Homily – 24th Weekend in Ordinary Time

You will recall that last week we spent time talking about the virtue of hope, deciding that it is what allows us to go on many times, when life situations within Church and State leave us feeling confused, helpless and even lost.  It is at times like these that we may realize that the God we have come to know is too small, too distant, to meet our needs.

With these beginning thoughts; I would like to share a story, apropos as the East Coast deals with the land-fall of Hurricane Florence.  This is a story that many of you have no doubt heard, so use it as stepping-stone toward more fully answering Jesus’ question from today’s gospel, “Who do you say that I am?”

It seems that the rain and inevitable flooding had forced a woman by the name of “Faith” to her rooftop.  I might underscore that the word, “faith” is one that means, trust.”  That having been said, Faith sat on her rooftop, believing and trusting that God would save her life. As the storm raged on and Faith kept praying, a boat came along and offered her help, to which she answered, “No, God will save me!” Being that the operator of the boat had others to save, he moved on.

Faith was given another offer of help from the pilot of a helicopter going by who noticed her plight.  Faith, displaying a great deal of trust, once again declined the offer.

The storm continued to rage on; Faith kept praying and the waters continued to rise.  That day, she met her Maker and at first glance she protested vehemently, “My God, I have always believed in you, prayed and trusted that you would be with me, that you would save me in time of trouble—why did you let me drown?” Her Maker smiled at her and said, “My child, I sent you both a boat and a helicopter!”

Now clearly, Faith’s image of God was far too small!  This past week; I took a day and a half for a retreat at Assisi Heights in Rochester.  My book of choice, for this time of reflection, by Fr. Richard Rohr, Franciscan, was, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. I would say that his image of God is so large and all-encompassing, ever growing still, that if our fictional character, Faith, had believed in such a God; her life would have been profoundly different.

Rohr’s thesis seems to be, that our relationship with God has to in fact, be about “relationship,” in the best sense imaginable. It can’t be top-down, power-over, but “power-with” us.  Think, if you can about the best relationship you know of or have been part of.  Such a relationship is about mutual sharing, even intimate sharing at times; respect, giving and caring—everything really, that is good.  Our relationship with God must be that way.

Rohr goes on to call this relationship, “flow.” The flow of love for and with the other must naturally continue on to include others, and on and on.  This is why Rohr says, “trinity” is such a perfect way to describe the essence of God.

He speaks in the traditional terms of, Father, Son and Spirit but says this is only the starting place.  God is genderless, yet encompassing all gender, the animate and the inanimate of creation, which gives us then, many names for God that at any point can be quite meaningful.

The love, the flow between the first two persons of the Trinity, as we have understood them, becomes an even more elusive third person, the Spirit, and the relationship of all that love flows out and onward to encompass all in its path—it has to work that way, Rohr says.  The relationship between the three is where the strength is.

This same notion of relationship is what theologians like Teilhard de Chardin in the past and Ilia Delio and Diarmuid O’Murchu in the present were and are talking about when they unite concepts of theology and science in the study of the origin, evolution and eventual fate of the universe, or, cosmology. Richard Rohr would say, “It all fits.”

But western religion, he continues, made the mistake of basically “making” God into a substance that can be explained away.  “Transubstantiation” on our Catholic altars being one of those mistakes, he says.  The trouble with “boxing God in” defining what God is and what God is not makes God narrow—very small, one really that couldn’t be expected to keep us safe.  The fictional character, Faith, had such a small, inflexible God.  And she can’t really be totally blamed—religious institutions have long been guilty of trying to “explain God away,” or at least make God in their own image.

Rohr goes on to say that we need to see God in all of creation—he asks us to think about how hard it is to resist [showing love] to a wide-eyed baby or petting an earnest dog.  You want to pull them to yourself with love because they are, for a moment—forgive me, he says—“God.”  Or, we can think of it the other way around, “Is it you [or I] who have become “God” by standing in such an unresisted flow?” [Love, that is].

He answers his own questions—both are true! This flow, this love that is seen in “all beauty, in all admiring, in all ecstasy, in all solidarity with any suffering, is God, he says. Anyone who fully allows “the flow” will see the divine image even in places that have become ugly or undone.  This is the universal seeing of the Trinity,” he says.

And we could have no better model than our brother, Jesus, in showing how to make our God really big and visible.  Jesus taught that you don’t have to be perfect, or belong to a certain group to be part of the “flow of God,” the love of the Trinity.  The only question he ever asked of people who came to him for help was, Rohr reminds us, “Do you want to be healed?” He continues, “If we are willing to be touched by God; we will be healed.”

And so friends, when we attempt to answer Jesus’ question in today’s gospel, “Who do you say that I am?” think first that we can only speak of God with metaphor or see God through a dim glass, as Paul said.  Now while on the one hand, this may seem confining, on the other, it really opens up our images:  Creator, Savior, Rock, brother, friend; or for the Spirit; wind, falling fire and flowing water.  What image feels right for you when thinking about your relationship with God? Maybe your image needs updating.

I will conclude with several images, faces, if you will, of God that Rohr gives us: He begins by saying, [Our] “Triune God allows [us], impels [us], to live easily with God everywhere and all the time: in the budding of a plant, the smile of a gardener, the excitement of a teenage[r]  over [their] new [special friend,] the tireless determination of a research scientist, the pride of a mechanic over his hidden work under the hood, the loving nuzzling of horses, the tenderness with which eagles feed their chicks, and the downward flow of every stream.

Thus says Rohr, “Everything is holy, for those who have learned to see.” The prophet Isaiah today in the first reading says, “God awakens my ear to listen.”  We must be engaged with our world, my friends—see all of creation, especially the beauty, but the ugliness too, as the place where our God dwells.

I began these thoughts today speaking of hope and it seems to me that if our God can be as big and diverse as creation itself, than we have a great deal to be hopeful about!  It takes a good deal of faith at times, to live in our world but our faith will lead us to action, James instructs today. And the more that we ask for the grace to see God in everything, the more this divine awareness will be ours.  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, this past week I supplied you with several action items to do should you choose to that will hold the Church hierarchy’s “feet to the fire,” as it were, concerning much needed reform within our Church.  At the very least; we all should be praying that the Spirit of Jesus will overshadow these men in leadership to choose rightly the path to go for the betterment of all—that they will come to see how important for the life of the Church a complete reform is.

My best critic, Robert, encouraged me not to say more on the issue of sexual abuse of children, at least not use the entire homily to speak about this “elephant in the living room” and except for the above; I will try to refrain.  Dealing with difficult issues such as this is always disturbing and especially when we feel helpless to make any change.

So, instead, let me tell you what I did this week that helped me with those feelings of helplessness. First of all; I wrote some letters—one to Pope Francis, one to Bishop Quinn and I posted copies of both letters to 7 priests that I know somewhat or very well in this diocese and elsewhere, both active and inactive.  I wrote cover letters with the copies to encourage the priests to talk with their bishops.

Isaiah’s words today in the 1st reading spur us on—“Take courage and do not be afraid.” Continuing the prophet’s thought, our Church needs to have our eyes opened, from those in leadership to those in the pews for those who have been so grievously hurt to assist them “in walking again.”

When I finished my letter writing, I said to my “best critic,”—“this may do no good at all, but it makes me feel that at least, I did something.” Our country was reminded of the same on Friday by former president, Barack Obama when he said in regard to all that is apparently going wrong in our country; the worst thing is that any of us would become complacent.  You see, we never know if  our particular action might just be that spark of hope that will make a difference, because this time within our Church at least, more people are activated, angered and moving forward, demanding change.  That is why I asked you all to consider what you are being called to do!

So, I’m not doing too well in not talking about this… J but my purpose my friends is to try and give us hope in our steadiness, day in and day out, to follow Jesus. He was one who talked to the powers-that-be and challenged them to their best.

But getting back to my goal—other things from my week:  A woman priest on the East Coast shared a homily she wrote for the Unitarians last week when she was asked to supply preach.  Her homily consisted mostly of writing about how our Church needed to open up to women and other reforms like involving the laity in greater ways.  But the piece that really caught my attention and made me sad was when she said, “I have gotten over the Catholic church!” She went on to say, and I know this comes out of her broken heart, that she isn’t willing to wait any longer for them to change—she doesn’t expect it and she won’t hope for it.

Personally, I feel that at this time and place in history; we are at a pivotal moment and that we should not lose hope.  Now, more than ever before, the civil authorities are digging deep into these crimes and it won’t be as easy going forward for the hierarchy to go on as usual.  So, if you haven’t yet contacted our Attorney General of Minnesota, Lori Swanson, there is an action item for this week.  Part of my sending copies of the letters I wrote to priests that I’m familiar with was to make this personal—to say that this is not about some other place and time, but here, now!    So friends, don’t lose hope—keep trying to do what you can, keep trusting that Jesus’ Spirit is with us now and is behind our unrest and is encouraging us to do our best to right this situation.

As I looked over the Scriptures for this Sunday; I was reminded that three years ago on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time was our first Sunday back after our epic trip to Alaska, spending 7 weeks away from you at the beginning of my retirement from the hospital.  That time afforded us the opportunity to look deeply at our lives, to ask where we were going and if we were being faithful to what God wanted of us.  And interestingly enough; we arrived back here to continue the work we had left for a time, with peace in our hearts that it is what God wants of us.

Visiting with family and close friends along the way confirmed within us the basic goodness of life, the part that each of us is called to play to make life continually better for all of us.  In that light, I share another piece of my week.

A woman that I visit on a regular basis for pastoral care at St. Anne of Winona needed to get to the ER on Friday to have a physical condition she was suffering from attended to—this was not of an emergent nature but just something to make her more comfortable and because she couldn’t get a clinic appointment before the weekend, this was her next best option. She couldn’t of course go without a ride and none could be found, so I offered to take her.  You should also know that this woman is being treated for stage 4 ovarian cancer.

We were both blessed in having Dr. Brett Whyte on duty. I have known him for many years in my work as a chaplain and I would say, without a doubt that he has the best bed-side manner of any physician I have ever witnessed. He tended to my friend’s needs in the same way that he does with every patient who comes to the ER. He pulled up a chair and asked to know what was going on and even though he could have basically read her chart which he no doubt did, he listened with compassion as she told her story. When the story was told, he then assured her that he would make a plan so that she would feel better. One gets the idea from watching him that he has nowhere else to be—that he has all the time in the world for you. Now, how many people do you know who leave such an impression? Being a Christian calls each of us to give that kind of attention.

Jesus in today’s gospel from Mark affirms what the prophet Isaiah said hundreds of years before him and I paraphrase: When the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk, you will know that God is in your midst.  My friends, as Jesus’ followers, we will want to be sure that his model of goodness doesn’t end with him, with a story in a book—people today need to see and hear and walk, unimpeded, and we know these maladies show themselves in more than physical ways.  Don’t lose hope; keep on loving and speaking your truth for those who have no voices.  Jesus said that we would do greater things than he did. Let’s remember all the needs that call for our attention today—immigration reform and our Church crisis being at the top of the list and realizing that we can make a difference.  Jesus’ words that we will do greater things than he did are really quite astounding! Do we believe that? Are we willing to try? When I think of the possibilities, it gives me a great deal of hope! Also, I truly believe what Jesus told us when here, “I will not leave you alone.” Amen? Amen!

Homily – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, I began my reflections for today with somewhat of a heavy heart.  You see, I have been carrying, as I know you have too, the pain, anger, and lack of understanding of the actions of the hierarchy of the Catholic church, with regard to the clergy-sex abuse crisis and its cover-up by those who should have been protecting the most innocent among us and instead chose to protect themselves.  The pain and anger for me are about a Church that I have loved all my life and the lack of understanding are about how power for them could be more important so as to justify abuse, especially, of children, to protect it.

This Church that has been my beacon, (supposedly) for the way that I should live my life; has, in its hierarchy, lost its way, by forgetting the words of their leader, our brother, Jesus. And sadly, with so much already uncovered evidence in just one state in our union with the assurance that every state in our union has similar caches documenting more of the same types of abuse as was discovered in Pennsylvania; the People of God still await the word of our Pope and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as to what they intend to do to stop these crimes once and for all!

Our Scriptures for this 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2018 give them and us all the direction that is needed.  Moses in his declarations to the Israelites is clear: Observe [the Commandments] carefully, demonstrating wisdom and intelligence in your actions.  James, in the second reading continues, “Humbly welcome the word that is planted within you.”  Additionally, “act on this word—because if all you do is listen to it; you are deceiving yourselves.” I love James’ forthrightness! And finally,  he declares that, “pure, unspoiled religion” is all about coming to the aid of those in need.  For the Israelites, it was the widows and orphans.  For us, in our time, it is abused little kids, teenagers and young adults, male and female.

Jesus, our brother, our beacon to follow, says well I believe, the only way we can collectively, as a church of believers look at this situation, from those who occupy the pews, to those who dispense the sacraments and supposedly lead the faithful, “These people honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me—you disregard God’s commandments, but cling to human traditions.”

We read in today’s gospel how the Pharisees and others in Jesus’ time got “lost” in the rituals and forgot the message to love—because that is really what it is all about, right? Jesus tried to tell them.  We can look to ourselves as well and see the same.

Through my years of Catholic upbringing and for many of you too; we were diligent about keeping First Fridays, fasting during Lent, abstaining from meat on all Fridays, attending Sunday Mass and other such rituals. We might also reflect on our motives for these actions back then—were they actions completed out of love and a desire to grow closer to God through Jesus, or were these actions done more out of fear that if we didn’t; we would go to hell when we died? Like the Pharisees, it might be said that we lost our way, those in the pews, those who dispensed the sacraments and those who were expected to be our leaders.

If we did all the rituals out of love as opposed to fear, it might now be easier to see and realize that this current crisis in our church calls for the deepest and most profound commitment that we can muster.  It calls for all the gifts and fruits of the Spirit that we received at our confirmations; that of strength, forbearance, goodness in great measure, truth-telling—no matter to whom the truth must be spoken!

In an ideal church, our Pope, our local bishop, perhaps even one priest here might have spoken out publicly decrying a Church that would so grievously abuse its young and further cover-up the crimes to protect their power.  We, all of us must each do our part—many if not all of us know priests personally, perhaps the bishop, in our city or elsewhere—we must write them, talk to them, confront and demand that they act for themselves, for us, for our Church—whether that means talking with the bishop or speaking out individually—the credibility of our Church as a moral leader in our midst is at stake.  This is my challenge to each of us.

The Scriptures today are indeed clear—if we merely listen to the law and do not act upon it, Jesus tells us, it means nothing.  Giving lip service when “heart” service is what is called for, falls woefully short!  Jesus tells us today; it is not that which we take into our bodies (the wrong food, on the wrong day), that makes us “unclean,” unwholesome, or evil, but that which comes out of our hearts, of an evil nature—we are capable of both, good and bad.

The more the human heart is looked at by theologians and others, it is becoming clear that good and evil originate there, even more so than in our minds.  We never talk of someone having a “good mind” with regard to doing “good” actions in life—we might say, “They have a “good heart.”

How the Grinch Stole Christmas depicts a character out of the imagination of Dr. Seuss who was said to have a “heart that was two sizes too small.”  Therefore, I would add, all the good that can also come out of our hearts and we do not do, makes us “unclean,” unwhole, and less than Jesus’ followers too!

So, my friends, pulling this all together, our faith calls us in these distressing times to put forth all the good our hearts are capable of—speaking truth to power, speaking truth wherever and whenever we can, demand the action from the hierarchical church that Jesus would, and if you and I get “crucified” for it, we will at least know that we were part of the solution and not part of the problem, plus we are in some pretty good company!

Most of us have nothing to lose but our standing in our families, perhaps and, in our communities, but now is a pivotal time in our Church and if we don’t do the piece that we are called to do, who will?  The question we might ask ourselves this week, “Is our Church worth that much to us—its moral standing? Will history record this time, this year, 2018, when we were called to make a difference and we turned a deaf ear, or will it remember us and others as those that finally, finally put our faith into action!  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, for the past 5 weeks; we have been pondering the meaning of Jesus’ words to us, that he is the “bread of life”  along with the call for us to be “bread,” his life for our world.

We have talked about what that entails for each of us—loving as Jesus loved this world and its people, speaking our truth, as we come to know it, inspired by the Spirit of God, within our families, at work, at church, in our wider world and speaking that truth whether it is to our priest, our bishop or our pope. We have learned recently what happens when the truth is kept in the dark from the People of God.

With that then as a backdrop; we move on to a new theme today in our readings—that of faith.  The issue of faith is not separate from our action of sharing Jesus with our world, in all its aspects, but faith, our faith, in fact, gives us the strength, based on what we know from Jesus’ life with us to remain strong to do what we must to become our best selves, walking in his footsteps.

To have faith, to believe as Joshua is asking the Israelites at Shechem in today’s 1st reading is no small task.  First and foremost, he wants them to believe in some god—commit to following a force greater than themselves—he sees this as so important that he tells them if it can’t be YHWH, then choose to believe in the god of the Amorites that your ancestors believed in who previously lived on your land.

Joshua though, as all prophets do, leads by example—“He and his family will believe in YHWH.” The people do eventually follow his lead as they realize that the God of Joshua has been with them too when they lived in slavery and that this God brought them out of that land and time.

Joshua relates the story of how their God has loved and cared for them and that gratitude must be their response along with serving faithfully this God who has not    abandoned them and never will. Joshua doesn’t want them to be “wishy-washy,” but find and know in their hearts what it is that they believe and be willing to stand up and say it and act upon it in their daily lives.

As a bit of an aside; I wanted to call your attention to the name that Joshua uses to speak of God—YHWH, devoid of vowels. This text comes to us from The Priests for Equality, as you know.  Writing God’s name in this fashion is being true to the Israelites’ notion that they really couldn’t adequately speak of the awesomeness of their God.  Our church hierarchy today would do well to learn from their example that they can’t put God in a box, defining, in their minds, who God is, complete with gender—male of course, and made in their image and likeness so as to give to us, those that they supposedly shepherd, a God that supports all that they design and do.

I just finished reading John Shelby Spong’s latest, and in his words, “final book” entitled, Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today. It’s a remarkable book wherein he gives us 12 theses, challenging within them, the core tenets of our faith.

Spong, an Episcopal bishop for many years, as well as an international speaker and writer, has proven himself to be one, over his ministerial lifetime, a deep thinker and spiritual person of prayer and faith out of which his Spirit-filled ideas flow.  He writes and speaks not for his own aggrandizement, but for the good of the People of God.

Just some of the topics he challenges us to look at and either re-commit our faith to, or leave behind are: original sin, the virgin birth, atonement theology, Easter, the ascension, life after death.  It is not that he is in denial necessarily about these issues, but is clearly looking to have them make sense in our lives today. We have talked about that a good deal here as we try to make the Scriptures come alive in our day.

To have faith generally means to believe in something that we can’t completely understand.  That is different from being asked to believe in outdated concepts such as original sin, virgin births and atonement theology, Bishop Spong would say.  If a concept does not enhance our beliefs, but merely confuses us, then perhaps a further look is necessary.

Priests for Equality have aided us in this regard when we try to update our Scriptures,  being inclusive in as many ways as possible—in gender and in culture, to name just two, so that the Scriptures can become a living document for all.    Paul’s letter to the Ephesians today is a case in point.

This translation speaks of “loving your partners.” Older translations always spoke of, “husbands loving their wives.”  With the new translation, “loving your partners,” this once dead reading to gay couples is now opened up for them and is alive. Spong would say, “Updating our language allows us to see broader ideas rather than getting caught in words that exclude and divide.

And finally, in our sometimes struggles to understand and to believe, Jesus asks us all from the Gospel today, “Is this a stumbling block for you?  Are you going to leave me too?”

This last question from our brother Jesus today, lets us know that there were no doubt many who couldn’t believe or didn’t want to believe that doing what he asked,  loving radically and “wastefully,” as Spong says, as Jesusand his Abba did, would lead to anything good.

In our Catholic church today; there are no doubt many who if they haven’t already walked away, will now, over the revelations out of Pennsylvania of the sex abuse of over 1,000 children by 300 priests and the cover-up by bishops and popes.

This past week has also brought forth statements by authors, teachers, theologians—a letter signed by over 3,000 such individuals asking that all bishops within this country voluntarily resign as an action representing good faith in resolving this crisis.  Such an action is truly needed! Adding women as priests or allowing for married men won’t fix this broken system.  Change in total must happen—“clericalism,” the institution that sets clergy above the people they supposedly serve, has to go—now!

It has been suggested by some that a commission of 2/3 laity with full voting powers be set up to lead these necessary changes as it seems rather unlikely that these changes will come from the hierarchy.  Jesus’ question today, “Is this a stumbling block for you?” is certainly apropos.

Faith, in its truest sense calls us to be thinking, loving, compassionate people—faith only makes sense if we, each of us, are willing to say and do the hard things that will convict us of being Christians—followers of Jesus! Amen? Amen!

 

 

Homily – 20th Weekend in Ordinary Time

My friends, once again, our Scriptures today speak about “the bread of life.”  As in past weeks, as we have looked at this theme, realizing that Jesus is speaking about more than, “eating his actual flesh and drinking his actual blood; we might question why he doesn’t just speak in plain terms, this is really important—listen up, I really want you to get this; listen to what I say, watch what I do and do the same!

In all actuality, as you think about it, this is just what Jesus did!  He definitely got their attention when he said that they needed to “eat his flesh and drink his blood.”  Right away though, comes the grumbling—how can he say this?

So then, for the apostles, the people of Jesus’ time and for us; we need to keep listening, hearing his words, watching his actions.  Throughout Jesus’ public ministry there were always those who followed him for the physical food that he gave and this is understandable—it is the human condition—people are hungry—physically, and must be fed.  Jesus’ greater mission though, as we know, was to feed their minds, their hearts and their souls.

We know from elsewhere in Scripture, Matthew, chapter 4, that Jesus says, [we] “do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  This text clearly states what Jesus’ mission among us was really all about.  Yes, we need physical food, but to really live; we need to live out of the emotional and spiritual parts of ourselves that move us to see our separate existence as more than just about ourselves—but about our sisters and brothers sharing our world.

So again, why not just say that?  I believe that Jesus wanted his hearers to understand how important this was to him, thus the terminology; you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.  Flesh and blood, we might say, is what is deepest, most intricately, ours.  It would be like some of our present day sayings—“this is my heart and my soul” when speaking about an idea that is of great importance to us.  When considering our morals, those ideas/concepts that are most important to us, for those with children, “I would give my very life to preserve that idea, (that person).”  This is the same idea as Jesus is expressing in the Scripture passage from John—my words, my actions are, “my body,” “my blood, take them, eat them,” so to speak, make them your own!  And when we do this, we can truly say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:26).

We have talked often in the past of how we are called to be “bread for our world”—I offer a few examples out of this past week or so that I am aware of, from others and out of my own life:

  • Recently, Pope Francis challenged us all on the issue of inclusivity where issues around life are concerned. He stated basically that we can’t as Catholics, as Christians condone in any way, capital punishment. It is easy enough I think for people to see that we can’t support life in the womb, but be willing to take it later as punishment for another’s sin—that just isn’t ours to decide, to judge, because as we know, many times, in the past, we have got it wrong. Regardless, Francis tells us that this isn’t our call.
  • This past week; we learned of over 1,000 children being sexually abused by over 300 priests in Pennsylvania from 1950 onward, and of the systematic cover-up of these crimes, sending abusers onward to other parishes to abuse again and this was done with the knowledge of bishops, cardinals and the pope. Not only this, but the church hierarchy documented their crimes and it was this documentation that finally brought these crimes into the light of day. One has to wonder at the arrogance that allowed for such “foolishness” as spoken of in Proverbs today and downright evil expressed in cruelty to those least able to defend themselves. And in all of this; we have to come back to ourselves, continuing in the words of Proverbs today to “walk the path of understanding” realizing that each of us has a duty, as in our simple safety statement for our parish, to be watchful and have no fear in reporting those actions that we know are wrong even if we must implicate a bishop or a pope. And it is in that light that I wanted you all to know that just yesterday, I signed a letter from the Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) addressed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) naming this long-time problem and in no uncertain terms demanding that they live out their calls to leadership and make the necessary changes needed to right this grievous wrong. If you would like to read this letter, I have placed it on our website, allareonechurch.org.
  • On a personal level, this past week, Robert and I took the opportunity to visit a friend who recently, along with her family, went into the Hospice program as she has struggled for several years battling cancer, realizing now that palliative care is her best option for herself and her family.  You will notice that I included her family here as this is definitely something that involves one’s family as they all go through it together.  I was poignantly reminded of this by another friend as we shared about our mutual friend.  I said, “She has been struggling with this for over 5 years and my friend said, [her husband] “has been too!” Indeed!

Our visit, as I reflect on it, and told someone later, “really felt like being on holy ground.”  When someone is dying, they are at a different place than when that isn’t the case.  We held hands, without words—it was really beyond words, we gave hugs and held on, we talked of the goodness of life, of past memories—we call that life review—we talked of our children and grandchildren and just knew that it was good.  It was “the bread of life,” the body and blood of Jesus.” I know there are those of you who have experienced the same with family and friends.

So my friends, following our brother Jesus is always going to call us beyond what the crowd may be doing at any particular time.  Following a crowd simply because we fear standing alone may be the “foolishness” that the writer of Proverbs is asking us to abandon.

The psalmist in 34 says, “Taste and see that God is good—let the humble hear [the voice of God] and be glad.” It seems that humility may be needed to get beyond ourselves.  And finally, in Paul’s words to the Ephesians, we hear, “Don’t act like fools, but as wise and thoughtful people”—make the most of your time and give thanks for everything.

Even in our visit to our friend on Hospice; we came away being thankful for the time spent and the intimacy shared. May we each, friends, pray for the strength to touch our world with as much “body and blood,” as we are able. Amen? Amen!