Wondering Wednesdays – Las Vegas – a chaplain’s response

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I am posting this message from Lavender Kelley, the President of the American Pediatric Chaplains Network, as it offers far more eloquently that I can a perspective on the tragedy in Las Vegas:

We are pained by the tragedy in Las Vegas and send our prayers and healing intentions to all the victims, their families, first responders, and healthcare providers.

We are especially aware of the spiritual and emotional impact that such an event can have on the children in our lives—children of the victims of this terrible shooting, both directly and indirectly, as well as children that hear about these events in the media and wonder about how it affects themselves, their family and friends, the world around them and how it affects what they believe about the Holy and humanity. Truly, this incident is one that will have ripple effects far into the future. All of us will be touched in some way because of the insidiousness of gun violence and the way it breeds hopelessness. Unfortunately, we have witnessed this on a daily basis in too many places. Moreover, this tragedy comes at a time in our country when communication and support have grown increasingly difficult because of social and political polarization. Yet, it is in the midst of that pain and hopelessness that chaplains must bring light.

Our answer must be to hold on.

We must hold onto one another, hold onto hope, hold onto relationships, and hold onto love. We must make our arms wider and help others learn to hold on as well. Our faith practices and calling as a chaplain compel us to this. We must tend to one another so that we can return to our work full of vitality.

While I am not a chaplain, I resonate with this final paragraph, there are many other tragedies at the local personal or community level as well as more nationally and globally.  We need hope and we need to learn more about how we help each other hold on.

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Wondering Wednesdays – rainbow’s end

Rainbow’s End was the name of a house by a stream in Launceston. It captured my imagination as a name for a house. It was in an idyllic setting and I can see how someone who bought it may feel like they have found a pot of gold. Later that same day we saw this rainbow – and I got as close as I could without getting wet. I wonder sometimes if I need to take that extra step towards something or someone to embody the hope that a rainbow gives me. Some days I need a little of the abandon seen in the children playing so joyfully.

Friday photo – carrying on the story

Stones

I have written this yesterday believing that I will need more time to reflect on wherever we are this morning before commenting on that. This is a picture from Sunday where people were picking up the stones we had used throughout Lent and Easter and taking them out into the community. We built a cairn in lent adding one word a week on stones and in the Easter season we built a path from the Easter Garden with them. So messages of hope, compassion, trust, generosity, love, friendship have been taken by members of Hodge Hill Church into their communities. Whatever we are looking at this morning these messages will still be relevant.

Honest Christianity – how to respond to suffering?

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Many people have been interviewed about how they understand and are dealing with the recent terrorist attracts. Most have said pray, some said comfort and support those injured, bereaved individuals, their families or support staff involved.

I was asked today by a parent of a very poorly child if I believed in God and if so why did God allow this? I said I did believe in God, just like the many Christians who have come to the aid on bridges and concert venues. And as to why, I did not know but I was sure God loved their child and them, was broken hearted and wept with them at their bedside. I also said that I would not insult their pain by giving him a trite answer in the midst of such sadness, but that I grieve with others over broken bodies seeking to live a loving life in a broken world. Sadly, I expect that by this family, many others and our nation even more questions will be asked over the coming days.

Sometimes, like today, and the last few sad weeks, I hope less is more and this more is never less.

Honest Christianity – unexploded bomb

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This week here in Birmingham, during redevelopment an unexploded WWII bomb was found in Aston. Lives, homes and businesses were under threat, it was chaos, people moved out of their homes, roads closed, businesses made inaccessible while the bomb was made as safe as possible and a controlled explosion prepared for and carried out. We were only marginally inconvenienced, my journey,15 mins usually, was 2.5 hours on Tuesday morning.

It got me thinking and reflecting, what unexploded bombs do we have in our lives? Or even have we dropped into others lives? What harm and damage which has been done or said to us has or did lay dormant? Things just sit there and then suddenly something happens to bring it to the surface. Can we help people do a controlled explosion in pastoral or therapeutic care? What about the guy in the digger who first found it? How do you know when to stop digging?

Originally, the intentionality of the bomb was to harm and cause damage but then became indiscriminate as to where it actually was dropped. Systemic oppression still exists and can do physical and emotional harm. We may still be getting caught in the fallout – sometimes we are at the wrong place at the wrong time. There are individual, family, community, national, international, global bombs – there are bombs that will come back and impact us. we felt the blast a mile away .
Theologically, some things will not heal this side of eternity. Peter lived the rest of life knowing that he denied Jesus. The wounds of Jesus were still apparent in his risen body – wounds shouldn’t be vanished away. In our Christian hope – cross and crown are both significant.

Just because weapons of harm have been dormant for many years, does not mean they are not dangerous. Let’s be gracious with ourselves and others and be prepared for when the churning of life brings new things to the surface. They may need to explode, but let’s offer and help create a safe environment for them to be dealt with.

Honest Christianity – when lives don’t conveniently follow the church calendar

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Many years ago at Spring Harvest, the preacher, Tony Campolo, taught on the phrase that has become almost
Easter folk law, It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming. The sermon was full of hope in the light of current difficulties or circumstances. What do we do when we don’t experience resurrection?

Most of us are personally and or personally know people that are still living in crucifixion Friday rather than resurrection Sunday. Life for them is full of sadness and loss; grief in relationships, careers, health, church etc.
the promises of new life, is still that, a hopeful promise, even still a far off one. Even today as I was dressing to get ready to go and lead an Easter Sunday Morning service at the Children’s Hospital, I was called in before I had even got there to support a family with a very poorly child. It might be Sunday but it feels like Friday. Their hope of resurrection is a literal immediate one. “He is risen, indeed, hallelujah” is a muted chant alongside the cry of lament. It is a needed truth and promise but not our only song in a strange land.

Hope is still needed today as much as it was Friday or any other day. We need compassion and patience for those whose lives don’t follow the seasons of the church. It is many times multi reasoned and complex why life is so full of desolation. We live in the hope of resurrection for ours and others circumstances but in today’s celebrations, let’s be mindful, it may not be today.

Honesty Christianity – new hope of heaven

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At church today we sang a hymn called ‘New every morning’. It has the lines in it
New thoughts of God
New hopes of Heaven

It got me thinking, what hopes of Heaven do I have, how have these changed over the years and what new hopes of Heaven do I have as I get older and see more suffering? In my work at the hospital, a place where there is no more pain, is a hope I share on a regular basis with many bereaved families. Currently for me, being in a place of justice, equality and fairness seems to fill more of my desires. This is alongside a place where people are equipped and motivated to live selflessly. I am curious of our capacity for choice, incidentally, as well as what we will do all day!

As we shared last week from the Lord’s Prayer, another line is your kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. This captures the ‘now, not yet’ of our hopes. I wonder what new hopes I will have or need as my body wears out and more sadness fills our world? A bit more now Lord please.