Posts Tagged ‘Loss’


Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Loss often sneaks up on us. “Out of nowhere” as Dr. Dan Gottlieb put it … that “Out of nowhere” we all come to regard with dread.

And this is what I know….

Life fills with “thin places” as the ancient Celts put it, places where the spiritual world and natural world work themselves together in tangible, knowable moments.  Death of those we love places us there – right there – in thin places.

Nothing easy in that place, filled as it is with sadness and grief.

But somehow we find each other there. We see each other.  Reminded again of how deeply our loves matter, each to the other.  Woven together.  It is not a way out of the pain. But a way forward with it.


When the Days Are Dark

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

There are some days of incredible darkness.  Many of us are both saddened and shocked by the losses in our local communities over the past week.  For those unaware, the losses are 3 deaths in less than 5 days.  While full details have not been released all are tragic in their own right.  Involving people who were not directly/ active members of our NewChurch LIVE congregation, they involved pe0ple with very close ties to many in our congregation and specifically to our sister church, the Bryn Athyn Church.

For those impacted, there is little in the way of words to offer at a time like this.  And it is important as Pastor to share some thoughts that will fall short but that are offered, however clumsily, with deep love for those struggling today.

Where is God in all of this?

Events like these are never God’s will. They run contrary to it.  And hell does gets its day on occasion where for reasons we will never fully understand anger, addiction, fear, overwhelm and run wild.  Our greatest and most terrifying gift is freedom and at times we use that freedom in ways that are incredibly damaging.

So God is not in the event per se.  Where God is is in the love, compassion, and support flowing out to all those impacted.  I firmly, to the deepest part of my soul, believe God’s heart is always the first to break.  His tears the first to flow. And our job is to join Him in “healing the brokenhearted and binding up their wounds” (Psalm 147) in our own limited yet beloved way.

So what can we do?

We can take care of each other and the impacted families.  That simple.  We can continually rededicate ourselves to the incredibly hard work of love and healing.

And as we take care of one another, consider ways of serving.  These heartbreaks are one of the universal conditions of our experience of this life.   As such, in face of calamity, it is a time to (a) draw in and (b) reach out.  That is God’s invitation and our responsibility.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

Closing Thoughts

In facing tragedies as a Pastor, I so very deeply wish there was a “list”, a prescriptive “list” of how to move through days of incredible darkness.  There is not.  Just some thoughts that might comfort in some way.  And a constant reminder, “When you find yourself in hell, keep going.”

For many, this IS our Easter.  Our time of unimaginable loss especially for the families of the deceased.  And with grace, and patience, God’s healing will find its way to us as we find our way home.

Threshold Wisdom and 11 Words: Thoughts Around the End of Life

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

This fall quietly unfolded as a season of loss for several families close to my heart.  What can we offer at times like this?  What?

I believe the preciousness in these moments comes from what Rachel Naomi Remen referred to as “threshold wisdom”, wisdom we only glean from the edges of life.  Defined simply … “A whole lot less matters and what matters matters a whole lot more.”  And what then “matters”?  Maybe these 11 words from one of the fore-bearers of the hospice movement captures it best…

  1. Please forgive me
  2. I forgive you
  3. Thank you
  4. I love you
If we can somehow live closely into each phrase, as best we can, we can die well.   At times these words are silent.  At times they lie under the surface. But they can still be spoken, as best we can, even in a a season of loss.

How do we join in ministry?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Joining in ministry and “going to church” are not necessarily the same.  Joining in ministry is a deep form of practiced, lived faith, one shared by clergy and laity. As such, it raises the “bar” so to speak.  And as I write, I have to smile, because I think a certain part of us – admittedly buried deep – wants that bar raised!

Ministry, if it is to take on the import intended, needs to cast aside the often meaningless shlock that passes for a life of faith.  It is, in a word, “More.”  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted, “the essential divine worship in heaven does not consist in going to church regularly and listening to sermons but of a life of love, thoughtfulness, and faith in keeping with doctrine.  Sermons in church serve only as means of instruction in terms of how to live…. All the doctrines that govern preaching focus on life as their end, not of faith apart from life.” (Heaven and Hell, pp. 199, 201)  A pretty strong argument for relevance, for a call to the “More”!  Sunday worship then informs and inspires ministry; worship as a supporting means to an end but not the whole game.

I love the words of  Walter Brueggemann in this regard.  He spoke to four key elements of prophetic ministry.  Read these words and hear them as spoken to you about your “ministry.”

  1. The task  of prophetic ministry is to evoke an alternative community that knows it is about different things in different ways.
  2. The practice of prophetic ministry is not some special things two days a week.  Rather it is done with, in, and under all the acts of ministry – as much in counseling as in preaching, as much in liturgy as in education.
  3. Prophetic ministry seeks to penetrate the numbness in order to face the body of death in which we are caught.
  4. Prophetic ministry seeks to penetrate the despair so that new new features can be believed in and embraced by us.

Ministry then is about a dismantling and an energizing, in grieving a loss as well as living in a hope.  It pierces numbness and despair, calling us to imagine a future of the Kingdom on earth and heaven and then forward that imagination into the very living of our lives.  Now there is a real call.  This is not about pressing ministry into set political agendas. Christ was way beyond that, preferring the “Third Way” to easy political divides.  It is about raising the bar.  About “More.”