FOOD FOR THE SOUL, MIND AND HEART The Blog of Ted Schroder Sun, 25 Jun 2017 04:38:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 AN EXAMPLE OF PASSIONATE WORSHIP Sat, 24 Jun 2017 17:22:18 +0000 Image result for us marines

My brother-in-law, Captain Bill Weimer, a retired Navy Chaplain who served with the Marines in Operation Desert Storm, sent me this inspirational video of U.S. Marines in worship. Worth sharing. Would that Sunday morning worship was as energetic!




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THE NEED FOR PASSIONATE PREACHING Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:30:01 +0000

While on vacation in London I visited the National Portrait Gallery. I was impressed by a series of cartoons of William E. Gladstone, British politician and Prime Minister during Queen Victoria’s reign. The cartoonist showed Gladstone giving speeches in the House of Commons He is portrayed as being very theatrical, arguing passionately for his legislation. Apparently he believed that he needed to be passionate in his communication as an actor needed to be in order to make his performance believable to his hearers.

The need for passion in communication was reinforced by attending several musicals: On the Town, Jane Eyre, The Braille Legacy and An American in Paris. The virtuosity of the actors and actresses was remarkable. They threw themselves into their parts in order to communicate their message. Nothing was held back. They were committed to persuading their audience of the reality and importance of their part. The energy involved was palpable.

I took away from all these impressions the need for Christian worship to be passionate if it is to convince people of the importance of what we are doing. In particular the preacher needs to be passionate in his communication of the Gospel if it means anything. We do not need to be ho hum and business as usual if we are to convince people of the Gospel. We should put all our energy into what we are doing and saying and singing if we are to be believable.

I saw another instance of this in the British election which was held while I was there. The Labor party leader is a Marxist but he managed to persuade a lot of people that his ideas were feasible through his passionate electioneering. In contrast the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, presented a cool and calm exterior arguing for a stable and strong government and did not attempt to counter her opponents’ attacks. She seemed above the fray and not persuasive. As a result she lost her majority in Parliament.

Marshall McLuhan, the renowned communications theorist, wrote about hot and cool communication. There are times for cool communication, but in the fray of today’s debates on the media, we have to be willing to exhibit some passionate conviction about the truth of the Gospel and our desperate need of the saving power of Christ. Am I passionate about what I believe enough to argue for the Gospel as Gladstone did for his causes? Do you think that your church needs to be more passionate?

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Pour out your Spirit on me Lord, so that I will see visions and dreams. Visions of heavenly realities beyond earthly appearances. Dreams of things as they are in your Presence and Power. Dimensions of life that give me a new perspective on the present. Awareness of your love and grace that shatters and defeats guilt and failure. Experience of your company of angels communicating your message of hope.

Pour out your Spirit on all my friends and loved ones that they will see beyond present anxieties, that they will rise above their challenges, and know your deep love and protection.

Pour out your Spirit on us all Lord, to heal wounds and open our eyes to your Goodness and Truth.

Pour out your Spirit to cleanse us and renew us in mind, heart and will.

Pour out your Spirit, Lord, to guide us into the future and eternity, to fulfill your plan, purpose and agenda in and through our lives.

Pour out your Spirit, Lord, so see the Father and the Son in glory welcoming us into Life in all its fullness. Amen.

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THE HOLY SPIRIT Mon, 05 Jun 2017 16:42:39 +0000

On the Holy Spirit, Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea 379 AD.

The titles given to the Holy Spirit most surely stir the soul of anyone who hears them, and make one realize that they speak of nothing less than the supreme Being. Is he not called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, the steadfast Spirit, the guiding Spirit? But his principal and most personal title is the Holy Spirit.

To the Spirit all creatures turn in their need for sanctification; all living things seek him according to their ability. His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.

The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but the Spirit gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of faith.

Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he remains unchanged; his self-giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for each alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give.

The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.

As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with anew radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit dwells, and who are enlightened by the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we are admitted to the company of angels, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God.


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JOHN STOTT REMEMBERED Sat, 03 Jun 2017 14:53:46 +0000

I would like to share with you an excellent article on my mentor and first boss, John Stott. He continues to inspire me in my ministry. Share this with your pastor and friends.




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A MODERN PROPHET Wed, 31 May 2017 18:38:47 +0000

Some years ago I became familiar with the 1980 Nobel prizewinning poet Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004). I began to collect his books of essays and poems. Recently I read his biography by Andrzej Franaszek edited and translated from the Polish by Aleksandra and Michael Parker.

Milosz lived through the tumults of the twentieth century in one of the most dangerous parts of Europe. He began his life during the First World War when his family were part of Czarist Russian Lithuania and retreated east to escape the German Army. Before World War Two he was educated in Catholic schools and graduated from university in 1934 with a law degree. He worked for Polish Radio and fled Warsaw for Rumania in 1939 when the Germans invaded. Working his way back to Warsaw he managed to survive in order to write despite the atrocities and dangers of the Warsaw Uprising and the Ghetto genocide. In 1945 he managed to obtain a position with the Polish Diplomatic Service and was posted to New York and then Washington as a cultural attache despite not being a Communist. In 1950 he was made First Secretary at the Polish Embassy in Paris and in 1951 sought political asylum. Many Polish emigres denounced him as a communist stooge and he had to prove his credentials through his writing. He published The Captive Mind which described the seduction of Stalinism for the intellectual class in Poland through a series of literary portraits. For the rest of the fifties he eked out a meagre existence through his writing for various publications and the BBC in Paris. In 1960 he moved to San Francisco to become Professor of Slavic Languages at the University of California at Berkeley. He experienced cultural shock and depression by his new environment far different from Europe. It was not until he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980 at age 69 that his work became universally recognized. Hitherto his writing in Polish was proscribed in Poland. He was able to return home to visit and was feted for expressing the angst of his generation and nation. In 2000 he moved to Krakow where he died and was buried in Skalka, a crypt belonging to the monastery of the Pauline Fathers in close proximity to many of Poland’s major artists.

In contrast to many intellectuals he was pessimistic in appraising life because he had experienced the power of Evil. He believed passionately in the Devil because he had seen his face in the Nazis and in the Soviets. He was discouraged by his students at Berkeley who were indifferent toward Christianity. In teaching Dostoevsky he came into serious conflict with them when he openly acknowledged the existence of good and evil, which they dismissed as reactionary. “They took it as given that human behavior was governed by certain social and psychological ‘determinants,’, that, in other words, all values were relative. Just so, Russian intellectuals of the last century shifted moral responsibility onto the ‘environment’: change the society and you change the man. And it was precisely this denial of individual responsibility that Dostoevsky took as depressing proof of Christianity’s decline among educated Russians.”

Milosz wrote about the meaning of history, the existence of evil and suffering, the transience of all life, the ascendance of a scientific worldview and the decline of the religious imagination. He denounced, not only the totalitarian ideologies of fascism and communism, but also Western liberalism because of its complacence and spiritual vacuity when confronted with totalitarian evil. He offered constant prayer to God because he realized that he was lost without Divine help. He was aware of his sinfulness and the fallenness of the world and maintained that the most important thing in life was Redemption. He discussed all these matters in a correspondence with Thomas Merton.

In his Nobel acceptance speech he offered a perspective on the twentieth century from one whose destiny was “to descend into the ‘heart of darkness’”, to experience life at first-hand under totalitarian movements whose victims ran into millions. When he gave a series of lectures at Harvard in 1981 he described how a writer’s survival depended on his or her ability to cope with “every kind of pessimism, sarcasm, bitterness, doubt for globally people were being continually confronted with a reductive, materialist interpretation of the world. What was necessary was a spiritual awakening and a radical turning-away from the world-view marked principally by biology.”

Since this Sunday is Pentecost celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit in power, here is his poem Veni Creator.

Come Holy Spirit,

bending or not bending the grasses,

appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,

at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow

covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.

I am only a man: I need visible signs.

I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.

Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church

lift its hands only once, just once, for me.

But I understand that signs must be human,

therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,

not me – after all I have some decency –

and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.


Also his poem Powers.

Though of weak faith, I believe in forces and powers

Who crowd every inch of the air.

They observe us – is it possible that no one sees us?

Just think: a cosmic spectacle and absolutely no one?

There is proof, my consciousness. It separates itself,

Soars above me, above other people, above earth,

Obviously kindred to those powers,

Able, as they are, to see with detachment,

Whether they help us, harm us, under what conditions,

Or whether they are allowed only to see, who knows.

They laugh or feel pity. In that they are quite human

But also superhuman, for neither a day nor a year

Nor a century will encompass them……


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THE ASCENSION Thu, 25 May 2017 14:25:53 +0000

The Ascension of Jesus – Rembrandt

Today is Ascension Day – forty days after the resurrection Jesus ascended to heaven to assume his place in the Godhead, interceding for us and taking our humanity with him (Acts 1:1-11). We are connected to him in the Body of Christ and therefore as the Head of the Body is in heaven, so are we, though not yet physically, but destined to be. He still is present with us on earth to suffer with us as he reminded Saul of Tarsus: “Why are you persecuting me?” His presence is all in all and fills the creation. He is nearer to us than our breath. In him we live and move and have our being.

This is a Coronation Day when Jesus was crowned head of all. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of his body the church, he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:17,18).

“The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty and is armed with strength.

The world is firmly established it cannot be moved.

Your throne was established long ago, you are from all eternity.”

(Psalm 47:1,2)

This calls for worship, thanksgiving and an awareness of our place in heaven. “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3,4). Therefore we live for eternity, our prospective destination and the fulfillment of all the promises of the Gospel.





  • Paul (65) To Live is Christ; To Die is Gain. He suffered numerous life-threatening situations. His focus on his work – to get it done before Christ returns – seems to have ironed out every possible hindrance, threat and obstacle. His own sufferings were considered a sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Dying was merely a transition in passing from one state to another. Nothing could separate him from God. His powerful calling transformed the probability of dying into an insignificant difference between living in this world or living in the next.
  • Ignatius (117): Near the Sword is Near to God. Bishop of Antioch in Syria. He was arrested, condemned to death and transported to Rome to face execution by exposure to wild animals. Ignatius embraced this fate as a martyr – a witness. To him, dying meant ‘achieving’ God. He would be with God, in God’s presence. Dying would make him a true disciple. He had already died through the passion of Jesus so that his death would be a birth. He took ownership of his dying and asked his fellow Christians to support him in his martyrdom and not attempt to release him from it.
  • Julian of Norwich (1416): Christ’s Courteous Love. She had visions of Jesus on the cross, in pain, bleeding, shriveling in death. This vision appeared to her in what she thought she would be, and desired to be, her own dying. Her visions constituted the substance of her understanding that Christ was present to those who are dying and that therefore dying was a transition through which Christ courteously and lovingly bore the faithful Christian.
  • Thomas a Kempis (1471): Blessed is the Man Who Contemplates Death. A Meditation Upon Death in his Imitation of Christ (book1, chapter 23). He addresses procrastination: putting off considering dying and what our preparation for it should be. It is best to contemplate our dying now, rather than put it off. Utilize what resources we have now in order to ensure our readiness when it does come. He reminds us of life’s uncertainties and the need to be prepared for the unexpected. Living a life of Christian integrity is the best preparation for whatever might come, including dying.
  • Miguel de Unamuno (1936): I Believe; Help my Unbelief. The Christ of Velasquez is a poem he wrote as a kind of commentary or devotional on the dying Christ. His hope was that Jesus’s dying might be a dying that promised life in the midst of death. The whole Christian narrative is found in the dying Christ. He reflects on the dying Jesus: the cross, the nails, Jesus’s forehead, eyes, cheeks, bones, arms, wounds, belly virility, feet – every detail of the crucifixion. The dying of the human Jesus, the nude God, the humanity of God, is our dying, which given meaning to The Tragic Sense of Life. If living is to have meaning, dying must be faced and conquered. If dying is to be conquered, our only alternative is to pin our hope on Jesus. For him everything hangs on the cross.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1945): Death – the Greatest of Feasts on the Journey to Freedom Eternal. “Where death is the last thing, earthly life is allor nothing. Boastful reliance on earthly eternities goes side by side with a frivolous playing with life.” When we see that Christ has broken the power of death, we can take of life what it offers and demand no eternities from it. When imprisoned for participation in the plot to assassinate Hitler he wrote that we feel that we really belong to death already. His last act was to kneel and pray under the hangman’s noose. However life was to be lived in the present. “What would I do if I knew that in four to six weeks it would be all over? I believe that I would try to teach theology again as before and to preach often.” His life was expressed in expressions of love and concern for others, unhindered by the imminence of dying. He accepted his dying, owned it, and served others in the love of Christ and with the certain hope of the resurrection. His last words were: “This is the end – for me the beginning of life……..”
  • Flannery O’Connor (1964): What Suits the Lord Suits Me. Diagnosed with lupus at 25 (she died when she was 39) that sapped her physical energies for fourteen years. She described her condition as ‘passive diminishment’ which referred to ‘those afflictions that you can’t get rid of and have to bear.’ She claimed that ‘sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think that those who don’t have it miss one of God’s mercies.’ She led a life severely limited to a few hours of vitality each day, all of which she filled with productive work. Her relationships were other-centered; her energies, directed at her work. All of this was done within the discipline of a conventional piety (daily Mass), which was not contorted by nor wasted on concern for her terminal condition.
  • Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (1996): A Priest First, a Patient Second. Suffered from pancreatic cancer. He added to his work a personal ministry to other cancer patients. By the time of his death the list of cancer victims for whom he was praying exceeded 700. In addition to the short book (Gift of Peace) chronicling the intimate and personal side of his illness, he took the unusual step of revealing publicly much of the details of his illness through press conferences. “My family are the people of Chicago and they have a right to know how I am doing.” He was able to look on death as a friend, not an enemy and he faced dying with peace and the conviction that he would be at home with God. His illness helped him to empty himself of himself, of his future, of everything that would keep him from serving Christ in the moment and from everything that would prevent him from accepting death.

Discussion Questions

  1. Which of the characters in this chapter can you most identify with? Why?
  2. Which of the Christian resources you know of seems to offer the best support for facing dying?
  3. Do you have a story of the dying of someone that you found inspiring you can share?
  4. What valuable insight have you learned from this class that you can take away?
PREACHING ON DEATH AND DYING – A 9/11 SERMON Wed, 17 May 2017 14:18:07 +0000 Image result for 9/11



Is death a subject appropriate for the pulpit? Should a sermon about death be preached when no one is dead, at Sunday worship? Conversations and sermons on important and critical subjects make us nervous. We need to address pain, suffering and loss in the light of the Gospel. How?

Assume familiarity with Death. Everyone has some acquaintance with death.

Assume Listeners Want to Hear about Death from the Church.

Think Through your own Theology of Death and Dying. Cf. Luke 20:27-40; 1 Thess.4:13-18; Luke 13:1-5; Heb.11:32-38. Sermons on these texts lay the groundwork for more substantive conversation when death enters the church. You do not have to argue theology at the time of death or bereavement.

Steep Your Words in Scripture. The Bible is the church’s book, and it is the preacher’s task to give the church its Bible as helpful as possible. Let each passage say what it wants to say. Hebrews 5:7,8; Philippians 2:17,18; Romans 16:10,11; 2 Cor. 4:16; John 11:21; 5:24; Luke 7:18-35; Acts 20:17-38. We are not called to explain what our forebears proclaimed but to proclaim what they proclaimed.

Enlist the Congregation. The minister does not work alone; the congregation rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep. Death and dying are social events, and isolation from the caring community of faith means isolation from one of the primary sources of healing, of comfort, and of dying well. Preventing such isolation requires initiative and sustained attention by the church; otherwise, the habit of the culture to hide away the ill and dying will take over. We are members of one another. The healthy condition for each person is to be a member of a community.

Lead in Lament. The congregation needs to lament. Revelation 18 is a lament. The psalmist led Israel in laments. The prophets gave voice to the people’s lamentation. Worship needs to provide an occasion for expressing anger toward God, questioning God’s goodness or power to help, expressing sorrow and regret, confessing sin and weakness, and renewing vows of love and commitment. Laments would be appropriate as such times as the congregation feels keenly disruptive, intrusive, and almost unbearable loss: q.v. THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS, September 16, 2001.


Ted Schroder, September 16, 2001

When seeking for guidance and comfort in the aftermath of the terrorists’ attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon I turned to the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents in Matthew 2:16-18.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

     “A voice is heard in Ramah,

     weeping and great mourning.

    Rachel weeping for her children

     And refusing to be comforted,

     Because they are no more.”

Evil is, by nature, destructive rather than creative. Herod represents terrorism. He slaughtered, not only innocent babies, but 300 court officials, his wife Mariamne, and her mother Alexandra, his eldest son Antipater, and two other sons, Alexander and Aristobulus. His slaughter of innocent life is a terrible illustration of what people will do to get rid of Jesus Christ. If a man, or his movement, is set on his own way at all costs, if he sees in the Christian way of life, with its inherent freedom, democracy and respect for life, as an obstacle to his perverted goals, then his one desire is to eliminate that way of life. He is driven to do the most terrible things to wreak destruction, and to break hearts.

     Matthew tells us that the slaughter of the innocents, was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah, which describes the flower of the population of Jerusalem, as they were being deported by the Babylonians. It must have seemed as if God had deserted his people. Jeremiah pictured Rachel, the wife of Jacob, bewailing the fate of these exiles, as they tramped past her tomb in Ramah, on their way to a strange land. The lamentation and mourning of Rachel has been the experience of all of us these past days, and especially those who have lost loved ones: children, parents, brothers and sisters, and friends. The mourning of the mothers of Bethlehem is the cry of the human heart in such a time of tragedy and loss. No one could watch the horror of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, without being struck to the depths of our soul with sorrow.

“A voice is heard in America,

weeping and great mourning,

America weeping for her children

and refusing to be comforted,

because they are no more.”

Just as there is a gaping hole in the skyline of New York City, and in the Pentagon, there is a gaping hole in our hearts which will never be filled in our lifetime. We need to take time to absorb the shock and to grieve for our losses before we can move on. Quick reassurances and pious phrases will be superficial and premature. We must mourn, for we have experienced a great loss of precious lives.

     The use of prophecy in the New Testament was meant to point us to the whole context in which they were used. Jeremiah, after this word from the Lord gave another word:

“Restrain your voice from weeping,

And your eyes from tears,

For your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord.

“They will return from the land of the enemy.

So there is hope for your future,” declares the Lord.

“Your children will return to their own land.” (Jeremiah 31:16,17)

Rachel, who has been called the mother of sorrows of the Old Testament, had died in giving birth to Benjamin but she had not suffered in vain, for the sufferings of her exiled descendants would not prove to be without purpose. In the sorrow of the Babylonian Exile a new life became possible for a disciplined and revivified Israel. Similarly, the sorrow of the bereaved mothers of the infants murdered by Herod was destined to result in great reward. Their children were the first casualties in the warfare that had to be waged between the powers of darkness and the powers of the light of the world.

This war has been waged since the beginning of time in the Garden in Eden, since the murder of Abel by Cain. Our present crisis is the legacy of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the subsequent Balkan rivalries that set off World War I, the rise of the totalitarian ideologies of communism and fascism, and the Holocaust of World War II, which led to the creation of the state of Israel. The Middle East is a cauldron of unrest, which threatens to explode at any time.

Jesus warns us that, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:6,7) Paul writes about “the lawless one”, or as some translate it, “the man of sin” or “the Anarchist” (2 Thessalonians 2), who is at work in the world. John writes about the “dragon” and the “beast” (Revelation 12,13). In every generation there is a manifestation of evil: a Hitler, a Stalin, a Herod. God has given us the responsibility to resist such people and to bring them to justice (Romans 13:4).

The historic Church saw the babies of Bethlehem as the first martyrs in the Christian era. December 28 is designated the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The prayer of the Book of Common Prayer that is used at services on that day sums up its significance:

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

As followers of Jesus Christ we seek to do God’s will in caring for the victims, their families and friends. Each day at the Chapel I have been lighting a candle and praying for the bereaved and injured. The Board has sent $5,000 to assist the Red Cross in their work in New York.

God of all comfort, who heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds: Mercifully look upon those who are at this time bereaved. Be near them in their sorrow, and let their sorrow draw them nearer to you. Let your strength sustain their weakness; your grace free their sorrow from bitterness; and your peace fill their minds with perfect trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen

We also need to pray for and support the President, members of his Cabinet, and the Congress, as they bring those responsible to justice.

Sovereign Lord, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President, members of the Cabinet, and Congress, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Finally, Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies.

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.    

Discussion Questions.

  1. Could funeral sermons be sufficient for preaching to address issues of dying? What are the pros and cons?
  2. Why do people prefer to call funerals Celebrations of Life and want eulogies that relate humorous stories about trivialities?
  3. What are the reasons why pastors do not preach on texts that portray dying, on the topic or theme of dying, or on subjects that relate to dying?
  4. What sermons would you like to hear on end-of-life issues? How would Jesus Christ be presented? What cultural conventions would be engaged or avoided?
  5. What sermon have you heard that helped you to deal with end-of-life issues?
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO IS DYING? Tue, 09 May 2017 20:18:38 +0000

This is the fourth in the series of summaries from SPEAKING OF DYING: RECOVERING THE CHURCH’S VOICE IN THE FACE OF DEATH, Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith, and Joy V. Goldsmith. This from the chapter: WHAT DO YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO IS DYING? 

  • Where and when do we in the church talk about dying?
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – a word of comfort for the dying. “Encourage one another with these words.”
  • Jesus is the Word – he communicated in words and these words were preserved in the New Testament which was distributed as Holy Writ. He sanctified words and gave them special meanings which were treasured by all who read them. His use of language differs from medical language, popular language, philosophical language, and psychological language.
  • How not to communicate with the dying: 1. Denial – Peter. 2. Failure to be present – Peter, James and John in Gethsemane. 3. Change the Subject – the mother of James and John. 

What the Dying Might Want to Say. The Seven Last Words of Christ:

  1. Lament (Matt.27:46): My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22. When we make so little room in liturgy for lament, then in their hurt and their anger and their sense of absurdity, sufferers think they sit alone in the congregation.
  2. Forgive (Luke 23:34): “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” The dying want to resolve outstanding grievances and heal broken relationships. The need for resolution of problems.
  3. Offer Hope (Luke 23:43): “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus continued his ministry in the midst of his own dying by promising hope to the repentant criminal.
  4. Express Physical Needs (John 19:28): “I am thirsty.” Jesus had physical needs and did not hesitate to express them.
  5. Address the Needs of Others (John 19:26,27): “Woman, here is your son…. Here is your mother.” Jesus takes care of business as a son and as a friend. Jesus never stopped thinking of others.
  6. Commit the Self to God (Luke 23.46): “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” His final thought is a final reconciliation that death is near and as a final decision to entrust himself and whatever awaits him to god the Father. This is the ultimate word of faith.
  7. Accept the End (John 19:30): “It is finished.” These are the words of human suffering and of the conclusion of a life’s work. This is a statement about completion, resolution and acceptance.

This is the real language of a real person experiencing real dying. He has things to say that are helpful. Can we, when we die, speak helpfully to others? If so, what could we say?

  • Christian Use of Language. We use the language of what God has done and how we have experienced it. It is the language of the concrete specifics of God’s grace. The dying Christian can better respond to the promise of God’s grace and the awe of God’s holiness than have nothing to say when identifying his understanding of God. Christian language is a confident one, even when speaking of dying. We may need terminology that expresses truths and realities that the language of our secular world, our medical establishment, or our cultural environment is unable to provide, simply because we are talking about things that God has revealed to us in Jesus Christ. What we believe is in many ways countercultural and different from modern American culture. Our language refers to the reality of all human experience.

Christians’ Powerful Vocabulary: Seven Examples

  1. Creation. We are creatures, made by God for a purpose as servants, conditional, transitory not in charge of anything.
  2. Eschatology. Meaning, purpose, goal and end.
  3. Forgiveness. One of the fundamental characteristics of God who reveals himself to us. It liberates us from getting even. In dying we deal with unsettled relationships and unresolved disputes.
  4. Grace. This can be a powerful gift that the dying can dispense. Grace is a resource for the dying because it is the infinite capacity of God to do the right thing for us.
  5. Sin. Missing the mark, failing at what God created us for – the human condition. Sin may capture the sense of exactly what it is that a dying person needs to get rid of. The pain and uncertainties present at the end of life need to be addressed.
  6. Gospel. Good news: Revelation 14:13 “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” They will rest from their labors, their work in done, and their deeds are neither forgotten nor lost.
  7. Resurrection. There is no innate immortality – only God is immortal. Only God can raise the dead and create a new life, a new heavens and a new earth and new bodies. There is victory over death in Christ.

These seven words affirm and clarify ways and content of Christian talk in end-of-life situations. 

Discussion Questions

  1. If you feel awkward conversing with someone you know to have a terminal illness, why do you think that you feel that way?
  2. If you were facing death from a terminal illness, how would you like others to treat you?
  3. If you knew you were soon to die what questions would you want to have answered? Are these questions that you would be afraid to ask? Who do you think could answer them for you?
  4. Which of the Seven Last Words of Christ are of most comfort to you?
  5. Many people who are dying retreat inwardly and stop communicating. This is difficult for those around them. How can you deal with this situation?