Whether or not I like it, my cardiac situation is a big part of my life these days, and a filter through which I’m processing life. What I say here is about both the Emergency Room near where I live and the Cardiac Intensive Care to which I was transferred.
In the Gospel Story for this coming Sunday, Feast of Christ the King, Jesus says what I did or did not do to my brothers and sister I did or did not do to him. I was living it this past week on the receiving end. It was the kind of thing that leads one to do a lot of thinking and reprioritizing of life. For 5 days I was surrounded by wonderful folks, whom I did not know and who did not know me, taking care of me. For an independent guy like me this sort of thing is a shock. I doubt whether any of these folks had religious thoughts while they were doing all this, but it was clear to me that the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, was happening. It is difficult to talk about any of these folks in anything but superlatives. In the quiet times, we had some nice chats. They all talked about their desire to make things better for others. In the operating suites the teams, went about their work with lighthearted bantering, which often included me, and we had some fun, until the procedures started, then it was all business. Afterwards, the banter started anew. These were wonderful experiences.
Jesus sent his followers out in groups because the Kingdom happens in groups. In cardiac ICU group the kingdom was happening, and without any religious connection or terminology. Maybe there’s a lesson here. They welcomed every one who came to them, and some of us this past week were on the cantankerous side. I hope I wasn’t one of them. Their welcoming excluded no one who came to them. They had no pre-conditions or requirements for their ICU care. They were just magnificently ordinary good folks. The Gospel, the Kingdom, was happening there, and I was a beneficiary. None of these groups had admission requirements, other than the admin matters which were not their concern. Religions, however, have their admission requirements, many of which demand that the person make some sort of changes to fit in with a given religion’s expectations, which differ among religions. Jesus had no admission requirements. What gives? How many ways am I/we telling Jesus I/we don’t accept him? Am I in any way telling any person that I don’t accept them? Am I doing the same things that I accuse others of doing? Do I honestly believe I can tell anybody that how they see themselves is wrong, and I will not accept them until/unless they change to be the person I expect them to be because I know “God’s will” for them better than they do? I saw nothing even close to that this past week. I’m aiming at what I saw last week as my goal, and I’m not that interested in what I’ve seen otherwise recently. I can sympathize with folks who just walk away. Many religions just don’t reflect life as real people live it. I’ve expected others to live the Gospel but I haven’t done it myself. A long time ago at Ft Benning, I learned from Black Hats, LBE – Lead by Example, “Do As I Do”. I also learned, “take care of your people and the mission will happen”. I certainly saw this last week, and experienced it as a beneficiary. Maybe the mission is happening here. In last Sunday’s Gospel Story the master gives his servants money to use as they see fit, and goes away. Each invests them in different ways. In the light of last week’s events, the wonderful folks who were taking care of me were the ones who invested their talents and made significant gains. While I talk about doing good, they live doing good. My ideas of doing good involved obeying the rules and trying to please (my idea of) God who was watching me. Their ideas of doing good were about helping people at very difficult times of their lives. They loved what they did in their lives, but I was not sure how I felt about mine. It’s taken a long time for me to get to where I am now in life, which I am happy and content with, and I would not be where I am without my past iodiocies, for which I’m thankful, kinda.
My current cardiac situation began last May while I was with friends in Florida. These past 7 months have been a real journey. Even while it was happening I had a sense of God being present in it all. A great gift to me in it has been that I met so many wonderful folks whom I would not have met if the situation had not happened. I was physically dependent on many of them, welcomed by all. I’m coming to know that God really is a verb, that God is always “Godding”, with the whole cosmos, and with each of us. God is Godding us often through each other, and Godding others through each of us. This certainly has happened to me in this whole thing. It is not so much about pleasing God, but more about “reflecting God”.
The Gospel is about people living with people, not just ideas or rules. Francis says “Facts are more important than ideas”. It is not rules and sanctions, as important as they might be, but a call to us to grow into the fulness for which we are being created. Rules are important but not ends in themselves. They are an encouraging call for each of us to grow to the fulness of who we really are, and we learn to go beyond them to where they point. Those of us who would “preach” the Gospel need to be aware of the culture of the folks we are “preaching” to. The Gospel is not abstract, but intimately practical to our life as we really live it. We cannot stay in our ivory towers and speak apodictally. We have to live and walk among people, not with the answers, but with listening, wondering, learning, open to surprise. Just sayin . . .