The Aunt Asked a Question

Acts 8:26-40 – The 5th Sunday of Easter – for May 3, 2015

“Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him . . .” (Acts 8:35)

Aelbert Cuyp: The Baptism of the Eunuch Holland (c. 1653)

Aelbert Cuyp: The Baptism of the Eunuch
Holland (c. 1653)

I am a United Methodist pastor.

I’ve done babies, lots of babies.

But I haven’t done any eunuchs.

Or should I more truthfully admit I’ve never knowingly baptized a eunuch? In a ministry spanning chunks of five decades, where I’ve served in a hodgepodge of rural and urban churches, along with campus ministry and hospice settings, maybe a eunuch has stood beside me while I intoned the ceremonial words of Holy Baptism and blessed his head with dribbles of water.

In the name of Creator, and Christ, and the Spirit, I baptize you . . . Continue reading

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Sudden Death

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.117

Don’t hesitate to spend time with that friend or family member whose words and silence and comfort you trust.

Don’t hesitate to spend time with that friend or family member whose words and silence and comfort you trust.

The wife didn’t kiss her husband goodbye . . . since she was in a hurry to leave for the new job. Her commute was now into the city, twice as long as before. But the bigger salary meant their family would have more financial security. Her husband agreed to leave later for his job, first taking one child to daycare and the other to first grade. It would all work out.

Though she called her father every week . . . and knew his daily schedule better than he did—a morning walk to the nearby Starbucks for coffee and pastry; chatting for an hour or three with several of his army buddies; browsing for books at the library; tending to his garden; settling on the couch to play with his cats and (of course) to take a nap; then eating his Meals on Wheels for an early dinner—she hadn’t visited him since Christmas. Continue reading

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The Good (And Dissonant) Shepherd

Psalm 23, John 10:11-18 – The 4th Sunday of Easter – for Sunday, April 26, 2015

“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing…” (Psalm 23:1)

From Colonial Williamsburg . . .

From Colonial Williamsburg . . .

How many blacksmiths do you know?

Have you ever met a cartwright? (Note to baby boomers: I don’t mean Pa, Adam, Hoss, or Little Joe.)

Ever watched a glassblower? Conversed with a falconer? Longed to be a lamplighter?

Some professions no longer exist. If anyone enters “cartwright” on a 2015 IRS form, it’s likely they’re joking or employed by Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg. There, the bygone world of 18th century America is recreated for an adult entrance fee of $40.99. It wouldn’t surprise me if Williamsburg had someone on the payroll skilled at constructing a wagon! Continue reading

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Answering . . . That Question

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.116

If given the choice of participating in only one of those two rituals for the remainder of my career, I’d choose funerals. But . . . why?

If given the choice of participating in only one of those two rituals for the remainder of my career, I’d choose funerals. But . . . why?

“What do you say when people ask how you can work in hospice?”

Near the end of a long Friday, and at the end of a tough week, a colleague posed that question.

That question. That question.

I won’t share the details of our conversation because—like everything in hospice—confidentiality is a priority. But I will tell you my co-worker had several demanding visits in a row with patients. Everyone with a job they enjoy has days like my colleague. But in hospice, the patients and clients you meet—the scared or angry person, the silent or talkative person, the openly sharing or mask-the-feelings person—are all dying. They will not get “better.” Their loved one, whether an infant or an octogenarian, won’t get better. And so you wonder if you truly helped them. You wonder if someone else might’ve said the “right” or “better” words. You refuse to use clichés or platitudes to bring comfort in a time of overwhelming crisis, but then it’s as if you have nothing to say. You walk into homes where a family’s world is falling apart and, before knocking on their door, you contemplate (for a selfish, exhausted moment) scurrying back to your car. Continue reading

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The 3 Ps

Psalm 4 – The 3rd Sunday of Easter – for April 19, 2015

“Answer me when I cry out, my righteous God! Set me free from my troubles.” (Psalm 4:1)

A few weeks ago my wife and I brought home a new puppy . . .

A few weeks ago my wife and I brought home a new puppy . . .

Set me free from my troubles!

It is the plea of the psalmist.

Psalm 4 is brief, eight verses, a liturgical dialog between a worship leader and congregation, and also an imagined conversation between Creator and creation.

Will the people be faithful?

Will the Lord hear?

Will the people cease sinning, and trust—again, please again—in God’s love?

God (the psalmist believed), wonders when the people will choose the everlasting and steadfast Holy love instead of going “after lies.”

Here we are in the season after Easter, but I’m avoiding the well-trod verses that follow the empty tomb. This week’s Psalm lesson appealed to me simply for respite from the Gospels. Now, in these days and scriptures after the resurrection, Jesus was roaming free, with each Gospel depicting unique moments where the reality of the risen Jesus, and the impossible love of God, was revealed . . . again and again. Continue reading

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