Author Topic: Elijah and conflict, burnout, and depression  (Read 466 times)

peter_speckhard

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Elijah and conflict, burnout, and depression
« on: August 09, 2021, 10:19:48 AM »
We often use prayer petitions published by the synod that go well with the lectionary readings (and therefore the sermon). Yesterday there was a petition based on Elijah seeming to despair in the wilderness in hiding from Jezebel. The prayer was for God to help pastors dealing with crisis, burnout, and depression. I think the timing was good. It is when people are trying to go back to normal that it becomes apparent just what a grind the previous year and a half has been and what a disappointment rather than glorious triumph the long hoped for return to normal would be. Think oldsters weeping when they saw the new temple but remembered the old one. The inescapable fact for older, established denominational churches is that the old temple was a lot more glorious than they one we have going forward.

The basic universalism of the typical person hilights this sadness. Those for whom judgment and forgiveness are matters of eternity are grateful for the daily bread of Word and Sacrament. But if God is using boring old preachers and regular bread and wine to save people who are saved without those things anyway, then those things become boring and humble without any particular redeeming reason to prefer them to exciting and/or visibly glorious things.

At the recommendation of my brother I watched an interesting show on Amazon Prime yesterday afternoon. It is called The Babushkas of Chernobyl and is a documentary about a group of very old Russian ladies who refuse to abandon their ancestral villages inside the radioactive exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl. To them, loyalty to place to all, and they are all Russian Orthodox with a faith that survived the Soviet years. The government checks on them but doesn't force them to leave on the theory that old age will get them before the radiation does. One women interviewed tells of her village being deliberately starved in the Stalin famine years and how people swelled up before they died. Then about the battles raging  around the village between retreating Germans and advancing Russians, and being rounded up as teenagers to bury dead soldiers in mass graves. Then about village life in the USSR (somehow they kept their illegal faith and piety alive), then about being evacuated after the explosion and meltdown, but sneaking back into now abandoned, post-apocalyptic ghost towns to live off the land, and then growing old, losing their husbands and being disconnected from children and grandchildren. Once a year they have a church service in the old Orthodox church, the great Easter vigil at midnight, and they the workers who monitor and research the area pick up the babushkas and they all go to church together. The one woman who takes care of her homebound sister (disabled since childhood) returns at dawn on Easter to share some celebratory vodka in her sister's room and greets her with "Christ is Risen," and the sister responds, "He is risen indeed." (The subtitles translate the Russian literally, so the word order is different, something like "Truly Christ is risen." 

At any rate, I intend to use these women as an example in this coming Sunday's sermon, since the OT reading is Joshua and the Gospel features some of the disciples leaving Jesus because it was a hard saying. History will always give us reasons to leave, and people will always be glomming onto to those reasons. But given history, if 90+ year old Ukrainian peasants in Chernobyl can celebrate Easter, then come what may, "as for me and my house..." 
« Last Edit: August 09, 2021, 12:05:33 PM by peter_speckhard »

Dave Benke

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Re: Elijah and conflict, burnout, and depression
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2021, 11:26:45 AM »
We often use prayer petitions published by the synod that go well with the lectionary readings (and therefore the sermon). Yesterday there was a petition based on Elijah seeming to despair in the wilderness in hiding from Jezebel. The prayer was for God to help pastors dealing with crisis, burnout, and depression. I think the timing was good. It is when people are trying to go back to normal that it becomes apparent just what a grind the previous year and a half has been and what a disappointment rather than glorious triumph the long hoped for return to normal would be. Think oldsters weeping when they saw the new temple but remembered the old one. The unescapable fact for older, established denominational churches is that the old temple was a lot more glorious than they one we have going forward.

The basic universalism of the typical person hilights this sadness. Those for whom judgment and forgiveness are matters of eternity are grateful for the daily bread of Word and Sacrament. But if God is using boring old preachers and regular bread and wine to save people who are saved without those things anyway, then those things become boring and humble without any particular redeeming reason to prefer them to exciting and/or visibly glorious things.

At the recommendation of my brother I watched an interesting show on Amazon Prime yesterday afternoon. It is called The Babushkas of Chernobyl and is a documentary about a group of very old Russian ladies who refuse to abandon their ancestral villages inside the radioactive exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl. To them, loyalty to place to all, and they are all Russian Orthodox with a faith that survived the Soviet years. The government checks on them but doesn't force them to leave on the theory that old age will get them before the radiation does. One women interviewed tells of her village being deliberately starved in the Stalin famine years and how people swelled up before they died. Then about the battles raging  around the village between retreating Germans and advancing Russians, and being rounded up as teenagers to bury dead soldiers in mass graves. Then about village life in the USSR (somehow they kept their illegal faith and piety alive), then about being evacuated after the explosion and meltdown, but sneaking back into now abandoned, post-apocalyptic ghost towns to live off the land, and then growing old, losing their husbands and being disconnected from children and grandchildren. Once a year they have a church service in the old Orthodox church, the great Easter vigil at midnight, and they the workers who monitor and research the area pick up the babushkas and they all go to church together. The one woman who takes care of her homebound sister (disabled since childhood) returns at dawn on Easter to share some celebratory vodka in her sister's room and greets her with "Christ is Risen," and the sister responds, "He is risen indeed." (The subtitles translate the Russian literally, so the word order is different, something like "Truly Christ is risen." 

At any rate, I intend to use these women as an example in this coming Sunday's sermon, since the OT reading is Joshua and the Gospel features some of the disciples leaving Jesus because it was a hard saying. History will always give us reasons for leave, and people will always be glomming onto to those reasons. But given history, if 90+ year old Ukrainian peasants in Chernobyl can celebrate Easter, then come what may, "as for me and my house..."

An interesting example.  By chance I wandered onto a show about weird patterns on earth seen from the sky.  One was up in Lapland, a couple of circles in the tundra.  After a bunch of guess-timates were made, a journey to the Sami took place.  What was happening was a forced march of all their reindeer into a circular enclosure.  The reindeer then go into a counter-clockwise run of fear, making the circular indentations.  What were the Sami doing?  It turns out they need to body check each reindeer with a piece of equipment for radioactivity.  And they remain radioactive.  Why?  Chernobyl, a long way away.  Why again?  Because the lichen thta the reindeer eat is laden with radioactivity that breaks down at a very slow rate.  So - the Sami can't eat those reindeer. 

And yet the Sami remain reindeer herders.  That's what they have, and that's what they're sticking to.  But lay off the lichen.

Dave Benke