February 7, 2019
“What is God calling me to do?”
The Episcopal New Yorker (Official Diocesan newspaper) just sent out a notice that it is looking for authors to provide articles for its next edition exploring the theme of DEATH. The categories are, for any clergy, the “usual suspects” (e.g., ministry to the dying; ministry to the family of those who are dying; preparing funeral rites; death of a child; death of a parent; dealing with long term illness; dealing with tragic unexpected death; and on and on).
What I continue to find so interesting as an observer (and participant) in the human condition as it is lived in this millennium is our deeply ingrained desire to avoid dealing with this topic at all.. Having an issue of a journal totally so dedicated reminds me of just how much we cringe from facing death as an inevitability..
The rubrics of our Book of Common Prayer remind me that at least once (if not more often) per year, my priesthood vows command that I remind people of their duty to put their affairs in order, to make sure that (as much as humanly possible) they will provide for the spouse or other family they leave behind, and also leave gifts to various charities and causes as a final demonstration of one’s commitment to Christ. And I cannot tell you how often in my years as a parish priest, I will encounter some parishioner who will express her (or his) disapproval of even raising this issue. “No one who gets up early on a Sunday morning wants to hear that someday they’re going to die”- this I have been told a number of times. News Flash: Whether we say it or deny it – It’s the truth!
Even for those who profess their faith in life beyond life (“…I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”), there is our fear of the unknown. There is the realization that as we get older, we have left not only a “carbon footprint” but a moral footprint as well. There have been too many unkind things said or actions done that we have not yet fully regretted or perhaps even acknowledged. There have been too many “I should have’s” in my life. And perhaps we wonder (to ourselves if not aloud) whether one can truly be forgiven for all the pain one has caused. On the flip side, there is the anger at those who “sinned against us” and we wonder if there will be sufficient punishment for those who hurt me (or any other innocent soul). Funny how we are very comfortable seeking divine justice on to OTHERS!
And there is that little matter of forgiving those who have injured us. Just how will we be held to account should we leave this life’s journey with hatred for another still burning within? Even if such animosity is deserved! Do we demean ourselves by forgiving too often? Do we become enablers to the abusers? How does leaving an issue like this “in God’s hands” bring justice to those who have no one to care or speak for them? So many unanswered questions!
Lent is still a month away (Easter VERY LATE this year). The reminder in the Ash Wednesday liturgy that we are but “dust” is unsettling. “All we are is dust in the wind…”
So when was the last time you reflected on an event that is heading straight for you? Ready or not: “Sister Death” (as Francis of Assisi referred to this reality) comes for us and will bring us home to a loving and forgiving God – but have we loved and have we forgiven? Have sought to be loved and forgiven? Are we ready for the journey? Or is death a topic never to be addressed except at a funeral of someone else. Just leave me alone and let’s not think about it.
So, anyone want to take up the offer and write for the paper?
“Inspired to make a difference”
January 10, 2019
I long ago had stopped making New Year’s resolutions since I tend to break them so easily. I think this year, I am proposing one for myself and anyone else who has the courage to take the challenge. As often happens in my unusual life as an adoptive Border collie parent, this resolution is born from a conversation we had during one of our cold wet early morning “bathroom” – and – exercise walks!
Dodging rain drops, Abby asked me what “zero sum” means as it refers to politics or economics. Now what I know about either discipline would fit into a thimble, but this I do know: the phrase assumes that there is only a finite and limited about of “x” in the world (and “x” can be food, power, money, love or anything for that matter. Whatever I possess will take away from you. There is no middle ground. If I win, you must lose! If I have authority, you must submit. If they “love” me, they must “hate” you. (I know this is a bit simplistic, and it makes life sound like the one-and-done format of the NFL playoffs, but like I told you, I am no political or economic theorist)
As I tried explaining what I barely understand and do not believe in to my far-too-inquisitive border collie, her theological acuity kicked in. She wanted to know if I believed that God was so limited, eg, if God infinitely loves me, then God must love someone else less. I explained that, to me, that’s what the theory would hold, but I can’t buy that. She then asked me, does this kind of thinking undergird all our politics today: one must never compromise. One must win and this means one must destroy the other. I told her that political practitioners might not express their thoughts so crassly, but it is hard to not see this being played out day after day in the public arena.
Although I am tugging at her to come in out of the rain, she digs in her paws and asks: so is that why some people leave their respective groups (be that group a “family,” a “church” a “club,” etc? If I can’t get my way all the time, then I quit. Again, I tried to explain that this is a rather simplistic way of viewing things, but to be honest, for some, this is exactly why they move on. Others may have tried and tired of compromise. Some must never do so as they deem themselves always right all the time.
So here is my resolution for 2019: I am going to religiously try to avoid “zero sum” thinking! If I do not get my own way, I will be at peace with the final decisions of others. I will not treat my opponent as my enemy. I will try to imitate our beloved Master who wishes us to love others, even our enemies, with the same steadfast love that God always has for us. Now I do have one advantage as I hope to live out this resolution: I know who will be watching me each morning and asking if I am keeping my resolution. Of course, then she’ll more than likely ask me to slip her more food for breakfast as long as mommy doesn’t find out.