Archive for May, 2014 // All the posts in this month
At Hollywood Adventist Church, “Where God’s Spirit is given space to change lives,” we are committed to the ongoing work of making that space fully inclusive.
God’s love is broader and deeper than we can fathom. Fellowship and membership in His church should, likewise, be open and generous. The redemptive power of Christ’s love extends to everyone regardless of age, race, class, sexual or gender identity. All are welcome in our church.
We embrace the challenge of being a diverse community, which encourages dialogue and welcomes questions, as we continue to identify the ways God is at work in all of our lives. We believe this will ultimately enrich us and be a witness for and a foretaste of the kingdom God intends to establish in the earth made new.
INVITED TO KNOW,” By Scott Arany
Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”
After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”
Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” John 20:24–29.
Reading this passage in lectio divina this week, I saw an invitation here I’d never noticed before. I also saw a new, sympathetic side to Thomas. I could relate to him, and for once, not because of the legendary “doubting Thomas” reputation.
Somehow, Thomas missed out on meeting the resurrected Jesus with the other disciples. They had a powerful moment with Jesus, receiving a blessing from Him, their spirits filled with joy. But Thomas missed this. How would you feel if all of your closest friends had such an experience and you missed it? What if you were still grieving over something horrific only to not get the notice that joy was happening down the block?
I wonder why Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples. I think maybe he went off to mourn Christ’s death privately. At least, that’s what I would’ve done. Sometimes isolation is important. Sometimes I miss important things when isolated. It’s a mix of both. I also would likely feel isolated, awkward bereft and out-of-place in the next eight days I spent with my happy friends while still nursing such a painful hole in my heart. I’d probably grump defensively, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” a pointed snark to my friends that I didn’t get to see what they saw.
I picture Thomas in the house with the disciples a week later, door locked to the outside world, everyone else confident in knowing He’s alive… and Thomas just can’t get into it. He didn’t see Jesus. He missed the blessing. Jesus had a whole week to show up, and didn’t. Maybe Thomas is in the corner, feeling a deep sense of disconnect from the men and women he should feel years of tested connection for.
Then Jesus shows up and invites Thomas to know He is real. Thomas’s instant response is one of belief, not doubt: “My Lord and my God!”
“Do you believe because you see me?” says Jesus. “Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe.”
For the first time reading this story, I felt some comfort in those words. Instead of a chastisement, it’s almost as if Jesus stood up for Thomas in front of the disciples. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Yeah, you guys had it easy. You saw me. Thomas didn’t, but he still calls me Lord.” As always, Jesus stands up for the odd guy out. He invites us to know Him, to know His wounds and His reality.
Christ ascended to the Father, and today we are the Body of Christ. We have the wounds in our sides and hands. We are the ones who are filled with joy; we are the ones who missed the blessing. We are the ones losing connection with our tribes and families; we are the ones defended by God. Yet we can still know God—and each other—when we invite each other to know us, to know our wounds, our doubts… and our resurrections. Peace be with us.
By Rockne Dahl, Interim Pastor
“ I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:11–13.
Feeling contented (or satisfied) is a great problem in our day isn’t it? We are told to “love people and use things” but the stress to get ahead persuades many to “use people and love things” instead. Costs keep going up, rents keep going up and wages remain stagnant—if you can get a job and then dodge the waves of layoffs. Life is a rat race and the rats are winning! Who can rest contented or be satisfied with the way things are?
Paul says he learned how to be content in any and all circumstances. He was content even though he was chained to a Roman guard day and night in a cold, damp prison called the Mamertine, which was actually a huge water cistern. We would expect that being a prisoner with a serious threat of execution hanging over his head would have left Paul feeling the opposite of everything the word “contentment” might mean. And how could he possibly be content while cold, hungry, and without benefit of friend or companion? But, some how he had learned the secret of being content in all circumstances. Of course Paul knew that he could do anything through the One who gives us all strength.
In the most recent issue of Scientific American, I read a thrilling article entitled “Is Anybody in There?” The article, written by Adrian Owen who is a cognitive neuroscientist, details the latest successes in communicating with patients who appear to lack consciousness. In recent years improvements in trauma care, roadside care and intensive care has led to more people surviving serious brain damage, alive but with no evidence of preserved awareness. However, Owen and colleagues at Western University in Ontario have found a very difficult but revolutionary way to communicate with patients who are in deep levels of unconsciousness.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging which measures blood flow (and portable EEG units), researchers found that two tasks unconscious patients could perform mentally were playing a game of tennis or walking from room to room in their home. If an unconscious patient is instructed to imagine a game of tennis, brain activity shows up in the premotor cortex. If the patient imagines touring from room to room in their home, brain activity is activated in a deep brain region containing the parietal lobe and the parahippocampal gyrus. If the physician asks a question that the patient wants to give a “yes” to, the patient is asked to play a game of tennis in his imagination. If the researcher wishes to ask a patient a question and the patient wishes to respond with a “no” answer, the patient is instructed to imagine walking from room to room. Remarkably, the first time this technique was tried with a seemingly vegetative female patient, she responded perfectly. The researchers concluded that
although she was unable to respond physically to external inputs, she was in fact, conscious. Patients have been able to answer multiple questions about their lives.
Now for the amazing conclusion to this report: “A 2011 survey of 65 patients with locked-in syndrome—a condition in which consciousness is intact, but the body is paralyzed—suggests that people have a surprising capacity to adapt to extreme disability; most expressed satisfaction with the quality of their lives.” If patients who are completely paralyzed can find satisfaction with their lives, what about you and me?
I suggest that even patients who appear to be deeply unconscious can be aware that caregivers and family care about them and love them. The “unconscious” can hear us even when they cannot respond to our presence and words of love. Hugging the unconscious loved one is not a wasted effort. The conscious need to bask easy in the truth that other people care and love us. We need to know that our community of faith has our back just like Paul knew that the churches were praying for him. If somebody loves you, don’t sweat the small stuff. Even in the deepest darkness or life or consciousness, people can still feel the presence of God and his love.
And good memories help, too. The patients could recall playing tennis and walking around in their homes. Right now this moment may be anything but pleasant. But praise God Jesus gave his life for us. Recall the good old days when you were happy like the lambs out on the hillside. Those days will come again if you are conscious of God’s love, or, even if you are unconscious and only can feel a gentle presence.