Sunday, February 28, 2016

Remembering Death - Jeff

Jeff was a seminary classmate, an Episcopalian. I didn't get to know him really well while we were in seminary. We both sang bass in the chapel choir. He had a previous career as an opera singer and was Very Loud. I didn't always like standing next to him in choir, but with his musical training and experience, I could at least always find my note.

After we graduated from seminary, we both ended up working at the University of Texas at Austin, even in the same building (the famous Tower). I had decided that ordination was not for me, but he was searching for a bishop to ordain him and give him work.We would have lunch together regularly and here's where I learned to know him better.

I was just coming out during this period. I don't remember when I came out to him or when he came out to me, but it was in the safety of a secular institution that we could finally share this. His story was very poignant, but probably not that unusual for that period.

He and his partner had moved to Austin for Jeff to attend seminary there. They had chosen Austin because they'd heard how open and liberal it was. At new student orientation, however, Jeff heard a school official say that there would be zero tolerance for sexual misconduct, the definition of which included any homosexual relationship.

Jeff spent the next three years guarding his personal life closely. He told me about going home to his partner after that orientation and how they were suddenly afraid. Jeff was committed to his theological education and had some hope that he would find a bishop to ordain him when it was completed (the first ordinations of openly LGBT folk had already occurred in the Episcopal Church by that time), but now his education was in danger.

So, big, loud, gregarious Jeff led a carefully guarded life in Austin. He told me how he and his partner had always been the hosts of big parties and how they expected they would do the same in seminary. Jeff expressed deep disappointment that they couldn't safely open their home to his classmates. He didn't even let people know that he had a roommate. On campus he was just another student, albeit a loud and conspicuous one, whose personal life was completely unknown by practically everyone.

It was not the seminary experience he had hoped for. He could only get so close to his classmates.

In that time he worked at UT, I finally got to experience their hospitality. They had me over for Christmas one year. It was obvious they loved having a guest in their house. It was both a joy and a sadness to see them finally get to play host to one of Jeff's classmates. Our campus life was surely the poorer for not having experienced their gift of hospitality.

Jeff finally did find a bishop in California to ordain him and he spent a brief time as a parish priest. I don't recall exactly how long he was in a parish, but I'm pretty sure it was less than two years. Our communication was infrequent, but all of it conveyed at how happy he was in that work.

I also don't recall how I heard of Jeff's death. I'm sure it was some seminary newsletter or the like. It was a shock. I called Jeff's partner (he and I never got to be as close---he was the quieter one, although we were certainly on friendly terms) and learned that Jeff had been diagnosed with a cancer that took him very quickly. By time I had made that phone call, Jeff had been dead for several weeks---this was an age of email, but not social media, so this sort of news didn't travel as quickly as it does now---but of course his partner was still in shock. He'd followed Jeff across two big moves, from east coast to Texas and then to west coast, only to be left alone very suddenly.

It's been 15 years or more since Jeff died, but I remember him with a sort of sadness that goes beyond a life cut short by cancer. The church delayed the vocation of someone who would have been a joyful servant as a priest. The church missed out on a few years of joyful servanthood.

Again, his story is hardly unique, and perhaps even happier than some---he did get ordained and so did get to fulfill, however briefly, his vocation. Not everyone gets that. But it's still sad and regrettable.

I can still feel the involuntary flinch every time his booming voice would greet me with an eardrum shattering, "NEIL!" I maybe lost some hearing to his friendship, but I remember his joy.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Remembering Death 5 Anonymous

I'm not supposed to know about this. For this reason, I give as little context as possible.

There was once a man whose circles overlapped with mine. He and I were in the same room at the same time on more than a couple of occasions, but I cannot say I knew him well. I did know he was looking into working with youth as a career.

He took ill suddenly and fatally. I don't recall the illness, but in a matter of days, he was dead.

A friend of mine, who was where our circles overlapped, got together with a couple of other people to go to this man's apartment, to pack it up for his relatives. The man was living alone at the time of his death.

What the packing friends discovered was that the dead man had a stash of child pornography. In a panic and in disgust, they destroyed it all, to protect the dead man's family. Really, I suppose, to protect the dead man's memory.

One of the group that went to pack up the apartment commented on how God had saved some kids from this man's ambition to work with them. All of them felt queasy in the days ahead, as friends and family praised the dead man's aspirations and how his desire to work with children had been denied.

If God "killed" this man to prevent him from working with kids, then God misses a few others. I think it's fairly bad theology to say God picked out this man to die while letting other consumers of child porn and child molesters live on.

What remembering this death brings to my mind is all the ways that we're unknown to one another. All the ways we will be remembered will not be the full picture.

Who knows, maybe this story got out and his family knows all about it now. I wouldn't know how to find out. But what would finding this out about their beloved son, brother, uncle, friend mean to them? What end would it bring? A reinforcement that we're all under suspicion as being awful people? Or that even the people who harbor horrific urges are still lovable---and I do recall this man as being much loved. Hopefully---surely!---not all of us have such deeply disturbing secrets to be discovered in death (or covered up in death), but what do we do with it if we do discover such? 

Nothing is simple. Few things are in sharp focus. I relay this story of foggy grey not to reassure but to call into question. The reality is that we will all be remembered differently by different people. I certainly remember this man differently than how he was eulogized at the time of his death. How should I imagine him held in God's love?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Remembering Death 4 Roommate

My second year in college, I had a roommate who I never got to know very well. He was a biology major and was always in the labs. I was a theater major and always at the theater. We basically slept in the same dorm room. The only real memory I have of us interacting was the time he brought home a live frog---a rescue---from the lab. The frog momentarily got loose and we had a few madcap moments together trying to catch it. (I was all for having the frog in the room.) He was quiet, I was quiet, it worked pretty well as random roommate assignments go.

When I came back from the Thanksgiving weekend that semester, I found a note from the RA (resident assistant) to come knock on his door when I got in. He gave me the news that my roommate had tried diving in a notoriously dangerous underwater cavern called Jacob's Well. It has an allure to divers who want to explore but is also full of false leads to the top. Divers without guide lines back to the surface are likely to get lost and run out of air in their tanks. My roommate was one of those divers.

Suddenly, I was in a room half-filled with a dead man's stuff. It wasn't a lot, as I recall. He had some books (of course) and clothes. I don't recall anything unusual. I started to try to pull some of it together for his parents and then that started to feel invasive so I only did a little bit. I was just 20 and not much experienced with this sort of thing. We'd lived together for 3 months and were still strangers. I wondered if I'd know better what to do if I'd known  him better.

So it was especially awkward when his father came to pick up his dead son's belongings. I felt like I should be there when he arrived, and so I was. As might be expected, he seemed like a man sleepwalking, in a daze.He seemed hopeful that I might have photos or stories of his son to share with him. Of course, I had nothing.

As best as I can remember, I believe I let this sad father in the room, spoke to him briefly, watched him start to gather things, saw him find a photo of his son, and excused myself. When I came back, half of the room was empty.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Remembering Death 3 Marvin

I grew up in a rural community, the town were I went to school was, at the time, under 3,000 population. I always think of the town as being primarily German, although there were large (for the town) African American and Mexican neighborhoods. That's probably some kind of white privilege right there. Most of the non-white folk lived in town. I can think of only a handful of black people who lived on farms.

One such family lived near us and the children rode the same school bus as my brother, Gary, and I. It was two girls and one boy, all fairly close in age, between the ages of my brother and me. I remember getting along with them fairly well, and the older girl, in particular, seemed to find me amusing.

One summer, the brother, Marvin, a high schooler at that time, was killed in town. As I recall, he was struck by a car as he crossed a street. I don't remember much anything else about that, except that we found out about it when we got the next week's edition of the The Giddings Times and News in our mailbox.

When school started up again, what else I do remember is the older sister's hurt as she confronted me about not being at the funeral. I felt badly and tried to explain that we hadn't heard about it until after the funeral, but that didn't seem to soften the hurt. In retrospect, her hurt was warranted. We shared many laughs on bus rides. We should have been able to share tears, too.

Looking back now, I realize a lot of things that I was too naive to pick up on. Certainly too naive to pick up on all the subtleties of race relations in our small community, where everyone, more or less, went along to get along. I have to wonder if the news was kept from me, so I wouldn't want to go to the funeral. It was long before the internet age, when we know of someone dying within minutes of it happening, but surely there were opportunities to have heard about this at our common feed store. What forces were at play that kept me unaware of such a sad and tragic death in our community?

There was an old, dilapidated church on our bus route, out near where this family lived. It had been a black church, so at one time, there were more black families in our part of the county. It had a small cemetery by it and Marvin is buried there. I remember Marvin's grave could be seen from the gravel road that went by it. It seemed like for a very long time, there were always flowers on it. Perhaps some were artificial. It's been decades since I've been down that road.

Oftentimes, death can bring us together. In the case of Marvin's death, it highlighted the divisions in our community, divisions that I'm still discovering today.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Present Tense Death

This first week of lenten blogging has not been as prolific as I might have hoped (a deadline for a magazine article being the main scapegoat), but I've also not been thinking about remembering death, either. I'm thinking about death currently in the news.

I'm thinking about Justice Antonin Scalia.

Of course, the nation was shocked at his sudden death this past weekend, and of course the death was immediately a hot topic among political leaders and candidates and the life he led and the opinions he held drew passionate responses from the general population.

There is no doubt that Justice Scalia will not be remembered fondly in histories of the LGBT movement. It is hard to ignore that he was openly and aggressively for the disenfranchisement of people like me. And his particular way of approaching the Constitution, this "originalism," strikes me as a sort of constitutional fundamentalism. I heard Justice Scalia on the radio a couple of years ago and he was telling the interviewer that if something was legal when the U.S. Constitution was written, it could not be said to be unconstitutional. (Slavery? Women barred from the polls? Not unconstitutional.) The interviewer asked, "how about something like putting criminals in stocks and on display in the street?" He said that maybe that wasn't advisable, but nonetheless he could not call that unconstitutional. This struck me as no way to make laws for contemporary America. (I regret that I could not find a link to this interview. I do not believe I'm making this up, though.) Obviously, there are quite a few people who would disagree with me.

The point being, he gave those of us who prefer that our country move beyond slavery, men-only voting, and stocks in the streets plenty of reason to be a bit relieved that he's no longer on the highest court in the nation. (And I know, I'm not saying he ever advocated those things, but he did not see them as being unconstitutional.He's also on record for not believing in reversing previous court decisions. But he did have less than kind regard for LGBT rights.)

Another point to make is that a hero of progressive America, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, lost someone she considered a dear friend, a friend with whom she had grave differences, but a friend with whom she attended opera and, presumably, enjoyed other social activities. She was not the only left-leaning famous person to express her grief over losing a dear friend with whom they disagreed.

Personally, I do not celebrate anyone's death. Besides not being very loving toward our enemies (and yes, Justice Scalia was an enemy of LGBT folk, I think we can say that), as Our Lord would have us be, it's just not very respectful of the people who do grieve. Having grieved plenty of people in my life, I can guess how upsetting it would be to see people actively celebrating the death of a loved one. That other people choose to do so anyway. . . well, that's really their business to sort out.

Beyond all the ways that I was not a fan of Justice Scalia, however, I feel his death brings to the fore how complicated we are. Heroes of the left loved this enemy of the left. Some people are praising him and his service on the bench while others are celebrating that he is off of it. And because it's ultimately all about me (and, by extension, you), I find myself wondering how and why and by whom my own death will eventually be mourned and/or celebrated. Relative to Justice Scalia, I'm pretty much nobody, so I don't think there will be any extreme displays of jubilation of my death, but I can imagine deafening indifference by any number of people who know me.

And you know? We live our lives and we can't control these things. It's tempting to say, "If Justice Scalia didn't want mean things said upon his death by LGBT rights supporters, he should have lived differently." But then there would be someone else, some other reason for people to say mean things upon his death. Hardly anyone is universally celebrated. And how (if) we're remembered is not always in direct proportion to how we lived our lives.

I am reminded, of course, of John Donne in the middle of these meandering and conflicting thoughts. Perhaps I should let him have the last word on this present death: 
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Remembering Death 2

Something that I sometimes feel but seldom name, living an urban life now, is how disconnected from food sources most people are, particularly meat. Never having to kill and dress an animal for food, I find most people in a city have either an indifferent attitude toward animals used for meat or else have overly sentimentalized ideas.

Now, this is not a diatribe for or against eating meat. I've become convinced that eating less meat is a sound decision for health and environmental reasons. Also, having grown up on a farm, I can also agree that most animals raised for meat in big business situations are kept in grossly inhumane situations. As a result of conversations with my doctor and his own evolving understanding of diet and nutrition, I've started eating a lot less meat. I currently eat animal products (in which we include eggs and dairy) 2 or 3 times a week. I have not developed any moral argument against meat (I always feel like I then need to consider all the carnivores of the animal kingdom---starting with my beloved cats---as immoral, which makes no sense to me), but I have lost a little weight on a mostly plant diet, so that's good for my heart and diabetes concerns. So there's that.

On our farm, we did our best to treat animals well, even those we ate. I seldom say anything when people say they don't eat anything with a face, but I can put names on some of the food I've eaten. Immediately, I think of a calf that was born on April 1 and so was, of course, named April (this was before I had niece named April). I cried and begged not to have April sent to the slaughter house, but in the end, she was tasty and I ate her along with the rest of the family. We had a pair of hogs named Schnickels and Fritz (schnickelfritz being a sort of [American?] German slang term of endearment for children) that I was somewhat attached to. They, too (I believe both) became sausage, ham, and bacon. I think this is a common experience for farm children through the ages. Perhaps it's a way we learned to grieve and move on.

What I don't believe is that it made us less caring toward other people or animals. It was the natural order of thing, and as much as I'm open to examining that and critiquing it (yes, under my current understanding of diet, we ate way too much meat), if anything it made us make sure they had a good life until it was time to be slaughtered. This is, perhaps, nonsensical to some people. I, on the other hand, see more a trend towards inhumanity to other humans (in warfare and crime) as we move away, as a society, from seeing animals slaughtered. It's all hidden away now. We don't connect the steak or tray of drumsticks in the meat counter to the blood on the ground or slaughterhouse floor. Neither do we connect warfare and policing to blood spilled. As consuming meat became more distant and sanitized, so has our warfare become colder, harsher. Correlation does not mean causation, but while I'm digressing here, I put it out there. (I'd also recommend the book On Killing for more on how warfare has become colder.)

Where was I?

Death. Remembering death. While I will be remembering specific people more as we go through lent, I felt I couldn't ignore the place death played in my childhood as a farm boy. The same woman who chopped the heads off chickens with a hatchet also made sure her children treated animals well, were never cruel to them. She was the same woman who didn't like us having toy guns, even though we had a couple, and those we had, she wouldn't allow us to point at one another. This made playing cops and robbers or (in our much less enlightened time) cowboys and Indians really difficult---so we mostly played with toy trucks and tractors and the like.

Make of it all what you will. Honestly, I don't know that I can tell you more than this is how it was, this is how I experienced it. Death in my current, urban setting feels set aside, far off from the hamburgers that are available every block or two and I simply wonder what that does to us as a society.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Remembering Death 1

A very early memory: I'm a toddler, sitting on my mother's hip. We're in a church and Mama is walking past a casket. There is an old woman in the casket. It's hard to know what I understood at the time and what I've projected back onto the memory. I remember Mama, in her own stoic German farm woman way, was upset. Sad. I wasn't, but I was aware of Mama being so.

I tried asking Mama about that memory, who the woman in the casket might have been. She couldn't be sure. I've wondered if it was my father mother, who I grew up calling Grossmama (Grossemama? Google translate isn't helping me with our Tex-German), even though I never knew her. She died when I was very young. At the moment I'm not sure what year she died, but I was no more than three. She lived with us her last years, but I don't have any other memory of her. And I'm not sure this memory is of her. I don't remember Daddy in the picture anywhere, although of course he was there. But of course I was on Mama's hip.

It's not an upsetting memory. Not frightening. In those days, in that place, children went to funerals and what we did or did not understand was something to grow into. We learned early, we are mortal, and it was okay. It was sad, but it was okay.

Even so, death makes an impression. This is one of my earliest memories.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


A monk should always act as if he was going to die tomorrow; yet he should treat his body as if it was going to live for many years. The first cuts off the inclination to listlessness, and makes the monk more diligent; the second keeps his body sound and his self control well balanced. [Macarius the Great] 

Receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, as I do every year, I'm struck with how each year is slightly different. Of course, three years ago, as I had just received news of a mass on my pancreas, was the one where mortality was most present, when I wondered if that year's ashes would be the last I would ever receive. It also strikes me how quickly that feeling can fade when the crisis is past.

Which brought to mind the saying of Macarius above. Within the saying, however, is also the reminder of how important our physical being is. We will die, yes, but even if it is only dust, something remains.

Yes, it always comes back to incarnation with me. The stuff of us is important and it won't go away.

What is also on my mind, more broadly, is death. My congregation is doing a series on death and dying, and it has me thinking of death in my life (which looks funnier on the screen than it sounded in my head).

What I think this means for this blog is that I'm going to be writing a series of entries, some I expect to be very brief, about specific deaths in my life. There may also be some entries reflecting on my own death, what I think about that, how aging makea me think about it differently.

I seldom have a detailed plan about these things, as readers of this blog will already know.

If nothing else, we"ll all be extra joyful when Easter arrives.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Relaxing the Bow

A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, "Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it." So he did. The old man then said, "Shoot another," and he did so. Then the old man said, 'Shoot yet again," and the hunter replied "If I bend my bow so much I will break it." Then the old man said to him, "It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs." When he heard these words the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.

By the Abbas standards, we Americans are seldom about the bow. We value entertainment, relaxation, leisure. I wonder if Abba Anthony saw us today, if he'd think we ever picked up the bow, much less stretched it out.

At the same time, we are a stressed out people, and not because we are too stringent in our spiritual discipline. We're stressed out about traffic, schedules, jobs and bosses and lack thereof. As I type this, I think it may be unfair to compare eras. Anthony lived in a desert and had to worry about scarcity of food. It's likely every age and place has it's own set of stressors.

My point being . . . .

The above story of Anthony came to mind this morning as I found myself tensing up about what I was doing about lent, about how it's starting tomorrow, how I didn't have a completely firm plan in place for how I would be observing it this year. Jesus had something to say about that, too. Don't worry about tomorrow . . . I 

So, I remembered that today is Fat Tuesday. Mardis Gras. Fastnacht. Among other names. Today is a day to relax the bow and enjoy ourselves. Dressing for work, I remembered to put on my purple shirt with the my green-tinged khakis. (It's not exactly Mardis Gras colors, but my coworker from New Orleans, perhaps, will appreciate the effort.) This evening, I'll go to my church's pancake supper and try not to obsess about what this will do to my blood sugar readings later in the evening.

I'll worry about ashes and dust tomorrow.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Diversity and Vocation

Diversity in a church is important and that usually means things like racial diversity or whether there are gay couples in the pews, which is all important and the sort of thing I look for in a congregation.

But we seem to still want us to be all of one mind.

Some of this is practical, I suppose. A congregation that agrees on how to approach hunger issues is able to focus their time, talent, and money in that direction and so there may be visible results. We raised this much money to this end. We made this number of items to send to this place. This individual and this individual, they were helped by what we did. I cannot find much fault in this (unless I want to get into the sort of pride that becomes more about what we did and less about the people who is being served---but that's perhaps another blog post).

This past year, so much was written about the Syrian refugee crisis. On my Facebook newsfeed, there developed two dominant strains of what to do about it. One was to welcome refugees into our nation, help them get resettled here. The other was saying the better way to help them was to send aid to Syria, to help them with resources there or at least closer by to Syria.

All the details of those arguments, and there are endless details, are not my point this morning. What bothered me in seeing these arguments was how many people were adamantly saying one was the way to help and the other was fruitless. One was a waste of resources, the other the best use of resources. One was dangerous, the other safer. Most problematic, to my mind, was that one was considered the "liberal" response, the other the "conservative" response.

I found myself thinking: Surely some need to get away and be resettled here and we need to help them. And surely some will not be able to get away and they will need just as much if not more help there. Why is it either/or? It should be both/and.

And they should not be politicized as the Democrat or Republican responses.

The refugee crisis is only an example. There are other places that we spend too much time arguing about the correct way to help. Is it better to give directly to the homeless on the street or to the organizations set up to help the homeless? Is it better to give to cancer research or to organizations that support cancer patients? Or AIDS research/patients? Or work in the local community garden or work for a political lobby group on food issues? Or . . .

I suppose the questions basically can be divided into serving locally or globally.

Christian scripture and tradition speaks of the Church as the Body of Christ, many members but one body. Many functions to be performed, but one Spirit that animates the work done. The liver and kidneys both work to purify the blood supply, but if one or the other are failing, the way the other does it will not suffice. We need both ways they work or the whole body dies.

So this brings us to calling or vocation. It's nothing new to say that we need to listen to where the Spirit is leading us to serve. There is pretty good theology in existence that covers the notion that some are called to the humanities, some to the sciences, some to whatever doesn't fit under those headings.

That theology doesn't seem to get applied to the issues around how we approach individual issues. It seems to me that we want our churches to have a particular focus on how we help and that diversity on approaches is discouraged.

I would submit that we need to continue to listen to where the Spirit leads us and follow. The point isn't what other people are doing, what the official party line is. The point of a calling is to follow it. I don't think making justifications for your calling matter. Certainly arguing about how your calling is more important than someone else's gets us nowhere.

Support aid to refugees who cannot get out of Syria, if that's where you feel the Spirit calling you. Surely that's needed. Give directly to the homeless on the street. Surely the organizations set up to aid are not meeting every need. Do so with humility that your way may not be the "best" way, but with the understanding that the calling is not in the least a useless way.

Every calling counts. Every way to serve counts. Some will have larger impacts, other smaller, but we need this diversity of vocations in the church. Without it, we will surely die.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sitting Hospice with the Church, Keeping Vigil with the Body of Christ

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. [John 12:24]

Last week, Chris Hedges published an online essay called "The Suicide of the Liberal Church." It went viral in social media, at least in my circles of social media. It sparked discussion in different groups and forums and, no doubt, prompted a few formal replies. The reply that I saw most in my circles was the Reverend Dr. Christian Scharen's "The Death and Resurrection of the Liberal Church."

I honestly thought both had salient points to make, the thing that I believe both got right is that the church is currently undergoing great change. I think the church as I've known and loved it is dying. Suicide or natural causes or something else, I can't say for certain. 

But the two essays have had me thinking about this more in the last week. I have said to friends more than once that I recognize that the church is dying and that something new will come along to replace it and carry on but that I'm now of an age where I'm part of the old guard. The new thing I see emerging is something different and I find myself with the choice of trying to be part of this new thing or clinging to all the things I love about the thing that is passing away.

I've told friends that I've decided to sit hospice with the church, to love it into its grave.

I think it is a reasonable choice for someone of my age. I'm securely middle-aged and have lost touch with a lot of what is "youthful." At the same time, I'm not so old as to be elderly and in need of care myself. I feel like I'm in a place to lovingly sit with this old institution, to help it as it acknowledges its end of days, and to be a presence as it slips away. It is work full of grief and regret, like any child might experience watching a beloved mother, father, mentor wither before their eyes. Because the church is more than an institution and because I am a part of it, I recognize that I'm also dying.

I also do this work in sure and certain hope that it is not the end of the story.

I do look at what is emerging with wonder and befuddlement. I don't get these kids today! But I love them. I recognize them as part of this crazy family of Spirit. And if I cling to old forms and old ways of doing things, I also find myself wanting to encourage the new thing that is happening, even participate to some extent.

Because we are a people of resurrection,  I'm not only sitting hospice with the church, I'm also keeping vigil with the Body of Christ. I'm not only mourning the loss of what I knew and loved, I'm also keeping an eye on its tomb, knowing full well that it will be empty again and soon. Like Mary Magdalene in the garden or the disciples on the way to Emmaus, I suspect I won't recognize the risen Body of Christ at first. I live in hope, however, that it will still call my name and I will recognize its voice. I believe that some bread will be broken and my eyes will open. There may even be some identifying scars. Resurrection is surprising like that.

Because I am a part of the Body of Christ, I live in this tension of the dying and resurrecting, of sitting hospice and keeping vigil. It's not always comfortable. It's full of wishing for the dying to stop.

Some of you will be called to the new thing, some of  you are already in the middle of it and experiencing resurrection in ways I can only observe. Some of us will continue to love the dying church in it's last days, honoring the gifts it has given us and forgiving the ways it's failed us. We are each members of this Body and we function according to the ability of each member.