Today was an awesome, inspirational, meaningful, satisfying and exhausting day of work! Even though it is my short day :)

This is a little something I wrote quickly on my phone micro journaling app and realized I might want to more publicly reflect on this (& similar) experience here in the future, so I am sharing it as a snapshot in time regarding my reactions to chaplaincy and how I am continuing to find meaning this year.

Fridays post Thursday night call are always challenging. This morning when unit rounds started it seemed it was going to be one of those mornings I would just need to get through while looking forward to my weekend off starting with leisurely work out time this afternoon before catching the bus home. Thankfully I was wrong.

The unit was busy & a bit chaotic this morning as there were up to 9 possible discharges, and 4 new admits to transition during morning rounds (knowing with more d/c than admits that Monday we’ll walk into a full unit likely with transfers in from all over the state). Add to that a few last minute staffing changes and I admit my own personality preferences for small groups & predictability was being challenged (INFJ for Meyers Briggs fans) … I had to decide how to deal with those challenges and make a difference rather than just put in my time.

I decided that as much as I appreciate learning from the medical team during walking rounds, and there is benefit to my own ministry in being present as part of the team, it wasn’t the most effective way I could spend the morning today. Since I had several patients I had worked intensely with for an extended period discharging, I decided to start there. In one case I managed to time in sync with rounds (meeting one on one before & after).

Then while charting and attempting to prioritize my next possible visits (including listening as teams went in & out from rounding, ran through partial lists, etc.) I was able to take advantage of being in the right place at the right time. Being there for an immediate referral may have made the difference between my having this opportunity or it being passed to the on call chaplain after I was gone for the day. That is speculation, but I am certain that being integrated into the unit and part of the team made a difference. Although I smiled wondering what was coming next when the Dr. turned toward me & said “we need God” I was also humbled in being able to respond as the needed presence at the time for this patient.

Although I have always felt very welcome as part of the acute psych team, any referrals have been a little less acute (at least from an outward perspective). Later both the Doctor and the lead nurse for the team specifically went out of their way to thank me. It was both interesting and profound to experience that gratitude outside of the context of a patient death (I am becoming used to how just my presence relieves anxiety in those situations).

Although I of course cannot share specifics the visit touched on something that I think will be a common theme / need in my chaplain/ministry work. (I may write about the issue in general in the future). And interestingly enough I was aware of a continue ing Ed presentation starting at noon today on a very related topic. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on my afternoon off … Until the end of this morning! Then it was perfect timing really.

Thankfully I still managed to fit in a quick 30 minute aerobic intense workout before rushing to catch the early bus home to my family.

I feel like on one side of this journey I have the blessing of my ministry time, those I minister to and with affirming my call and renewing my strength, and on the other side I have my beautiful and encouraging family always sending me off & welcoming me home with love & joy in all that I/we are. And through it all God’s loving presence to sustain me.

Sometimes it really is about showing up.

now hopefully I will be inspired to write more here

Justification and Justice

This assignment was the culmination of one of our Fall (1 seminary semester) classes. I did not edit it from the actual assignment I turned in.

Justification & Justice

Justification is what God does for us through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection. We can speak of what justification means to the world in multiple ways, including the common phrases of “forgiveness of sins” and “reconciliation of sinners to God” as well as creating a new reality where humanity is restored to right relationship with God and other humans. These descriptions of what happened on the cross are all part of restoring life in the midst of death and brokenness. This work of God, or justification, is God’s free gift to all humans. We call this universal free gift grace.

We are justified by grace alone through faith alone. Faith is our response to God’s grace, and how we individually participate in this universal grace. Faith, as trust in God’s promises of Jesus Christ, is also the link between justification and justice. Faith becomes active in love. When we act in love—based on that trust—we participate in God’s struggle to restore life. That is, our living out of our faith is our participation in justice.

Scripture proclaims the gift of grace and our faith response of love. Paul says in Romans 4.25 that Christ has been “handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.” Ephesians 2.8 proclaims “ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” And in Galatians 5.6b we hear “the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” In Micah 6:8 we also see God’s intention of humans living out justice in actions of love: “He has told you o mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? “

God’s word creates a new reality, and our faith gives us a vision of this new reality. When we act differently because of being freed by God’s love to truly love others, seeing them also as individuals Christ died for, we are living fully what God created us to be. Thus justification restored humanity to live in justice as we live lives in right relationship to God and others.

All Bible references are from New Revised Standard Version

Works Consulted
Closely read the following readings:
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. The Lutheran World Federation and The Roman Catholic Church. English-Language Edition. Grand Rapids: Wm. Eerdmans, 1999, pp. 5-47 (43 pages)

Altmann, W. Luther and Liberation, 13-55 (43 pages)

Braaten, C. E. Justification By Faith, 81-99 (19 pages)

Lull, T. ed. Luther, “The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhood” (1591), pp. 242-266; “Freedom of a Christian” (1529), 585-629 (45 pages)

Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue, Vol. VII, Justification By Faith, The Consensus Statement, 58-74 (17 pages)

Persaud, W. D., “The Article of Justification and the Theology of Liberation,” Currents, 1989, 361-371 (11 pages)

Also read/consulted these readings:
Luther’s Works, Vol. 27, Lectures on Galatians (1519), 381-394 (14 pages)

Luther’s Works, Vol. 31, “Two Kinds of Righteousness,” 293-306, in Lull, T. ed. Luther, 149-165 (17 pages)

DMFE Paper Response 3: Diaconal Ministry in Relation to Theology of the Trinity and the Incarnation

How does diaconal ministry relate to such important theological concepts as the Trinity and the Incarnation?

The Trinity as we express confessionally as God the Father, the Son incarnate in Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are the very foundation of any ministry, and I think especially of diaconal ministry. We are called to the boundaries of church and the world, and to minister with our perspective always on that boundary and those living on the edges or marginalized in our world. This call means that we minister neither fully within the church nor fully outside of the church. These are the same places we continually find God.

We don’t create the communities within we minister, rather God creates the community, and our call is to nurture and give expression to that community, and to extend community into the world. Yet, the world’s needs, those needs we find throughout our community of context, are not our prime motivation for ministry. Rather diaconal ministry addresses the hurts and needs of a broken world through the divine love manifested on the cross. As Diaconal Ministers we must discern, integrate and articulate how, within a particular context, our call embodies the cross of Christ. Diaconal ministry as an embodied reality of the cross of Christ must also remember that the Cross of Christ is about Christ’s whole life brought to the cross, and not only what happened on the cross. The particular life that Jesus lived is important and it can be dangerous to assume that others are remembering this life of Jesus that brought him to the cross. We need to tell the stories of Jesus, and not only the abstract theology. These stories of Jesus include Jesus going out into the community, and can be of particular use within our diaconal ministry contexts.

I also think it is very important to remember that Diaconal Ministry is a call to ministry of word and service (not just to service). A ministry of the word includes a ministry of Jesus Christ incarnate; John 1. 14 says “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (NRSV) As ministers we must be prepared to share the Word of God as we find it expressed in and by Jesus Christ incarnate, the Word of God as proclamation of God’s message to us (the living word), and the written Word of God as found in holy scripture.

Looking at the Pauline Epistles the foundation for Diaconal Ministry are found not in Paul’s linguistics, but in Paul’s Pneumatology. The Holy Spirit is at work in all Christians, and is at work in each person, including diaconal ministers, the same way the Holy Spirit worked through the Apostle Paul (and other scripture writers). This also means that there is no hierarchy in who is doing the work of the Spirit. Having no hierarchy between rosters holds us accountable for our ministry.

The pattern for ministry is found in Paul’s Christology. Looking at what Jesus had done forms and shapes our ministry. As we intentionally engage in cruciform leadership we remember that above all Christ acted in faithful obedience to accomplish righteousness (right relationships), redemption (liberation), and reconciliation (end of enmity). We are ministers of God’s reconciliation. This cruciform leadership must always be formed by the cross and in the form of the cross.

The Holy Spirit gives us gifts, grace gifts, for ministry in order to empower us to bring the reality of the Body of Christ into the world. Romans 12.6 tells us “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith.” While the Holy Spirit, in helping us discern our gifts, can harness our human talents as gifts these are not synonymous. Rather our gifts for ministry are given to us (we do not create them) to build the body of Christ and take Christ out into the dark and messy world. As diaconal ministers we embrace that role and acknowledge that our call to word and service is going to be more intentionally messy.

I am reminded that these gifts of grace are not given for our sake, but to help the body of Christ function. Also that justification by grace includes the gifts of the spirit for ministry, and that faith is that which the Holy Spirit produces through Christ crucified. It is through the cross of Christ that we are transferred from sin’s dominion to Christ’s dominion, and that my cruciform leadership began at my baptism. Through this message of Christ crucified the Spirit forms faith in us. I am reconciled to God and others in order to be given a ministry of reconciliation. I am no longer in charge of my life; Christ is in charge.

In addition to being gifted by the spirit we are fruited by the spirit:

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5.22-26 (NRSV)

While the gifts of the spirit are intended for this age only in order to build up the body of Christ and its mission, the fruit of the spirit is eternal and meant for both this age and the next. Every Christian receives this fruit of the spirit as it is holistic and inclusively worked by the spirit in each Christian.

Remembering that I am ministering as part of the larger body of Christ and being led by the Spirit makes me bold as I minister on the edges of community and church and address the needs of the broken and hurting world. It especially makes me bold when I think of my ministry to those carrying grief and broken with the weight of loss in this world. There is not a cure in this world, and yet there is healing.

**Disclaimer? — please remember that I am sharing these as first response answers to questions to my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event and not as polished, researched essays. Although I welcome responses, please do keep this in mind when you respond (as well as the fact that my current schedule limits how often I can reply to comments) **

Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality / Spiritual Practices (and some reflection on a semester looking at Spiritual Practices)

It’s the last week of the Fall semester here at Wartburg Seminary. I likely won’t be able to really reflect on the entire semester until the space of Christmas is between me and my last paper (likely to be finished Friday morning), but I am starting to feel a shift in things as the my first semester ends. I’m connecting lots of dots so to speak, and things are really coming together as many of the classes wrap up.

The last Spiritual Practices lecture was held this past Tuesday (small group finishes tomorrow, Thursday), and we ended as we began with a panel of Professors sharing their thoughts on Spirituality and Spiritual Practices. The intended focus was around the question — Is There a Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality? I am not sure we really answered that question, but the comments were interesting and thought provoking.

The connections for me can be summarized in Spiritual Practices being grounded in the Word of God, and that for Lutherans, Spiritual Practices will look like Jesus Christ. And, I think related to that, Lutheran Spiritual Practices are grace-filled practices (centered on life in Jesus Christ and bringing gratitude) that lead us to our neighbor, and these practices remain a struggle due to the reality of sin (so we shouldn’t expect perfection).

That little summary is really a lot.

During the semester we went through many traditional and untraditional Spiritual Practices (from lectio divina to fasting to deep listening in lecture … to labyrinth “walking” (or tracing) to praying the daily examen to play/laughter/fun as a Spiritual Practice in small groups… and many more introduced in our readings). Although I didn’t enjoy all of the Spiritual Practices we tried, I have enjoyed learning about them.

However, now that can “test” any spiritual practice for myself personally as to if it “looks” like Jesus Christ, it makes it much easier to know if it’s a practice I should spend my time practicing. Does it draw me to my neighbor and make me a gracious presence when with my neighbor (neighbor meaning all others in this context just as it does in the gospels)? Does the practice add to, facilitate or otherwise bring me towards a thankful heart? Do I recognize my own struggle within that practice? Is the practice truly grounded in God’s Word? Is it something that is, for me, truly woven into these distinctive characteristics or can I walk through it on a human level only? — if so, it’s not a true spiritual practice (for me; it might be for another).

Now I have to decide what I am going to do with this information. (Much of which I think I knew on some level before, but now can articulate at least a little bit.) I have struggled this semester with continuing a healthy personal spiritual practice. This is true in part because of having to re-learn my habits, rituals, and how I meditate and pray within my current space and time. But, I think I have also struggled because we have actively been trying so many specific Spiritual Practices, and I genuinely consider each one as something to possibly do.

Now it’s time to step back and appreciate most from a distance while actively doing those that will most allow me to participate in meaningful and tangible ways with Christ.

I cannot just immediately tell you what those will be, but I think it will be some type of centered prayer or possibly a combination of simple centered prayer and a return to the daily examen, and a near daily participation in some type of family Spiritual Practice. Ideally Shawn and I would return to a daily time of prayer and meditation on the Word as well as beginning some type of hands-on Spiritual Practices (or maybe trying a new practice each month until we have enough to just rotate through them with her — fun ones, like praying in color and praying the catechism with prayer beads are where I will begin).

What Spiritual Practices do practice regularly or appreciate?

Does your faith have a distinctive spirituality? If so (or not), please share.

(And if you read my list at all closely, you’ll realize that the actual practices we learned about or participated in are anything but distinctive to the Lutheran faith. 🙂