On The Death of My Father

RRDLast evening, my father, died a good and peaceful death.  Dad had been suffering from severe respiratory distress and other complications due to the acute myelogenous leukemia that was slowly but firmly diminishing his physical strength.  He courageously made the decision to stop medical care and begin palliative care at the hospice center located at the Mayflower in Winter Park, Florida.  We moved him into hospice just last Wednesday.

In spite of the aching sadness of reaching the finality of his death, the days I spent with him last week were among the greatest gifts a son could receive from his father.  I have always believed that it is the dying who are the true bearers of wisdom to the living and Dad certainly met that conviction over this past year and in his final days.  Rob and I were able to have wonderful conversations about the journey of faith with Dad as he continued to open up for us the power of John’s Gospel quoting by memory numerous passages and explaining the significance of the words “eternal life.”  I’ve written about an earlier conversation I had with Dad about John’s Gospel here.  He has given me much to think about (and more than likely, preach about) in the days and months to come.

The other night, as Rob and I were praying the office of Compline with Dad, he paused at the Song of Simeon,

“Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised; for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior whom you have prepared for all the world to see.”

He told us that this Benedictine office hymn from Luke’s Gospel, was meant to help the monks (and now the faithful) keep death always before them (memento mori ) and to give thanks for the wholeness God has granted them to know in their own lives by placing their trust in Jesus Christ.   In this hymn, Simeon reflects over the course of his human journey, and in his meeting with the child Jesus, he knows he has encountered everything that matters.  As he holds Jesus in his arms, Simeon is ready to die–ready to leave this human journey in promised peace.  Clearly, Dad found eloquence in that hymn as he anticipated his own departing.

In Jesus Christ, we have encountered all that matters. That is not something I believe.  It is what I know.  I know it because the transforming life and vision of Jesus were visible in my Dad’s life–through his joys and in his sorrows, through his gifts and in his disappointments, through the thousands of lives he touched in the course of his priestly ministry, and in his gentle care and compassion for his wife and two sons.  My father gave me so much in this life but the greatest treasure is surely the gift of his enduring faith.

The office of Compline now takes on fresh relevance and comfort for me.  I will forever hear the echo of Dad’s voice the last time we prayed these words together:

“The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end.”

Dad, God answered your prayer.  I will love you always.


Sarah Coakley: Living prayer and leadership

ChapelThe professor of theology at Cambridge University says silent attention to God is the anchor of leadership.

Q: How would you tell institutional leaders who want to be guided by their faith that they ought to think differently about power?

The presumption about power in the world is that there are two alternatives: either top-down authority, or powerlessness in which we are pushed to the edges. But some of the best social science work on power, such as that of the late Michel Foucault, shows that is not actually how institutions work. There are always circuits of power even among people who feel themselves to be powerless institutionally. Their effect on people around them is still enormously significant.

Much of my work has been about the power that comes through transparency to the divine. Often even ministers don’t think enough about how Christian life is magnetized and electrified by being lived prayerfully. When you meet a priest or a minister who is living prayer, you never forget that person. That person may be bumblingly inefficient on the budget, useless about remembering to come to appointments, all other kinds of things that they’re meant to do right, and yet have the most fantastic impact on people’s lives.

Read the full article here.

First Thoughts

“For Christians, the beginning of the day should not be burdened and
haunted by the various kinds of concerns that they face during the
day. The Lord stands above the new day, for God has made it. All
restlessness, all impurity, all worry and anxiety flee before him.
Therefore, in the early morning hours of the day, may our many
thoughts and our many idle words be silent and may the first word and
the first thought belong to the One to whom our whole life belongs.”

Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Summary of 76th General Convention

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention office has produced a 25-page summary of actions of the 76th General Convention available as a downloadable, searchable PDF.

From Episcopal Life Online-

The 76th General Convention, meeting in Anaheim, California, July 8-17, acted on or referred every one of the 419 resolutions it considered. Below is an unofficial, unaudited, abbreviated summary of some of the resolutions passed by both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. ENS staff culled it from the General Convention Office’s searchable legislative tracking website.

Meanwhile, the church’s General Convention office has produced a 25-page summary of convention actions available here. It includes a list of resolutions sorted by their final status; a list of resolutions that deal with the church’s constitution, canons and the convention’s rules of order; and lists of resolutions referred to dioceses, committees, commission, agencies and boards or church center staff; as well as a list of the appointments and elections made during convention.

Archbishop of Canterbury: Hell is being alone for ever

When asked if hell exists and what it is like, he said: “My concept of hell, I suppose, is being stuck with myself for ever and with no way out. Whether anybody ever gets to that point I have no idea. But that it’s possible to be stuck with my selfish little ego for all eternity, that’s what I would regard as hell.”  When told that this does not look sound like the Biblical image of the damned being tortured in lakes of fire beneath the earth, Dr Williams replied that being alone for ever “is torment enough if you think about it”.

Read the full article here.