At Morning Prayer this morning, I read these words, attributed to God:
“I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed one forever.” (1 Samuel 2:35).
They resonated with words read yesterday, from Acts. In Acts 1:1, Luke refers to “all that Jesus did and taught...” But Peter refers to “all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us...” (Acts 1:21).
Peter sees Jesus as the faithful priest (conflated with the anointed one), for whom God will build a sure house, or lasting family of priests—the Church.
I am struck by the description of priesthood as to go in and out—and by how that rhythm is revealed in the ministry of Jesus. It is a pattern of withdrawing into solitude, and communion; and of being moved by compassion to serve those in need.
As I was leaving the chapel after Morning Prayer, a young man approached me. He had come into the open building and had been sitting in the pews, part hidden behind a pillar. He asked if I had a moment, and I sat with him. That moment stretched to an hour, of listening to his story of complex layered pastoral crisis, of falling through all the cracks. I do not know whether he was telling the truth or lying, but I do know this: if true, it is a tragedy; and if lies, then the truth being concealed is even more tragic.
I offered him the help that I could offer, through the contacts I have; but it was not the help he was looking for, and so he walked away. This does not necessarily mean that he was lying. As he went, he was angry that I had wasted his time listening for an hour if I was not going to help. This—and his failure to recognise that he might have been the one wasting my time, if he did not want the help I could offer—does not necessarily mean that he was lying either. When your life falls apart, emotion can run high and reason become muddled. But he had come in and gone out in distress, albeit that his distress had been briefly calmed. And his going left me feeling sick in the stomach, for some hours, during which time I had to make a funeral visit.
I cannot help everyone that I go in and out among; only be open to the possibility.
I cannot protect myself with indifference.
Today, all I could do is listen; all I can do is pray, for E and D, for a very broken and hurting world, for mercy.
As I go in and out.