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Vol. 79 - No. 5
May 2008

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             


Iíve Got Rhythm, Iíve Got Music...

Our blessed Creator is a musician, with a fine sense of rhythm. Indeed, He has built many rhythms into His universe. The daily rotation of our planet...the yearly orbit of this rhythmic sphere around the sun...the moonís cycle of waxing and waning...the procession of spring and summer and fall and winter...all around us, God has created rhythms.

Then thereís the rhythm in your bodyĖthe beat of your heart. Strong and regular, a solid bass line to the song that is your life.

The beauty and regularity of this world has, however, been disturbed by the sin of Adam and EveĖand so rhythms sometimes get out of sync. That happened to me a few days ago. My heartbeat was jagged and nervous, like a bebop trumpet solo, a long note followed by a cascade of short notes. That "crazy rhythm" landed me in the hospital, where it took several medications and several days to bring things back to normal. But God is goodĖmy recent EKGís have been rhythmic masterpieces. So Iím fineĖstill medicated, but fine.

A hospitalization, however, is a very instructive thingĖit can draw you closer to God. An irony thereĖthe heartbeat went out of rhythm so that I could become more in sync with the Lord.

Hereís a few things I learned in my recent hospitalization that Iíd like to pass along:

The desire for home. In my hospital ward, everyoneís mind was on going home. "Do you think youíre going home today?" "I wonder when Iíll go home?" Getting out was our greatest desire. I missed my family, my chihuahuas, my cat, my church, my stereo, my computer...everything that goes into the package labeled "home". And finally the joyful day came when I could go home!

Ironically, the Sunday gospel lesson during my hospitalization was from John 14: "In my Fatherís house there are many mansions...I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am, you also might be." At first, I found that a little eerieĖhere I am in the hospital, and here Jesus is talking about death! But then I realized: If going home from the hospital is such a joy, then how much more joyful it will be to go to our true home, the home that Jesus prepares for us in the Fatherís house. None of us is eager to die...but we know that beyond death there lies a home beautiful beyond imagining. And deep in our hearts, we long for that home.

Every day a gift. This is an impossibly banal clicheĖand yet itís absolutely true. When you have a brush with what one pamphlet called a "potentially life-threatening arrhythmia", it underscores that every day we have in this life is a gift. If we embrace and internalize that idea, we will appreciate the people around us, and the blessings in our lives, with an even deeper gratitude. We will not be as annoyed by minor inconveniences... we will not let the flaws of life ruin our appreciation for the beauty of life.

This happened to me: a few days after getting out of the hospital, I was rummaging through some old long-playing records. Over the years, Iíve replaced a lot of my LPs with compact discs. Somewhere along the way, I bought into the idea that the scratches, the surface noise, the hiss and pre-echo of a record are bad things, that desperately need to be replaced with the antiseptic silence of CDs. But as I looked at the old LPs, it dawned on me: why do I feel the need to replace these things? Whatís wrong with surface noise? I grew up with surface noise! It doesnít mar the beauty of the music. The music still comes through. In that moment, sitting there with those LPs on my lap, I embraced surface noise!

Thereís parable there. Life is full of surface noise. Annoyances, irritations, challenges. Life is a lot more like a scuffed-up LP than it is like an antiseptic CD. But the surface noise doesnít destroy the music. The musicís there. And the challenges of life donít overcome the beauty of Godís presence and Godís love in our lives.

If we see every day as a gift from God, maybe lifeís surface noise wonít bother us as much. The music of Godís love in the crucified and risen Jesus will still come through.

Medicine that kills and cures. One of my medications is warfarin, designed to keep the blood from forming clots. This medication, also known as coumadin, is as old as I am--President Eisenhower took it after his heart attack the year that I was born. The irony about warfarin is that it was originally used as rat poison. Only after several decades of killing rats was it promoted to the nobler mission of saving people from blood clots.

I was amused at being put on rat poison. Every week, I confess in the liturgy things like: "I, a poor miserable sinner...I am by nature sinful and unclean..." Since every week I acknowledge before God that I am something of a dirty rat, it seemed oddly appropriate that the hospital fed me rat poison! But perhaps thereís a deeper lesson here. Something that kills and cures...isnít the grace of God like that? The grace of the crucified and risen Christ kills the sinful me, kills the wicked me, kills the dirty rat inside me. As we say in Lutherís catechism, the old me is "drowned" by God in the waters of baptism. And Godís grace also healsĖmakes us new, makes us holy temples of Godís Spirit. So the healing rat poison that Iím taking reminds me of what God is doing in our lives spirituallyĖkilling the guilt of sin, and making us new and whole.

These are some of the things I learned from being in the hospital. AgainĖmy heart went out of rhythm, but I do feel that it put me more in sync with the Lord.

God loves you and so do I!

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