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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I C U and U C Me

Yesterday, March 25, 2014, was the twentieth anniversary of the death of my sister, Reba.  She was a person who genuinely embraced life.  I still miss her.   

Her death was caused by lung cancer and the end came slowly at first, then quickly.  Her last weeks were spent in and out of the hospital usually in intensive care.   Remembering Reba’s final days sent me back to my sermon files to see what I was preaching during that time, also the season of Lent.  Here are some excerpts from a sermon I gave the Sunday before she died.

“…life lived genuinely is life where death is ever present.  Until we embrace our mortality we can never fully experience our humanity.

I’ve spent a good part of this past month in the ICU waiting room at the Georgia Baptist Medical Center.  ICU waiting rooms are places where life is genuinely lived. Time is suspended in a vigil that cares only about fifteen minutes every two hours. 

While waiting for that fifteen minutes, strangers talk with one another.  They share their stories. They cry openly.  They answer the phone for one another (obviously before the mass use of cell phones).  They comfort one another.

People hug and hold hands.  Families come together.  They pray and cry.  They remember. They make promises.  They comfort each other in the setbacks.  They celebrate the smallest victories.

Individuals reflect on their lives, ask important questions, and wrestle with destiny.

Life in the ICU waiting room is full, real, and intense.  

Why?  Because death is so present!

The honesty of an ICU waiting room is what the world needs.  The honesty of an ICU waiting room is the genuine living to which we are called in the Gospel.  Jesus tells us that until we can live in our mortality, we are not living, but merely existing.

The season of Lent is the Church’s ICU waiting room.  It is when we come together to explore and experience genuine living by embracing our mortality..."

And so I share these words again.  This time with you, and with a present reflection.   I C U in today's  texting code means, “I see you.”   And this is what happens when we accept our mortality and live genuinely with ourselves and one another -  I C U and U C Me. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So long! or Wait!

For those of us in the earth's northern hemisphere, today is the last day of winter!   And in honor of the day I pay tribute through bits and pieces of musical theater.

Click here now.

And to quote another musical,  "The sun'll come up tomorrow."

Yes, I'm sure most of us are ready for tomorrow's vernal equinox at 12:57 p.m. EDT.  I even have it cued into my phone calendar as "Spring!!!" with an alarm set to let me know exactly when it happens.

I can't wait for sunny days and warm evenings at the ballpark, walks and bike rides without three layers of clothing, hikes in the mountains, and strolls on the beach.

But wait I must.  As ready as you and I are for winter to be over, there is still "one day more" of winter. And today, not yesterday or tomorrow, is really all we have.  

As the Music Man, Harold Hill says to Marian the Librarian, "You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don't know about you, but I'd like to make today worth remembering." 

And the final quote is mine:  "You miss a lot of good music when you fast forward from the Overture and the Finale."

So, I hope you have a great last day of winter!  We may even be remembering it fondly come late August.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Earth in Disguise

terra incognita: unknown territory :  an unexplored country or field of knowledge
~ Miriam Webster Dictionary

Terra incognita, according to Wikipedia "is a term used in cartography for regions that have not been mapped or documented."   A literal English translation would be "unknown earth."

With all of this in mind I suggest that during this Lenten season of contemplating human mortality and immortality we borrow the phrase as a description of human life.

Each of our bodies is composed of minerals and liquid, ie dirt and water. One look at our planet from the distances of space quickly confirms that Earth is also comprised of masses of land and oceans, a complex system of dirt and water. 

In turn the complex systems which are our bodies not only come from the earth but are nourished by the plants from its soil and water from its rivers, lakes, and seas.  And as I recently heard a physician say in an interview, "...the most complex structure on the human planet, [is] the threepounds of human brain."

We truly are Earth in Disguise - Dust to Dust - Terra Incognita!  

Each of our lives is a vista of unknown territory waiting to be explored.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ashes and Dust (encore)

Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 
- Genesis 18:27

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.   
- from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer burial service  

We are stardust. We are golden. And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.
- Joni Mitchell 

Sometimes you just can't say it any better than you already said it.  That's the way it is with me today as I reflect on Ash Wednesday and offer you the following from a past Ash Wednesday.

"From dust you came to dust you shall return."  These words will be said and heard many times today as Christians around the world enter the season of Lent.   

Traditionally, the ashes that begin lent are a symbol of human mortality and frailty reminding us all that someday we will die.  To contemplate and reflect on our death is also an invitation to do the same about our life.

All of this has me wondering today if perhaps the ashes of Ash Wednesday could not only symbolize our mortality, but ultimately our immortality.   Not immortality in the traditional religious sense of "life after death," but, rather immortality as participants in the awesome and mysterious interconnected and interdependent cycles and evolving wonder of all creation.  

"Dust to dust" leads us into the primal spiritual questions:  Where did we come from?  How are we living now? And, were are we going?

In this way Ash Wednesday is not about dying as much as it is about living in full awareness that we are connected to and interdependent with all of creation, now and always.

If you are in the DC area and would like to observe Ash Wednesday in such a way as I've described above, I invite you to join me and others tonight at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church for "Stardust to Dust - A Deep Time Liturgy for Ash Wednesday."  The experience is self-paced so you can begin anytime between 7:30 and 8:30 pm.  

We will also have a traditional Ash Wednesday Liturgy at noon.

I hope you can join us for either or both of these observances of Ash Wednesday. 

Wherever you may be, I encourage you to, in some way whether attending a formal service, sitting in silence somewhere or going for a walk, take a few moments today and reflect on your immortality.