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A pope, and a preacher, each with a calling

POSTED: March 17, 2013 1:00 a.m.

There were two religious announcements last week. First, the Roman Catholic Church has a new pope, Francis I.

I like his choice of name. St. Francis of Assisi was known as a man of peace. The prayer that is attributed to him is a beautiful call for harmony.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

I think that says a lot. Perhaps it is easy to understand why Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio chose the name of Francis.

The other religious announcement was that the North Georgia United Methodist Church will ordain my nephew, the Rev. David Blackwood, as a full elder this summer. His name will not change.

I always thought famed evangelist Billy Sunday had a great-sounding preacher name. I did a little research and found that the family’s original name was Sonntag. They changed it when they came to Pennsylvania from Germany. He started out as a professional baseball player before being called to the really big league.

While the Rev. Blackwood’s news did not get the same headlines as Pope Francis, it was a big deal to me.

The book of Proverbs says that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

He has already been in the ministry. About six years ago, the church assigned him as a student pastor. That is the equivalent of being thrown in the deep end of the pool and being told to swim, or, in this case, preach.

While he earned a master’s degree in seminary, he also learned a boatload about dealing with people. Let’s just say that church folks can be very interesting.

One who hears the call of God to become his servant is indeed special. It’s a wonderful job when all is peaceful.

It is not easy when a church member is facing a terminal illness, the loss of a loved one or the failure of a marriage. Sometimes, the person who reaches out is not a member of your congregation or even a person of faith. You find yourself trying to explain a loving God and a hurting soul in the same conversation.

Francis has already done these things as a parish priest. David has already been on this road, but is about to make an entrance on the church equivalent of a superhighway.

I hope that one day when someone looks back on his career, they will say he cared for the poor, the sick, the troubled and the dying with the same dedication that he used to welcome new babies and new believers.

I hope he is an instrument of peace.

That’s a good name anyday.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear Sunday and at gainesvilletimes.com/harris.


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