Monday, December 15, 2014

Learning to Walk in the Darkness Alert for the Light

Sermon preached on the Third Sunday of Advent at St. Michael's Church, Geneseo.

          As a child I went through a prolonged period when I was deathly
afraid of the dark.  Every noise during the night seemed to mean a threat was near, and I had frequent nightmares.  The first prayer I ever remember saying was, “Please God, no dreams tonight.”  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

          At least partially because of this experience I have always been drawn to the “light” imagery that is pervasive in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament and particularly in John’s Gospel.  John’s Gospel is built on this and other contrasting images:  light/darkness, belief/unbelief, spirit/flesh, sight/blindness, and acceptance/rejection.  John creates an either/or world that keeps things simple.

          The problem is that things are hardly ever that simple, including the things of God.  To use a phrase from elsewhere in John’s Gospel, the truth that sets us free may be that these contrasting images are not opposites, one to be chosen over the other, but that what we should really seek is a balance between them.

          One of the best books I have read in a long time is Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark.  Taylor is a well-known Episcopal priest and preacher, although about ten years she left parish ministry.  Since then she has been writing books that stretch the spirituality of Christianity.

          Here’s a little taste:

[For me] “darkness” is shorthand for anything that scares me—either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out.  The absence of God is in there, along with the fear of dementia and the loss of those nearest and dearest to me.  So is the melting of polar ice caps, the suffering of children, and the nagging question of what it will feel like to die.  If I had my way I would eliminate everything from chronic back pain to the fear of the devil from my life and the lives of those I love—if I could just find the right night-lights to leave on.

At least I think I would.  The problem is this: when, despite my best efforts, the lights have gone off in my life (literally or figuratively, take your pick) plunging me into the kind of darkness that turns my knees to water, nevertheless I do not die….I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my live over and over again, so that there is only one conclusion.  I need darkness as much as I need light.

          Now that may sound as far from a biblical value as you can get.  We sing, “I want to walk as a child of the light,” and would certainly never sing, “I want to walk as a child of the dark.”  And yet the biblical story does contain Taylor’s intuition about how the things we learn in the dark are vitally important.  Abraham has important talks with God and visions in the night, Jacob has not one but two decisive dreams in the dark that are fundamental to his relationship to God and the direction of his life, Moses meets God on the mountain in the darkness of a thick cloud, and the Hebrews escape Egypt in the dark.  I could go on and on.  Light may be preferred as an image in the Bible, but plenty of significant moments occur in the dark.

          In my life this is welcome news.  Because I live with bipolar disorder, I have spent my fair share of time in the dark, and more.  I spent a long time trying to keep that from happening, but it is a losing battle.  I have been resentful of it.  Most recently it has cost the ending of my relationship with a parish I dearly loved.

          Taylor’s book may be helping me to come at my experiences of darkness from a different direction.   It is not that I have to like them, but it is that I have to accept them.  Sure, there are things I can do to keep them at bay most of the time, but all of the time is not realistic.  I think I am learning that when I let them be, I can also more easily allow for a light to be given to me in the darkness.  I put it that way quite deliberately.  My trying to find by myself a candle in my darkness is a losing proposition.  But exercising enough Advent alertness so that I can receive the light is the task.

          By the way, this parish, you, have been a source of light for me in what has been a very dark year, and I am grateful.

          Part of accepting the darkness so that we can receive the light is letting go of our need to “understand” everything.  I believe intensely in the Incarnation, the showing of God to the world in Jesus, my brother, my friend.  But I have to take great care not to act as if God can be contained in some neatly wrapped package.

          St. Augustine of Hippo, who wrote volumes about his understanding of God also said this:  “If you think you have understood, what you have understood is not God.”  One reason we must exercise Advent alertness is that God insists on remaining a mystery, being absolutely allergic to any attempt to control him.

          There are, of course, things we know about God and that we can depend upon God for.  We know that nothing can separate us from his love, that, in the words of the old eucharistic prayer, his “property is always to have mercy,” that we can have confidence to stand before him, as the hymn says, “Just as I am.”

          If this is confusing as all get out, well, you are right, it is.  But I do believe it is the truth that the less certain I become about God and about life, the more I am willing to experience the dark parts of life, the more faithful and joyful and hopeful I can be, the more I can walk in the light when it is offered to me.

          Just prior to introducing John the Baptist, the poet of the prologue of John’s Gospel says,

What has come into being in [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

          Thanks be to God for that.  It is a hopeful thing to know that the darkness cannot quench the light.  But it is also true, if you think about it, that neither does the light quench the darkness.  No matter how much light we shine on our lives, no matter how many lights we turn on, the darkness is there and we will experience it.  The question is not if we will experience it but how.

          I’ll try to make it as simple as I can.  We must learn to walk in the darkness so that when the time comes we can walk through it with acceptance and courage.  And if we do that we will also be able to be alert enough that when the light is offered we can let it shine.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Longing of Advent, The Longing of Ferguson

Sermon preached at St. Michael's Church, Geneseo, New York on November 30, 2014, the 1st Sunday of Advent:  Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Mark 13:24-37

          Advent begins with a longing from the prophet Isaiah,

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down…

It is a longing echoed in the psalm,

Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel…shine forth…restore us…show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

          One of the purposes of this strange little season we call Advent is to re-kindle in us this longing, for God not only to preside over the cosmos from some heavenly throne, but to be present and active among us.  Be not only our hope for the future, O God, but be active among us now, bring your reign of peace and justice, faith and love, now, as we have been praying for so long, on earth as it is in heaven.

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down…hear us, light our way, show us your face, restore us, save us.

          Jesus speaks to this longing this morning, but not necessarily in the way we would have him speak.  He says to us that when our longing is tested by chaos and suffering:  keep awake, be ready, watch.  Yet he seems to speak as if we would not have to keep awake very long, that this intervention of “the Son of Man” would happen very soon.  He says,

This generation shall not pass away until all these things have taken place.

          By now we have lost count of the generations that have “passed away,” and the number of times that “these things” of which he speaks have occurred.  But then we should notice that Jesus himself hedges his bet.  He says,

But about that day or hour no one knows…not even me.

          I hear in those words, Jesus echoing our own longing, and our own frustration that the waiting is too long.

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down…hear us, light our way, show us your face, restore us, save us.

          This week as a nation we had one of those moments when the frustration at the unfulfilled longing boiled over in Ferguson, Missouri and around the country.  We seem to be dealing with it in what has become a familiar way, to take up sides and dismiss those who disagree.  We seem to get better and better at our divisions as time goes on, less and less willing to do the hard work of understanding each other and going deeper than whatever it is we think is “obviously” going on.

          In Jesus’ language, we are not willing to see “the signs of the times,” the signs that demand of us that we stay alert, think and pray hard, and ask, “Where is God in all of this?” and remembering where Jesus has taught us to look for God, in the face of the other, the stranger, in the chaos and the suffering, in what seems torn open not in heaven but in our own lives.

          How do we prepare the way for Christ to come in this moment, and in the much larger issue of one of our starkest differences, that of race?  We can immediately say that race is a human construct, not a divine one, that everything would be all right if we would just acknowledge that we are all one.  That is a good sentiment, but it wants us to mend the tear among us too easily.

          Those of us who are white and middle or upper class, have to acknowledge that the legacy of a nation founded on inequality is still very much with us.  It is far too easy for us to say that we had nothing to do with that.  That is all in the past.  We must listen to our black and brown sisters and brothers who tell us that in their experience it is not all in the past.

          Sometimes those of us who blindly live in a kind of heaven of our own making, need it to be torn open so that we can see the longing of our brothers and sisters who feel closed out of it.  Let me put it this way—most of us live in the conviction that those glorious words of the Declaration of Independence—that all people are created equal and have the God-given right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”—are true.  That is our “heaven.”  We need to allow that heaven to be torn open, to be honest enough to hear those who say that those words were not written to include them and we have not reached the point in our evolution as a society where that promise has been fulfilled.  “All men” still does not mean “all people.”

          I know that I have gone from preaching to meddling.  We claim, however, that the right to equality of life, freedom, and happiness is God-given.  So we are obligated to continue to seek out God in the midst of our struggle for these things to be true.  Those who say that contemporary justice is not righty the concern of the church are neither reading their Bibles, nor the Declaration of Independence.  We cannot invoke God, claiming God to be the foundation of our truth, and then dismiss him from the struggle.

          In our corner of the world we may also think that this does not really have anything to do with us.  We would be wrong.  I have no doubt that many if not most of the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri thought the same thing.  That kind of chaos and suffering does not happen here; we have no need to keep alert on this count.

          That, of course, is an illusion.  So what can we do about it?

          The primary answer is in the impulse of Isaiah with which I began.  The answer first and foremost is in the longing.  One of the things that I learned in my ten years as the rector of the only majority African-American parish in our diocese, is that the first step is the willingness to share all of our deepest longings for something better, not for our differences to be obliterated, but for our divisions to be healed.  And Jesus is telling us today that we can only do that when we acknowledge the chaos and suffering as something that affects us all, and the being ready as something we must learn to do together.

          Our Christmas Eve Service will end, as it always does, with that great hymn, “Hark, the herald angels sing.”  I have been thinking of these words this week from the last verse:

Risen with healing in his wings, light and life to all he brings, hail, the Sun of Righteousness!  Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

          I do not know about you, but those words stir up a deep longing within me.  Let us sing them this year as our longing and our prayer for all of us, together, now, in this place and time.  It is not the solution to all our problems, but if we do not long together for peace, we will continue to live in a reign of violence, and our children—yes, they are our children—will continue to die for it.

          Let Jesus have the last word in this:

          And what I say to you I say to all, keep awake.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Golden Thread of Scripture

Sermon preached at St. Michael's Church, Geneseo, New York on the Last Sunday after Pentecost:  Matthew 25:31-46

There was once a famous monastery in Central Europe which had fallen on hard times.  Formerly its buildings had been filled with monks, but now it was nearly deserted.  Five old monks shuffled through the cloisters and praised their God with heavy hearts.

            In the forest beside the monastery were small huts used in the past for solitary prayer.  For many years the monks allowed a local Rabbi to use one of the huts when he wanted to get away.  The monks had an uncanny sense whenever he was in the forest and they would great one another with the knowledge, “The Rabbi is in the forest.

On one of these occasions the old Abbot decided to visit the Rabbi, something he had never done before.  So, after the morning Mass, he set out through the forest.  As he approached the hut, the Abbot saw the Rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome.  It was as though he had been waiting there for some time.  The two embraced like long-lost brothers.

The Rabbi motioned for the Abbot to enter.  In the middle of the room was a wooden table with the Scriptures opened on it.  They sat there for a moment in the presence of the book.  Then the Rabbi, who was as old as the Abbot, began to cry.  The Abbot could not contain himself.  He covered his face with his hands and began to weep also.  The two men sat there like lost children, wetting the wood of the table with their tears.

After the tears had ceased to flow and all was quiet, the Rabbi lifted his head.  “You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts,” he said.  “You have come to ask a teaching of me.  I will give you a teaching, but you can only repeat it once.  After that, no one must ever say it aloud again.”

The Rabbi looked straight at the Abbot and said, “One of you is the Messiah.”

For a while all was silent.  Then the Rabbi said, “Now you must go.”  The Abbot left without a word and without ever looking back.

The next morning, the Abbot called his monks together in the chapter room.  He told them he had received a teaching from the Rabbi in the forest and that this teaching was never again to be spoken aloud.  Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, “The Rabbi said that one of us is the Messiah.”

The monks were startled by this saying.  “What could it mean?” they asked themselves.  Is crochety old Brother John the Messiah?  Or saintly Father Matthew?  Or quiet Brother Thomas?  Am I the Messiah?  What could this mean?

They were all deeply puzzled by the Rabbi’s teaching.  But no one ever mentioned it again.

But something changed that day.  The monks began to treat one another with a special reverence.  There was a gentle and generous quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to notice.  They lived with one another as people who had finally found something in which they could hope.  They read and prayed the Scriptures as if they were looking for something.  Occasionally visitors found themselves deeply moved by the life of these monks.

Before long, people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer of the monks and young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community.

Week by week and day by day we read and proclaim an ancient story.  Its relevance is questioned by many and dismissed by others as an arcane collection of fairy tales.  But we tell it anyway, warts and all, and there are plenty of warts.  The story we tell begins that when God made the world, God made humankind, male and female both, in God’s own image.

This notion, this belief, this proclamation, is of radical importance to us.  One criticism of the Bible is that as a story there is little coherence.  But I believe there is a Golden Thread that ties the Scriptures together, Jewish and Christian alike.  That Golden Thread is that we are made in the image of God.

God made humankind in God’s image.  This is the truth from which we begin, from which we live, and move, and have our being.

The whole rest of the story is about humankind’s sometimes embrace and
oftentimes rejection of that truth, of the image of God within and among them.

It is a hard belief system, a hard meaning system.  Oh, that God could be found somewhere else, in a picture, a book, a statue, a majestic mountain, a tree, a whale, in the cash in our bank account, the power over wind and storm, or the power over one another one another.

But, no, the story is, our story is, that God can only be found in one another.  If we are to see God we have only to look in the face of another.

Again, so hard.  Not, of course, in a newborn babe, or a Mother Theresa, or the last person who helped us out when we were down, or the one who regularly says, “I love you.”  There, yes, we see the image of God.  But we also are called to see the image of God in the one we do not know, or the one whose face we cannot look upon for one reason or another, or the one who has hurt us.  Intentionally, in these places, too, we must look for the image of God.

It is such a fundamental part of our lives as Christians that it is one of the high callings of our Baptismal Covenant.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

The image of God is not the goodness in another, our ancient story says, if it were there would be no image anywhere, we would be utterly alone, abandoned.  The image of God is not about good deeds.  The image of God is simple life, the breath, the beating blood, the warm flesh.  Where there is the life there is God, the image, living, joyful, sorrowful, a massive tangle of complexity, simple human life lived in the freedom to choose, the ability to say yes or no to the image of God, and ultimately to God himself.

The story we tell is that there was one who lived the image perfectly, who knew the simple, clear presence of God in the midst of his tangled, complex, human life.  So much the image of God we call him God, the Son of God.  Such is right and good, a joyful thing.

But a dangerous thing too.  Shall the perfect one become the God we have always wanted:  simple, definable, containable, a statue, a picture hanging on a wall, a ritual to perform, a rule to follow?

It is but yet more of the old temptation.

No, the perfect one taught, I am in you and you are in me (John 14:20).  I, too, must be found, seen, in flesh and blood, even after mine is gone, still, in the image of God, the breath, the flesh, the beating heart, the face of woman and man, there, look, if you want to find me.  I have come to help you see, to give you the eyes to see the image, all around you, all within you, everywhere, look.

When you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters you did it to me.

Friend and foe, radiant and plain, fearful and courageous, bright and not so bright, introvert and extrovert, strong and weak, peaceful and anxious, sick and healthy, sad and happy, despised and loved in this world.  All of it, all of us.

When we are true to our calling, we live as though the Messiah is one of us, because indeed we all bear that ancient yet ever new image.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

            Our Orthodox brothers and sisters put it this way:  Before every human being ten thousand angels cry out, “Behold the image of God.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

God's Lamp Burns with the Oil of Our Lives

Sermon preached on November 9, 2014 at St. Michael's Church, Geneseo, NY; Proper 27A: Matthew 25:1-13

          I don’t know about you, but those words, “I never knew you,” send a chill up my spine.  Certainly when I stand before Jesus those are not the words I want to here.   So is it the point that we feel threatened by this parable of judgment? Let’s see…

          Matthew clearly tells this story of the ten bridesmaids as an allegory.  The bridegroom is obviously Jesus, and the great wedding banquet to which he is headed is obviously the kingdom of heaven—the consummation of God’s hopes and dreams for the whole creation.

          The wise bridesmaids are those disciples of Jesus who have been watchful, resourceful, prepared for the bridegroom to come.  The foolish bridesmaids are those disciples of Jesus who are distracted, careless, unfocused, unexpectant.

          The point of the story is how it is possible as the followers of Jesus, to miss the point.  When the time for action arrives, instead of being ready, we are confused, ill-equipped, groping around in the dark.  By the time we get our act together, the moment is gone, the door is closed, the bridegroom is off to the party without us.

          This is a day for us to assess whether or not we are ready; whether or not our actions match our words; whether we are participating in the transformation of the world or not; whether or not we are getting the point.

          The moment of truth in the story of the bridesmaids comes dramatically

          At midnight comes the cry—The bridegroom comes!
          Bring your lamps!
          Come out to meet him!

          The bridegroom comes!  God, known to us in Jesus Christ, comes!  The bridegroom—the one who loves us, the companion, the faithful one.  Love is at the door.  The bridegroom is ready to become one with the bride.  God is ready to become one with the world.

          Come out to meet him!  Come out.  Leave the safety of the house.  Go out into the night and lead his way into the world.

          How important it is that all this takes place at night.  Christ comes.  At night.  The time comes for action.  At night.  Act now.  At night.

          “But why not in the day?” the foolish bridesmaids ask.  Why not during the day?  Then we wouldn’t even need these silly lamps—hey, this oil costs money, don’t you know?  And money doesn’t grow on trees!  (at least that is what my parents taught me).  Couldn’t you wait to make us act when it doesn’t cost so much?

          And there goes the point, so fast it is easy to miss.

          To be in relationship with God.  To live into the love that is already ours as a gift.  To act as a follower of this love.  It all costs.  Spiritual costs, of course, of course, we say.  Take the time to worship, to pray, what we call “the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.”

          But real, tangible, costs, too—because God wants to be in relationship with the world—God wants to marry us, not just our conscience or our souls.  This is a very material God who wants the world transformed, not just everyone to think nice thoughts and feel good feelings—God wants hold of the stuff of life.  God wants us to act now with the oil of our lives, pay the cost, be prepared, focused.

          And so in this stewardship season I have to say that there is nothing distasteful or unspiritual about the church asking us to commit ourselves monetarily.  We should not be embarrassed or feel the least bit reluctant to say that how we fill out a pledge form is a measure of how prepared we are for God to be in our lives—for God to transform our lives and use us in and as the church to transform the world.

          Am I willing to feel the cost of that transformation?  Am I willing to say “Yes” to God with the real important stuff of my life—what the Bible calls “the first fruits”—or do I have only leftovers to give that cost me virtually nothing?

          Christianity is the most worldly of religions.  The creation, we believe, was not, is not, a mistake.  God does not want to be rid of it.  God wants to redeem it.  You and me and all the stuff of our lives—where we really live—what is really at the heart of our lives—our time, our talents, our possessions, and, most of all, our God-given ability to love.

          The cry comes at midnight—when we’re anxious, fearful, when our guard is up and our instinct is to keep the door locked and the money protected.

          At midnight comes the cry—Arise!
          Come out and meet the bridegroom!

          What do we do?

          Do we live as if love matters, as if we know that our participation in that love changes the world.  Do we ask somebody else to do it for us?  Do we get distracted by our anxieties, fears, and that voice inside us that says, “This is mine, you can’t have it!”

          Or do I give to God as God has given to me?  Do I come out into the night with the costly oil in my lamp?  Do I take my place in the procession of the bridegroom to meet his bride, as God uses me and us to change the world?

          And here is the real point of the story—not a threat but a proclamation of the good but challenging news that God’s lamp which lights this world burns only with the oil of our lives.

Friday, November 07, 2014

No Hierachy for Gods' Love or God's Church

Sermon preached at St. Peter's Church, Bloomfield, New York on All Saints' Sunday:  Revelation 7:9-17, 1 John 3:1-8

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.

          This is, I believe, one of the most important sentences in the whole Bible.  It expresses the simple good news that whatever else we are, we are children of God, and not by our own making, but by God’s own choosing.

          It is what we will say in a bit to the little gentleman being baptized this morning:  “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”  We do not say these words as if we were wishful thinking, and there is no asterisk at the end of them leading to fine print on the bottom of the page that says something like, “unless you do something bad or wrong, especially x, y and z.”  No, we say these words because we believe them to be true, and they will be just as true every single day of this child’s life, as it is every single day of all of our lives.

          All Saints Day is not only about the great heroes of the faith who did extraordinary things for God.  It is about us in our ordinary lives trying to live into what we already are:  loved by the One who made us.

          There is no hierarchy for God’s love.  This child we baptize this morning is loved and will be loved by God as much as the greatest of those we call saints.

          I am here this Sunday at Denise’s invitation to start a conversation about St. Peter’s future.  But there is actually a conversation we need to have first, and it has everything to do with what I just said about us as individual Christians, equally loved by God.

          My experience is that churches—especially small churches such as St. Peter’s, are in love with their past and fearful of their future, and they simply don’t know what to think about the present.  Love for your past is great so long as you remember that you cannot return there.  Anxiety about the future is also a fairly natural thing, but what is needful first and foremost is to be certain about who you are right now.

          And who you are right now is above all things loved.  There is nothing wrong with who you are, even if you want to be more.  We are obsessed in our culture with largeness:  bigger is always better.  And we have soaked that up in the church, so that the model we think about when we think about church is large.  We all should want to be mega-churches.

          Bull.  Small churches are, in fact, the norm, and there is much that is good and even holy about them.  The Bible has no preference for the size of churches, if anything small churches are the expectation.  The mega-church is only in heaven, the vision of which we had in our first reading this morning, the great multitude that no one can count.

          Of course you want to grow, but one of the biggest secrets about church growth is that if a community such as this one does not value itself as it is, or if it believes or is led to believe that it is inadequate as it is, growth will never happen.  Your first task to enable a future is to love yourself in the present.

          Because that—love—is all that is necessary for any church of any size to be all it can be.  Any future you have must grow out of the love you have for one another now.  That means that the first step in a conversation about the future is a conversation about why you value this community now.

          And that is the conversation we are going to have after Service.  I want to hear stories about why you value this place, what gift have you been given here, or been inspired to give by here.

          We will talk about the future also, but first I want to make sure you are relaxed about who you are.  The trouble with traveling the road of anxiety is that it leads to nowhere and nothing but more anxiety.  If you believe the truth that you are a child of God and, together, children of God, and saints, we, come what may, there is always a future in that.

          I’ll leave you with a quote from Deuteronomy (7:7-8), which parallels the quote from First John with which I began, and has something to say about size in the eyes of God.

It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples.  It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Physician Assisted Suicide

The death of the young woman in Oregon (I refuse to use her name--the fact that this was played out in the media on such a personal level is unfortunate) has many of us in a quandary, yours truly included.  When I lay out the things I think I believe they leave me in a very muddled place.

  • Suicide is a choice but it is almost always an irrational choice.  It unilaterally breaks relationships and in that respect it is sinful, although I would not say it is unforgivable.  Some say it is simply cowardly and selfish.  That's a far too easy judgment.
  • What physician assisted suicide, or, I suppose, any suicide in the face of terminal illness, raises is the possibility that it is a completely rational decision.  I think in most cases that is probably correct.  Certainly as a priest I have been supportive when individuals have chosen not to undergo treatment to prolong their life, or to end treatment that had begun.  I suppose one might call that "suicide," and to a degree it is, yet the choice usually involves living with the illness until the illness itself causes death.
  • I would defend a person's right to choose death rationally, just as I defend a woman's right to choose to end a pregnancy.  But only in rare circumstances would I commend such a decision, certainly not without careful consideration of the other options.
  • I have walked with many people from the discovery of terminal illness until death.  Most of the time that involves some level of suffering, sometimes great suffering, although the greatest suffering I have seen over the years has almost been entirely by those whose family's choose the "whatever it takes to  keep father alive" path.
  • Although I do not believe that suffering in and of itself is redemptive, I do believe that life is redemptive and suffering is something all of us must do as a part of life.  I have seen suffering and wholeness/holiness walk side by side to the end of life.  I have seen the one who is suffering and their families and/or friends, be heroic in the giving of courage to one another.

I think we do not talk about death enough, nor do we talk about the relative control we have over our lives, never total, or even near to it.  Control is a high cultural value; it is also, mostly, an illusion.  This is the part of assisted suicide, "rational" suicide, with which I struggle.  Is it the final touches on the idol of control based on the false notion that we should never have to suffer?

I think I mean that to be a rhetorical question.  As I said, I am in a very muddled place about this new reality.  The only thing I am absolutely sure of is that we need to have conversations about all of these questions in our religious communities, in our families, and among our friends.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Remembering Bishop Tom Shaw: "God depends on us for that"

Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts, recently retired, died today of complications from a brain tumor.  I knew him most through his religious
Bishop Tom with Bishop Barbara Harris,
who was his Bishop Suffragan during the first half of his tenure.
community:  the Society of St. John the Evangelist.  My friend Susan Russell spoke of him eloquently.  I received similar encouragement from him through the years.

There is also a nice tribute on the SSJE site, following the link above.