October -- 2018
October is our month to concentrate on Stewardship. God’s autumn foliage comes out: the real fire-colored Aspen and Maple leaves and our decorative Michael’s crafts handmade styles. Jim Adams, on October 14, will give a spell-binder of a sermon on stewardship followed by a letter asking us to ponder on our gifts of time, talent and treasure to SCF in 2019. I want to add to the stewardship conversation by ruminating on stewardship of the body! Both Phil Northcote and Dave Rhodes sailed through a back and hip replacement surgery respectively, making surgery, in general, look easy and pain-free. I am sure their physical fitness added to their surgical success.
But, I am actually thinking about another way to talk about stewardship of the body. The Stephen Ministers have been reading Atul Gawande’s #1 New York Times bestseller, Being Mortal. It is a fascinating read and beautifully written. The NY Review of Books wrote, “Gawande has provided us with a moving and clear-eyed look at aging and death in our society, and at the harm, we do in turning it into a medical problem, rather than a human one.”
Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, offers eye-opening stories of patients and family members as they face death. A facile writer, a modest man despite his brilliance, Gawande presents the detrimental side of medicine when the ultimate goal is a good death instead of a “good-life – all the way to the very end.”
The Stephen Ministers will offer a book study on Being Mortal sometime in the near future, open to anyone interested in reading and discussing the book. Page after page kept my attention riveted and I was left with a desire for more. What caught my attention about stewardship of the body -among many teachings - was Gawande’s learnings from a Harvard philosopher, Josiah Royce, who wrote a book with the title The Philosophy of Loyalty in 1908.
I am going to excerpt from Gawande’s writings:
Royce wanted to understand why simply existing - why being merely housed and fed and safe and alive – seems empty and meaningless to us. What more is it that we need in order to feel that life is worthwhile? The answer, he believed, is that we all seek a cause beyond ourselves. This was, to him, an intrinsic human need. The cause could be large or small… The important thing was that in ascribing value to the cause and seeing it as worth making sacrifices for, we give our lives meaning.
Royce called this dedication to a cause beyond oneself loyalty…. The only way death is not meaningless is to see yourself as a part of something greater, i.e. a family, a community, a society. If you don’t, mortality is only a horror. But, if you do, it is not. Loyalty, said Royce, solves the paradox of our ordinary existence by showing us outside of ourselves, the cause which is to be served and, inside of ourselves, the will which delights to do this service, and which is not thwarted but enriched and expressed in such service.”
I was struck by the thoughts of Royce and how they parallel our understanding of servant ministry. I hope that SCF and its offerings of service invite you into a cause bigger than yourselves on the outside and harness your will on the inside to perform such service with energy and delight.