Chaplain’s Corner: XLVV

“Pride”

One of my Professors at Princeton Seminary was Dr. Howard Lindquist who at one time was Pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church. At one point in his ministry he visited the home of one of his parishioners. The older woman asked him, “Has anyone ever told you how wonderful you are?” Dr. Lindquist smiled and answered, “Why no!” “Where then did you ever get that idea,” said the woman.
Ouch!

During the time I knew Dr. Lindquist, he was continually processing that comment.
From time to time, people debate which sin is the worst. For British theologian C.S. Lewis there is no question. “The essential vice, the utmost evil is pride. Pride is the devil becomes the devil. Pride is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

It can safely be said that pride is the cause of division and disruption of our relationships with God and other people. It’s fun to spot this character flaw in others until the disturbing realization dawns on us that pride is a flaw for us as well.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector becomes center stage for how Jesus teaches the disciples about the sin of Pride. Pharisees saw themselves as superior to other people because they fasted and fulfilled all the finer points of the Jewish law. They saw the tax collector as sinful but the tax collector saw himself as in need of God’s mercy and humbled himself before God. There was no humility for the Pharisee. (Luke 18: 9-14)

It’s worth noting that in this parable, Jesus flips the script. No longer is the tax collector the bad guy. The Pharisees become the bad guys because of their pride. Historians estimate that there are about 6,000 Pharisees at any given moment. They were not clergy. Pharisees means “The Separate Ones”. They took upon themselves to be the model citizens for the whole nation of Israel. They saw their religious accomplishments as what was required for their righteousness before God. They saw themselves as winners and people like the tax collector as losers, sinners and below them.

What is the first of Jesus’ Beatitudes-“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” That must have seemed a strange message to the disciples and certainly a contrast to the lifestyle of the Pharisees.

We come to God not by our goodness and pride but by our humility-leaning on the mercy of God who loves us with an unconditional love that we see on the cross Good Friday and on Easter celebrates the new life, eternal life that is ours in Christ Jesus.

Faithfully,

Ron Naylor, Chaplain

COVID-19 Weekly Chart: March 29, 2020

April 5, 2021

 

Dear Westminster Village Residents and Families,

 

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced March 23rd that the state’s mask mandate will expire on April 6th.  However, this does not apply to long term care Employees, Residents and Visitors.  Per the Indiana Department of Health’s guidelines, Westminster Village will still require the appropriate face coverings while in the building.  It is also still recommended to wear masks while in public, socially distancing and washing your hands.

Thank you.

Administration, Supervisors and the Management Team

Chaplain’s Corner: XLVIV

“Living in the Daily Presence of God”

How often does the average person touch his or her cell phone?  The answer seems to be more than you can possibly imagine.  According to the research firm Dscout, typical owners touch their phones 2,617 times a day.  And we’re not talking about extreme users.  The most serious addicts, who responded to the survey study, touch, tap or swipe their phones more than 5,400 times every 24 hours!

That presents a conundrum.  The smart phone has long been marketed as a time-saving, relationship-enhancing, life-enriching marvel.  But it may be just another distraction that prevents us from the things that really matter.

Our culture isn’t suffering so much from busyness.  Busyness is normal but hurry is a frantic state of mind, a sickness, a suspicion that our lives are slipping away from us and so we immerse ourselves in activities that numb us from facing life before us.

If only we had 10 more hours a day.  Then we could become our best.  But we already have time to do amazing things.  Now it’s just a question of how we utilize those hours.  Even here at Westminster Village we can become remarkable mentors and friends to other residents.  You can become an inspired student of scripture.  Or will you settle for the next TV series?

Many would-be disciples of Jesus feel frustrated because they feel Jesus just needs to be squeezed into a crowded place in their lives and wonder why spiritual growth seems fleeting.

Let’s face it:  There is a real possibility that our lives are so crowded that we are unable to follow him at all.  What can we do?

 

Faithfully,
Ron Naylor, Chaplain

 

Chaplain’s Corner: XLVIII

“Coming Home”

Jesus’ most famous story has no official name. Over the centuries it’s been called the Parable of the Prodigal Son or the Lost Child or the Unforgiving Sibling or the Waiting Father.

We know for sure there are three characters in the story. There is the rebellious kid who runs away and makes a mess of his life. There is the Goody Two Shoes big brother who stays at home to administer the farm and who has perfect attendance at Sunday School. Then there is the father who loves them both and who doesn’t care what people think of him. So who is the main character? We can make a case that each has a place in the spotlight. Let’s look at each one in turn over the course of the parable.

Jesus’ story which is found in Luke 15: 11-32 begins with a demand: “Father, give me my share of the estate which falls to me.” There is edginess in this request. The Palestinian audience must have been appalled.

In so many words, he was saying to his father, “Drop dead. All I want from you is your money that will be mine. And if you don’t mind, let’s pretend you are gone now!” What a painful insult to any parent. With a breaking heart, the father complies. He divides the property.

The boy takes off into the wide, wide world. In Judeo-Christian tradition, this describes the relationship that all of us have had with God in one way or another. “Father, I wish you were dead because then I would be much happier if you weren’t hovering about what I say and do. So give me your blessing and leave me alone.”

What does God do when we relate to him like this? Are we really happier when you are out of relationship with God? God’s love is such that he doesn’t stand on the megaphone, “You are inexperienced and compromised. Return home at once.” Incredibly, God lets us go.

At first things go brilliantly for the boy in Jesus’ story. But the word prodigal (excessive, irresponsible, extravagant) isn’t found in the text. But his actions are associated with his over-the-top behavior. He quickly runs through all his assets and is given the ultimate nightmare job of feeding the pigs. He gradually comes to his senses and realizes he is far from where he started and feels in his gut the pain of being separated from his father. But what would his dad do if ever he shows his pig-headed face again?

That would be a no-brainer in the first century Jewish society where the father would beat the living tar out of such a disrespectable son. But this boy wonders, in his heart of hearts if there is any way his father could take him back? He is haunted by the last look on his father’s face before he left.

He begins to formulate a plan. He will play “Let’s Make a Deal” in his relationship with his father. “Father, I don’t deserve to be your son anymore. Could I at least be one of the farm workers?”

The last thing he expects is that his father is about to clean that slate for him. Luke 15:20 tells us “But while he was a long way away, the father was filled with compassion for him; he ran to him, put his arms around him and kissed him.”

The astonishing detail is that the father “runs.” In that culture after all that had happened was to risk ridicule. The Father could care less.

While we ourselves are still a long way off-even in our far countries of doubt, fear, anger, cynicism and hopelessness-the Father is waiting.

What would it be like to turn toward home? He will “run” to receive us with open arms.

Faithfully,
Ron Naylor, Chaplain

 

Chaplain’s Corner: XLVII

“Let God Do the Judging and Sorting”

In Matthew 13 (verses 24-30 and 36-43) Jesus describes a man who plants seeds in his field. He aims to grow a crop of wheat but when the tiny plants appear above the soil, it’s obvious that someone has sowed chaos. Something else is growing there. He discovers the wheat and another plant are growing side by side. Nobody can tell them apart.

Jesus is reporting a situation well known in Palestine. The unwelcome seedlings are beaded darnel, a weed that looks exactly like wheat. It grows at the same time and is the same color and also grows the same height. Only when the heads appear can you tell the grains apart.

The heads of wheat are golden, while bearded darnel has little gray beards at the end of each stalk. By that time it’s too late to yank all the weeds away from the roots of the good plants. “Let them grow together until the harvest,” says Jesus. “Then I will separate the wheat from the weeds.”

The problem is, who wants to wait until God’s harvest to deal with the problems of the World? Most of us assume we are exceedingly well qualified to accomplish the sorting process. We know a weed when we see one. In the presence of other people, we can tell the good ones from the sneaky ones from the sad ones from the most likable ones and the old-and-used-up ones—even as Jesus pleads with us about this. “You will never get it right. Leave the harvest to me.”

Why is he so passionate about this?

We rarely recognize God’s champions. We may not exactly know what a growing saint looks like or the true condition of a human heart.

And it just so happens that God delights in using people who seem to be behind the scenes to do his will. These are not always “Super Christians.”

In scripture, Moses identifies himself as a stuttering coward who took on Pharaoh. When an Angel tries to recruit Gideon he says, “Are you kidding? I’m the least of the least and have no background.” David, the warrior-king who would be the “man after God’s own heart,” starts out as a red-haired runt. The Apostle Paul is introduced in the Bible as a Jewish fundamentalist cheering on the lynching of Stephen.

Do we really have eyes to see what God sees when judging people?

Every day, all around us are people we may deem unworthy of God’s kingdom. Often, we have no idea what is going on behind the scenes of these people’s lives. We see people today dealing with holding down two jobs just to feed their families. People who have not had the educational and cultural advantages many of us have had over our lifetimes. These are plants growing in the field with the rest of us.

On Harvest Day, it may turn out they were God’s children as much as any of us who feel we are being faithful in our walk with Christ. As a Pastor, I have real problems with those who feel somehow they are God’s people and everyone else is just lost.

At the Harvest we won’t be doing the sorting any more than we need to be doing it today. It is the Savior’s job to sort and save. What does that leave for the rest of us?

OUR JOB IS TO LOVE!

Faithfully,
Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: XLVI

“Wrestling With God”

The more time you spend with God, the more likely it is that you will wrestle with God.  Spoiler alert!  You will lose that wrestling match.

But there’s a good chance you will end up with a souvenir that will be worth keeping.  The prototypical divine-human wrestling match is reported in Genesis 32:22-32 which has long been regarded as one of the Bible’s most mysterious passages.  Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, is preparing for an anxiety filled reunion with his brother Esau.  This would be the same Esau from whom he had stolen, years earlier, both the family’s birthright and their father’s blessing.

As if that isn’t a sufficient formula for losing sleep, he is getting ready to wrestle with someone described as “a man.”  The text implies it is The Lord, who represents God himself.

Light begins to appear on the eastern horizon, it is just before daybreak.  But Jacob replied, “I will not let go.”  The man asked him, “What is your name?”  ‘Jacob,’ he answered.

Now this may seem a strange thing to ask.  Is the angel afflicted with amnesia?

How did he answer the last time he was asked his name?  “Father, it is I, Esau.”  Jacob had lied about his identity and received a blessing.  God will have none of that this time.

For most of his adult life, Jacob has refused to face the truth and he runs for his life.  But this time is different.  This time he hangs on to the angel and says he will not let go “unless you bless me.”

Are you in a wrestling match with God?  Are you full of anger or disappointment because God has taken something precious from your life?  Have you asked for guidance only to hear silence?  Don’t let go.

Way too many people break their clinch with God and say, “Well, I guess that’s that.”  It’s true that wrestling with God’s presence and God’s will in heart to heart grappling appears to be one of the factors shaping our lives.

That was certainly true for Jacob.  He emerges with a limp but held on.  He has a new name (Grabber) will now be known as Israel.  He wrestled with God and prevailed.  The people of Israel, to this day carry his new name across the millennia.

Jacob leaves us with something else:  “As the sun rose above him, he was limping…”  (Genesis 32:31)  We shouldn’t be surprised that wrestling with God leaves a mark on our lives.

For years I have looked back on a particularly difficult time in my life and winced.  The spiritual growth that sprang from that encounter in many ways has been a blessing even though the memories are painful.

When it comes to memories, I still limp from time to time but the memory is accompanied by God’s reminder:  “Don’t forget that during that long, dark night I am with you and that I have blessed you.”

Are you wrestling with God?  Don’t let go.  Life’s hardest moments may leave us with a limp but in the end we will stand straighter and taller.

Faithfully,

Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: XXXVIII

“Finish Strong”

In the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, runner John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania finished last. But there’s more to the story.

Akhwari was one of the world’s best long distance runners. But having never trained at high altitudes, several miles into the race he began to cramp. Then approaching the halfway point, he became entangled with some other runners and fell hard to the pavement. The impact dislocated his right knee and jammed his right shoulder.

Akhwari, now battling back pain, gathered himself and continued running far behind the pack.

Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia won the race in 2:20:26. The crowd cheered. The medals were awarded.

More than an hour later after the sun had set and most fans had already departed, Akhwari staggered through the tunnel into the stadium. ABC quickly powered up the cameras. The small crowd stood and applauded as Akhwari summoned the strength to complete the closing lap around the track-then crossed the finish line.

A few minutes later, an interviewer asked the Tanzanian why he had kept going. Akhwari answered: “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.” More than half a century later, people remember only two competitors from that marathon, Wolde and Akhwari.

It’s not how you start that matters. What matters is how you finish.

Perhaps one of the most famous passages of scripture is 2 Timothy 4:7, which the Apostle Paul apparently wrote within sight of his personal finish line. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have kept the faith.”

God did not send us into the world to be spectators. God has not called us to drop out of the race when life gets hard.
It’s been a tough year. You may have suffered a fall or maybe even had COVID or some other illness. I know it’s been a long year not seeing loved ones except through the window of your room.

But the race isn’t over. Get back up.

FINISH STRONG!

Faithfully,
Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: XXXVII

“Can You Imagine?”

C.S. Lewis once imagined what it would be like to grow up in a prison. In a sermon that was ultimately published as “The Weight of Glory”, the British author and theologian crafted a table in which a woman is incarcerated. She’s expecting a child. Her son arrives and then grows up in that dark and limited space.

But she’s an artist and she’s been able to secure pencils and a sketchpad. She draws pictures of the world “out there” doing her best to reveal to her little boy the wonders of forests, rivers, fields and mountains. He dreams of personally experiencing those realities one day.

He knows something of the world beyond the prison bars, but only by means of a three-dimensional sketchpad. He cannot comprehend the fragrance of hyacinths, the roar of breaking waves or the icy coolness of snowflakes on his skin. He can only discern the barest outlines of such a world.

So it is with the way we picture Heaven.

Lewis points out that most cultures historically, have imagined the next world to be far less real than this world. The ancient Greeks pictured Hades, the place of the dead, as a shadowy realm where men and women exist as mere shadows or shapes of their former selves. They are drained of energy, joy and hope. The Hebrews of Old Testament times described Sheol in similar terms.

Even contemporary Western civilization has managed to transform Heaven into a comparatively boring place. Can you imagine floating on clouds, strumming on harps?

There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible. Few of them have anything to say about Heaven. Scripture is surprisingly shy about depicting Paradise.

Where does that leave us? Trying to imagine Heaven by extrapolating from a handful of verses is like attempting to experience the tastes, sounds and colors of a three-dimensional world by studying some pencil lines on a flat sheet of paper.

Here’s what we know. Heaven will not turn out to be less than our present experience. It will be infinitely more. Where did we get this idea?

N.T. scholar, N.T. Wright suggests that trying to perceive the future is like peering into a thick fog. We cannot see what lies ahead. All of a sudden, someone steps out of the fog and greets us. It’s Jesus. This is the meaning of resurrection. A real flesh and blood person, someone who truly died, left this world and entered the next. All of us will take that trip someday.

What was Jesus like when he reappeared to his disciples? He was himself. His memories, identity and relationships were intact. More importantly he was whole.

People may live as if money, status and beauty are supremely important. That means all we have are a few years in this world to attain them.

But humanity’s deepest dreams have always been related to the possibility of a next world. Can anyone survive the grave? Will we still be conscious? Will people retain the capacity to think, work and experience joy? Will there be reunions with those we love?

Right now, all we have are sketches of a reality we cannot possibly comprehend. But followers of Jesus have every reason to believe that the fullness of life doesn’t come to a screeching halt in a cemetery.

What else would you expect from a God who raises the dead?

Faithfully,
Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: XXXVI

“The Legacy of Transformed Lives”

Ramses II was the most remarkable of the Egyptian Pharaohs. After taking the throne in 1279 B.C. he lived to be 90 and ruled for 66 years. He fathered more than 100 children. Most famous rulers become known as “The Great” only after they leave the scene. However, Ramses, wouldn’t have hesitated to put those words on his business card.

During the height of his powers he was worshipped as a God and left behind a massive number of works. Even today, 3000 years later, you can see them scattered across the Egyptian landscape.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, points out, “He was a consummate self-publicist. He had no scruples.”

Ramses ordered the creation of two massive temples of Abu Simbel. The larger of the two, The Great Temple, is like an ancient Mt. Rushmore with four 60 ft. statues. All four depict Ramses.

According to his scribes, he won every battle. Every victory was a knockout. MacGregor declares: “His purpose was to create a legacy to speak to all generations of people.” That’s why everything about Ramses was HUGE!

Maybe there is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph somewhere that has the motto: “Make Egypt Great Again.”

But the irony is that everything we see and know that Ramses today is in ruins. After his reign, Egyptian culture entered a decline from which it never recovered.

What other great leader lived out his years in this ancient part of the world?

Jesus left no statues of himself. We don’t know what he looked like. As far as we know, he wrote nothing. He never commissioned a temple or led an army.

Jesus died in weakness, abandoned by his own apprentices. So what is his legacy?

All Jesus left was the changed hearts of his followers.

You don’t have to visit a museum or travel to a distant location to see what Jesus accomplished.

His legacy is transformed lives. His legacy is us.

Faithfully,
Ron Naylor, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: XXXV

“There’s Room for Everyone on the Island”

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to vote someone out of your community?

Once long ago there was a city where that happened every year. About four centuries before Christ, the citizens of Athens, Greece had an open-air assembly meeting where they could vote on matters of interest to the city. Every year at that assembly citizens voted on whether to have an OSTRACISM.

If the majority said yes, everyone present took an OSTRACON (a broken piece of pottery, which was the ancient world equivalent of a scrap of paper) and wrote down the name of the person that they thought the city could most do without.

The name written on the potsherds was declared to be OSTRACIZED. It was a bit like being voted off the island in the reality show “Survivor”-except in this case it really was reality. The winner (that is, loser) was banished from Athens for a period of four years when he could again return to his property.

Historian Thomas Cahill writes, “In this way people who were nuisances were eliminated.” If at first this shocks you, consider for a moment what benefits it provided.

OSTRACISM as a civic practice is long gone. But the function of ostracism and dysfunction is alive and well.

Human beings seem to have a never-ending struggle with who’s in and who’s out. Through a variety of tactics-shunning, refusing to make eye contact, and withholding love and attention, we ostracize people whom we deem outsiders.

No vote is actually taken. But our behavior betrays our true feelings.

OSTRACISM was part of the Athenian vision for a healthy community but our vision as Christians for healthy relationships is fundamentally different.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another. Don’t be proud, but willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Then he adds in verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

In other words, don’t be a passive observer of ostracism right in front of you. Be proactive. With your words and your behavior let others back in.

It’s time to acknowledge that by God’s grace, there’s room for everyone on the island.

Faithfully,
Ron Naylor, Chaplain