hard times.
This opening discussion lead seamlessly into this week’s topic, the spirituality of suffering from the Immanuel Lutheran perspective. Pastor Steven shared his wealth of knowledge on the scripture, and made his points easily accessible to group members of all denominations. He stressed that Lutheran’s try to be good at naming the truth of their reality, within the context of Gods love. He shared the story of Jesus Christ, from the Lutheran view point. Being that, God chose to came to Earth as a weak human being, an infant born to an unwed mother, in a family facing persecution be the government leading them to be refugees in another country. The idea that God would give up al his power to take on the suffering human form and experience it with us, rather than being above us and misunderstanding our suffering. Pastor Steven’s Lord spreads a message of love and inclusion; even in the face of extreme pain and persecution, God’s love prevails. He stresses that God is not only there when we see hope and well-being, but is also there through our suffering and has experienced our suffering. Pastor Steven focuses on this idea to pull himself through hard times.
Above all else, Pastor Steven emphasized the significant interconnectedness of mankind. Jesus healed people with physical touch, not with a magical wand. So, he believes that we all have the power to both cause and heal suffering for ourselves and others. According to his church, each one of us makes up the body of God’s love in the world; so, when one person experiences in the world we all take a portion of that suffering on. He compared this a human body suffering an injury to the hand- it is not only the hand that feels that suffering but the entire body and psyche. Therefore, we should look being kind and helpful to all others.
The Pastor said that the things that are most helpful for him are the sacraments, his church community, and singing hymns. He says that the repetition and simple melodies of church hymns are meditative, and even sing two of his favorites for us. He also read from Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God”, sharing a simple meditative exercise with us. He had us do some deep breathing as he read this line back to us. While these are verses grounded in religion, he assured us that these hymns and psalms do not always have to mention God, instead they can focus on putting suffering in hope in the context of a larger world.
The Pastor generously shared his scented anointing oil with us, saying that the lingering scent of the oil can be comforting. He left with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America tagline, “God’s work. Our hands”.
We thank Pastor Steven for taking the time to sit with us and offer his perspective! For more from him, visit the Immanuel Lutheran Church at 867 North Pleasant Street or their website http://immanuel-amherst.org/.
By: Laura Flynn