When we first introduced the idea of having a Stephen Ministry in our congregation people had some questions.
Such questions were welcomed and I was glad people asked them.
One person in our congregation said to me, “Pastor why do we need to take a class to help people shouldn’t we just be doing this anyway.”
It was a legitimate question.
And one I want to answer this morning as a way to start my sermon.
Yes of course all of us as people of God, as disciples of Jesus Christ, can show Christian love and care for someone else going through a difficult time.
I know that all of you do this for each other all the time.
Someone looses a job, gets sick, gets divorced, or has a life crushing event.
I know that you are there for each other to offer comfort and support.
A Stephen minister is someone who has been trained to offer one on one Christian support and love to someone who is need of a listening non-judgmental ear.
What sets a Stephen Minister apart is that they have been trained to do one very important thing.
They have been trained to put aside their own agendas, opinions, and theologies.
They have been trained to simply be there for someone else.
This would seem like an easy thing to do.
But I can assure you that it is not.
Most of what we say to people in time of crisis is based on our own internal stuff.
Just as an example, when someone dies we often don’t know what to say to comfort someone else.
Out of our own anxiety we often will say something that sounds good.
It comes from a somewhat good place of wanting to say something comforting.
What I have heard from people who are hearing those things is that it is not always helpful.
A woman who lost her husband recently wrote a blog post on what she has learned since her husband’s death.
She said, “A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.”
That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay?
Do you not understand that I might die?
I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me.
Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not.”
What that person might need is simply someone to listen to them, sit in that uncomfortable place of it not being ok and that it is not going to get better.
What Stephen Minister have been trained to do is to put aside that need to say something good and healing and instead to focus on what the person who is living through the difficult time needs to say, and express in that moment.
Even if what the person express is uncomfortable or not what we think is the right thing to think or say.
And this is an extraordinary thing in our day.
Because everyone seems to have an opinion on what everyone else is doing.
Everyone seems to want to judge others for what they are doing.
Everyone wants to speak first and listen second if at all.
But Stephen Ministers are trained to listen actively and attentively, they are trained to use our Christian traditions only for the benefit of those they are trying to help.
I think what they do is driving Satan crazy.
(I want to stop for a second and add a disclaimer here.
If you have heard me preach you will know that I do not talk a lot about Satan.
The reasons for this are too many to go into here.
But Just real quick to me Satan is not a dude in a red suit with a pitchfork and horns.
Satan is the name that we give evil.
Just as God is the name that we give to what is good.
Since it is in the Gospel this morning I am going to be using the word Satan to talk about evil in the world.)
Satan does not like when we do good in the world.
Satan does not like when we care for each other, love each other.
Satan does not like when we care for each other, love each other.
Satan does not like when we listen to each other’s problems with a non-judgmental ear.
What Satan wants more than anything is for us to selfish, and me-centered.
We know this because Jesus wants us to be other-centered.
Jesus wants us to listen to each other.
Jesus wants us to love each other.
Jesus wants us to judge not.
What Jesus says in his parable this morning is that in order to go out and do good we have to tie up Satan.
We have to get a hold of our agendas, opinions, and theology so that we can go out and plunder Satan’s house.
We can ruin evil by being about what other people want, not what we want.
And that is what Kate, Diana, and Larry have been doing for the last 6 months is learning to tie up Satan.
To put their needs on hold so they can plunder Satan’s house by going out and loving other people.
And I can assure you that even with all of that training that at times they will still not be able to stop themselves.
There will be times when their own agendas, opinions, and theologies will sneak in.
But that is ok.
I know that you all want to do a really good job.
I know that you will take this task very seriously.
I also do not expect any of you to be perfect.
But what I do expect is that the Holy Spirit will be in your work.
I do expect that you will do some plundering of Satan’s house.
That God through you will cure the disease of despair.
I know that you are going to have some wonderful Holy Spirit moments where God is going to surprise you in how much God helps others through you.
Because What Jesus tells us this morning in our Gospel reading from Mark is that the only thing that helps us do good in the world is the Holy Spirit.
That if through our work someone who feels alone is comforted, or someone who feels unloved feels loved, or someone who is sad feels joy, or someone who doesn’t feel heard gets heard.
If we are able to accomplish any good it is because God has been involved.
Because what we often forget is that this is not about us.
We are not the subject of the sentence.
We are not what make good things happen.
This is about the good news of Jesus Christ.
This is about how God brings healing and wholeness into people’s lives.
I say that this morning to you three so that you will know that you are never alone in this work.
You have each other.
You have supervision with Jim.
Most important God is with you in this work.
As it says on the first page of the Stephen Ministry training manual, “Jesus will be with you as you take each step in this journey.
In fact, Jesus will go ahead of you to prepare the way for your ministry.
You will never make a caring visit, listen to a person’s story, or say a prayer without Jesus-your companion, your guide, your strength, and your inspiration.”
Kate, Diana, and Larry you have spent 50 weeks tying up Satan, now it is time to go out and do some plundering to listen, love, and care.
These are all things that are healing for the world and all things that Satan hates.
Today we all hear that call to plunder, to rob Satan of the things that he loves, despair, hatred, loneliness, selfishness.
And to give the world the things that God loves grace, mercy, a listening ear, selflessness, joy, peace.
We know that as we leave here God is with us all in this work, and this day especially you three.
May you have joy in your plundering of Satan.