A summer spent hiking in New Mexico and canoeing in Maine was the acme of my scouting experience. For two separate weeks I and a few of my friends traveled with no more than we could carry on our backs in very rugged places far from the rush of civilization. To prepare for these trips we learned to leave behind anything that we would not need. Every ounce mattered. Anything extra would be a distraction and burden for what lies ahead.
Life can also benefit from leaving extra things behind.
Having moved several times, if I have not used something in the most recent 3 to 5 years I am likely to sell or give it to someone more likely to appreciate it. And when considering purchasing a new item, I think for a moment if I will still be using it in 3 to 5 years, if not, should I leave it for someone else to buy.
A chaplain had told me that the hospital she served expected her to visit every patient frequently, for statistics showed that patients visited by a chaplain at least three times were discharged sooner.
Similarly the ritual of anointing that I carry in my pocket links spiritual care with physical health saying: “Spirit of the Living God, present with us now, enter into … in body, mind and spirit, forgive her/his sins, and heal her/him from all that harms her/him.”
Spiritual healing might not kill viruses nor bacteria; it might not mend broken bones nor close a nasty cut; it might not directly affect any of the multitude of diseases and illnesses that modern medicine can cure or at least name. But guilt and shame can burden more than a person’s soul, feelings of unmitigated remorse do cause real illnesses.
Conversely, feelings of joy and acceptance can and do improve one’s physical well-being. People who attend worship regularly live longer, happier, and healthier lives. The placebo effect, merely telling someone that a treatment will help, does make a physical difference.
Perhaps this is why the Greek word meaning “to save” is also used as “to heal.”
[Jesus] said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you;
go in peace and be healed of your disease.”
— Mark 5:31
I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, June 28th, 2015.
I look at what is happening to the Church these days and wonder: Where is God? New churches have become a rarity. A growing congregation celebrates if it can merely keep pace with the growth of its community. Many congregations see their membership numbers decline and especially the number who attend worship each Sunday. More and more churches have closed and others contemplate how many months they can eke out an existence.
Today the church does not face violent persecution as it had in the first century, but a dead calm. Increasingly events are scheduled on Sunday mornings ignoring the spiritual needs of those who attend worship services. The result is the same.
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
— Mark 4:38 (NRSV)
Mark’s Gospel tells of Jesus calming a storm while the Apostles attempted to cross a sea by rebuking the wind, by ordering it to be silent. Now many individuals perceive they can weather life’s storms by themselves without a church family, without a caring community of believers.
Or perhaps the Church has busied itself with internal controversies and neglected to communicate the story entrusted to it. Have we too long enjoyed the calm waters? Neglected to communicate how worshiping God positively affects our daily living? Neglected to communicate the importance of setting aside a day to connect with one another and with God?
How have you helped the church put its oars in the water so that it might continue to effectively communicate the love of God in the dead calm that culture provides?
I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, June 21st, 2015.
I have experienced times when I wanted God to come in with a big hand and fix a few things. Something obvious like a timely, yet unexpected rain squall on an otherwise calm day that extinguishes a fire or a miraculous cure when none was expected.
Yet more often than not, miracles have been long in the making: diverse services coordinating to extinguish a blaze and aid those harmed by it; or slow and steady advancements in medicines; or even someone with exactly the right training available at the exact moment. As if God had sown a variety of seeds widely and generously, without knowing how each particular seed might contribute to answering a future prayer, but hoping that if enough seeds were sown a few would eventually lead to great things.
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,
and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow,
he does not know how.”
— Mark 4:26-27 (NRSV)
What seeds has God planted in your life?
I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, June 14th, 2015.
Each week as we prepared to move we set aside bags and boxes of things to be donated or trashed. Things that we no longer needed or had fully served their useful life.
Electronic equipment stops working. Clothes fray at their edges. Paint peels. Glass breaks or chips. Wood warps. Metal rusts.
Given enough time even mountains will wash away to the sea.
Nothing is permanent. All things wear out or break down. Nothing is exempt.
But what about people? Each day from the day we are conceived cells die and are absorbed by other cells. For most people, until our early twenties, the growth of new cells out paces older cells. But as we age beyond thirty increasingly we lose agility, strength, reflexes, creativity and the ability to recall information. Great gymnasts are seldom more than teenagers. Great athletes seldom older than thirty. Inventors typically achieve success in their forties. We fall victim to presbyopia, presbycusis, and dementia as our eyesight, hearing and cognition fade with age.
Yet there is more to life than meets the eye, more than science can measure. As we age we become increasingly aware of our connections with all people, with all things, and with God. Our past sufferings become lessons learned for future losses including the loss of life. We begin to recognize God in all things: in the good and beautiful as well as in the ugly and painful.
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. — 2 Corrinthians 4:16 – 5:1