Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Bit of Catching Up

Well, Holy Week and Easter have passed, and I have been on vacation. I have now had a bit of a chance to catch up. So, I preached Palm Sunday at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church at Loch Lloyd, Missouri. If you'd like, you can listen here. It's shorter than usual -  but, then, after the Long Gospel (in this year, from Matthew), one shouldn't need to say a lot more.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Seeking the Right Thing: a Reflection for Holy Week

Sometimes I wonder whether sometimes we go looking for the wrong thing. I have noted recently stories about 'Charlotte's Web.' In this case the subject is isn't the wonderful children's book or related works. In this case, 'Charlotte's Web' is a medicine derived from hemp. I say 'hemp' advisedly. We're not talking about marijuana - or, well, not exactly. 

'Charlotte's Web' has been the news because it has been remarkably helpful for children with seizure disorders that haven't responded to other treatments. News stories have reported about the treatment in Colorado since that state approved medical marijuana, and about efforts in Florida to get it legalized there.

Part of what is interesting to me is that the active ingredient in 'Charlotte's Web' isn't THC, the substance that gives the high. Instead, it is cannabidiol, or CBD. In fact, the strain of hemp developed to produce high quantities of CBD is low in THC.

Now, over the years part of the controversy about medical marijuana has been whether we can identify medical uses for THC. In fact pharmaceutical THC does exist and does get tested. But, what if we're looking for the wrong thing? What if we're looking at medical marijuana and at THC because we've enjoyed the high, when the effective ingredient is CBD? 

Let's remember that this happens with some frequency. One of my favorite television series of past years was 'Connections.' In that series from the late 70's James Burke traced through history scientific and technological developments that had interesting results, but rarely those that were expected or sought. For example, the IBM punch card familiar to those of us of a certain age had its roots in the French weaving industry.

So, what if we're looking for the wrong thing? We do that often enough in the Church. Historically (not to cast aspersions on current activities), we've often had Commissions on Ministry that were really Commissions on Ordained Ministries. Someone who didn't quite fit as deacon or priest didn't necessarily get good guidance - or any meaningful guidance at all. Congregations in transition have often sought to replicate someone from the past, not thinking about of the needs of the future. 

We do that personally as well. We have a romantic view of what love is about - we seem to think first and mostly of 'romantic love' said there were no other - and find ourselves failed and failing. In survey after survey we say of government, 'Throw the bums out,' and then keep electing incumbent who caters to our self-serving positions.

And in none of these cases are the things we seek 'wrong' necessarily. That is, they aren't  inherently immoral. At the same time, they aren't the right things for the needs and circumstances we face. They are what we want, but not what we need. 

We look for the wrong things in Easter. At least, I think we can get distracted by the wrong things about Easter. We talk about being freed from death who no longer see death as a daily reality. We talk about being freed from sin when we have no sense of sins to confess. We can relish the joy of Easter as if we didn't have to go through Good Friday to get there.

Do I overstate? Perhaps I do. Certainly, I do think we liturgical types, Episcopal and others, have more opportunity to embrace the aspects of our faith that we need and don't necessarily want. Let me also affirm that we are also looking for the wrong thing if we wallow in the guilt of Holy Week and never claim resurrection. Still, the quasi-Christian culture around us jumps happily to flowers and bunnies and chick and children with candy eggs, as if all that new life had come without hard experience – flowers that must break the soil; children and their mothers who survive childbirth.

That same culture in political speech will remind us that "freedom isn’t free," and will recall faithfully those "who made the ultimate sacrifice." How much more appropriate, then, that as we celebrate our joy in Easter that we recall that it has come indeed at the cost of the ultimate sacrifice – ultimate not only in the extent of Christ’s commitment, but also in the extent of God’s consequences. Our graves will only open because he experienced the grave first. And so, let us not be distracted, jumping ahead and seeking the wrong thing. Rather, let us prepare to celebrate the Paschal Feast by embracing wholeheartedly the Way of the Cross.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Chaplains Need to See This

PlainViews, the on line journal for chaplains, is a resource I have mentioned before. It's in the sidebar of this blog because its information is worthwhile. The one limitation is that it is a subscription journal, and so most articles are behind the pay wall.

The newest edition has come out, and this edition is open access. That is, all the articles are available to anyone. That's important, because the topic of this edition is recent conference, "Caring for the Human Spirit: Driving the Research Agenda for Spiritual Care in Health Care." The articles in this edition of PlainViews reflect the presentations at the conference, and offer a number of interesting recent research studies about how chaplains work and how patients and caregivers benefit. So, I would encourage chaplain colleagues (and, really, anyone else who's interested) to take advantage of this open access edition. See what others are doing to study how we work and how patients, families, staff members are served. There's a lot here for us to think about.