My life is saturated with compassion...

Doing ministry in a small community is fascinating. Yesterday, while prepping for my endoscopy to check on the condition of my esophagus, my doctor and I have a conversation about jazz and children.  He has children who are best friends with a member of my congregation AND he has stopped by to hear our jazz band play at a local club. On the way out he introduces me to a young woman who is an observing intern.  As I am being wheeled into the operating room, the attending nurse tells me I look familiar and has probably seen me on TV (probably.) And then after I'm in the operating room, the young woman intern steps up to my side as tells me she knows me, too.  She is the daughter-in-law of two members - and I've actually displayed her wild and powerful art work in the Sanctuary.

Another nurse at my side then says softly, "I'm going to start the anesthesia now" and for a split second my vision shifts as if the world just turned 45 degrees to the left... and I'm out. Next thing I recall I'm in the recovery room and see my wife coming in to greet me.  The doctor gives us his take on the procedure and tells us we'll get the biopsy results next week. The recovery room folk give me some ginger ale and cookies and then put me in a wheel chair so I can go home. 

The night before was Ash Wednesday - we held an citywide ecumenical worship time at 7 pm and a First Church midday Eucharist at 12:10 pm - and over and over people said to me, "You'll be in my prayers all day." I kept thinking about their loving words - and their prayers - as I slipped in and out of consciousness yesterday.  At one point in the afternoon I was watching Robert Altman's movie "Kansas City" - a film recommended to me by our Music Director for the contemporary jazz greats who play the role of jazz pioneers in the film - and I thought:  the world is filled with such cruelty (it is an accurate take on KC during the Pendergast years) and my life is saturated with compassion. 
So today, as I settle back into reality and start preparing for the work of the next few weeks, I am grateful for my blessings. Gertrud Mueller-Nelson writes of the spirituality of Lent in a way that makes sense to me today: "It is a very old tradition of God's to pick his inept, reluctant, non-eloquent types to carry the message of change and atonement. Worse yet, peddling penance is unpopular. It doesn't sell. That makes anyone trying to carry  this message home a candidate for painful ineptitude."

I mostly feel inadequate to the task of ministry. I am often overwhelmed by the pain of living and my inability to do much about it. And, at the same time, I experience grace upon grace in community - especially when I am at my most frail.  And so Lent truly begins...


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