Thursday, March 26, 2009


When Tom and I were sitting at LAX some 30 years ago with 18-month-old Joshua, passports and tickets to Thailand in hand, two trunks of books and clothes already on the plane, we knew things would be different very soon. While we knew this was what we were being called to do and had been prepared for, we couldn’t know how this step would impact every day of our lives thereafter.

This Sunday’s readings seem to explode with anticipation. After all, next Sunday is Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week. We can feel this building “The days are coming….” Jeremiah says… The new covenant will be written “…upon their hearts;” and we pray with the Psalmist to prepare our hearts for this day ‘Create a clean heart in me O God’.

Jesus is anticipating what is the culmination of His mission.

"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…
"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name." …
…Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself."

Today, when mission doctors and their families sit at the airport ready to board the plane to begin an assignment at a mission hospital or clinic, they may be anticipating the experience, being both excited about the possibilities and anxious about the upcoming challenges. They take this step into the unknown with the surety that they are called to do so because of their faith in the One who has been lifted up.

This week we are called to go deeper – continue our efforts as we prepare to renew our Baptism on Holy Saturday – Prayer, Sacrifice and Good Works - what will we do to discern what we are being called to? How can we be obedient to that call?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?

In 1970 Joni Mitchell first recorded Big Yellow Taxi, which mourned the loss of “Paradise” on a visit to Hawaii as she looked out a hotel window on a huge parking lot.

It seems to be human nature to take for granted what we have. Those who have chosen to “give up” something for Lent may be reminded in simple ways at a party when chocolate cake is served. Lay missionaries may believe they are prepared for water and electricity outages, delays in ability to correspond with friends and family, yet only realize how challenging this is when they actually miss these conveniences. Mission Doctors frustration for lack of supplies or equipment, diagnostic tools, often becomes the most challenging reality of practicing medicine in resource poor settings. Items taken for granted in their practice at home now lacking may be keenly missed.

The readings for the fourth Sunday of Lent begin with the story of God’s chosen people who had come to take for granted their unique relationship with the Lord. “…they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets” They only knew what they really had when the didn’t have it anymore, to paraphrase Joni Mitchell. 70 years of exile in Babylon they mourned the loss of the temple, they mourned the loss of that special relationship with God. We pray with the Psalmist now reminded of this loss “Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!”

Perhaps the most well know words of the entire Gospel are John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” These words form the fundamental truth of Christian faith. Do we take our faith for granted? On this Lenten journey that began on Ash Wednesday we were given the steps we are to take as we move forward to renew our Baptism on Holy Saturday.

We continue to be called to Prayer, Sacrifice, Good Works. Can you imagine your life without faith? Perhaps recognizing just how dark our lives would be without faith, we can avoid taking this gift, this light, for granted and take the steps to deepen our relationship with God on our Lenten journey.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What are the rules?

For some, knowing the rules is all that is needed to know what is expected of them. For others rules are only a suggestion, and one person's rule is another's mere recommendation.

This can be one of the areas where cultures can clash. Punctuality for most of those of us in the west is considered a paramount rule. In many places where our doctors serve, a meeting may not begin on time, frustrating only the westerner. We may greet each other in the US with a brief "How are you?" never expecting a real answer. However when walking down a road in Africa, such greetings are expected to be genuine and may take some time as people exchange information about the wellbeing of family and friends.

We are walking down a road together now. We need to take time on this Lenten journey, working to renew our Baptism, since this road isn't just leading us to Holy Week and Easter. Ultimately this journey with prayer, sacrifice and good works leads beyond this life, like John's response which we pray together in answer to the Psalm "Lord, you have the words of everlasting life".

The Readings from the First, Second and now the Third Sunday of Lent build on the covenants between God and man; first with Noah, then Abraham and this week with Moses and God's chosen people. In the Gospel Jesus challenges us to recognize that the Commandments are so much more than a short list of rules; 'do's and don'ts'. They show us the relationship we are called to have with God and how we should express this relationship in love and justice for all our sisters and brothers throughout the world. Jesus shows both His human nature and points to His divine nature promising that he will raise 'this temple' in three days.

On this journey how do the 'rules' help us with prayer, sacrifice and good works?
How are we looking beyond Easter to everlasting life?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Keeping Things in Context…

When doctors and their families make a commitment to serve for three years this calling, taken out of context seems absurd. Why would a doctor leave their practice in the United States to serve in the missions receiving a stipend of $150 a month? Why would anyone leave their friends and families to serve those in need half a world away?

The readings for the second Sunday of Advent, taken on their own, may be confusing at the least, but we are reassured by Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

As we continue to make this Lenten journey, of prayer, sacrifice and striving to do good works to renew our own baptism, we read of Abraham being put to the test, and Jesus transfigured with Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets.

Taken on its own, Abraham is being asked to sacrifice his only beloved son, to us an obvious foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Taken in context, Abraham is willing to do so because he deeply believes in the promise God had already made, and he believes that if he carries out what is asked, God will raise Isaac from the dead to deliver on that promise.

Jesus appears transfigured with Moses and Elijah. On its own we can completely understand Peter’s reaction – "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents...” In the context of the Resurrection we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Law and the teachings of the Prophets, his transfiguration a foreshadowing of the Resurrection, with the exhortation from the Father, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."

Mission Doctors and their families serve in the context of their faith. Called to live our Baptism, we too, with prayer, sacrifice and good works, believe in the Promise and know “If God is for us, who can be against us?”