Marvin Repinski: Eyes open to a life of faith

Published 5:45 pm Friday, April 28, 2023

Nancy T. Stout, shares a piece of her life that is honest, sensitive, and hopeful.  She writes:

“After living in Ohio for 19 years, I moved to Delaware when my husband accepted a new position. I left behind friends, colleagues, a lovely home, my parish, medical care, and meaningful work, and I moved to a place where I knew no one.  Going through so much loss and change in such a short time was extremely painful. I felt lonely and isolated, and I experienced new problems with my multiple sclerosis as well as a recurrence of depression.  Suffering like this is hard, and I wonder — why does it happen?  What does it all mean?  And where is God when I’m suffering?

It is normal to question and to doubt when you are hurting and feeling vulnerable. When this happens, you can look deeper inside, seek out the place of faith in your heart, and re-examine the promise given to you.”

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These words by Nancy, is a reminder that in my nearly 50 years of pastoring churches throughout the state of Minnesota of various people who had heart-wrenching problems.  Not all of the people, as I might say, “leaned on me” in their disappointments, losses and severe family and physical problems.  My memory is still pained by some of the health, physical issues  — with severe pain — that plagued their lives. But my stance was to be helpful, prayerful, and a source of friendship and comfort as much as possible. 

What can we endure? A writer whose work re-enters my life, is an author that I recommend. Sue Monk Kidd states: “We can endure, transcend, and transform the storminess when we see the mystery of it.”

Using three words of this sentence, “transcend, transform, and mystery,” I wish to probe them in a manner that says, “Marvin, how do you endure? “  

Transcend is for some people, what they term a “big word.” They may say “don’t try it on me!” But, I will!  You may never have worn a construction worker’s coveralls, but today, let’s try them on. As an illustration, being blunt with myself, I’m at this moment, thinking of my own death, which will be followed by a brief family service (please keep it brief!) and the donation of my body for medical research, followed by cremation.  In these minutes, my mind is in some mysterious manner looking down on the process.  I say down, as my thinking has been shaped by heaven. I’m looking down — I’m transcending earth, which some would say, my spirit or soul, as the “above” is the poetic language that we  employ in faith. 

 Transformation may occur in a multitude of ways.  In my religious vocation (I guess I can call it that with limits — not my only description!), I’ve been asked “when in some quarters, were you converted?”  An honest answer:  Probably in a Sunday school class with Mrs. Ida, but also today!  I’ve been and will be needing to be converted many, many times and I hear some of my friends shout “thank you Jesus!” Just to add, is it maturing and adult convictions? A source of spiritual changes, growth, and kinds of transformation, may occur in many settings with the devotion practiced in many world religions. To that, I add a thought attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” 

Mystery is a word we may employ when baffled, or mentally mangled and also seeking answers. Here is language from the medical field: “ECG criteria for inferior MI include pathologic Q waves and local ST elevation followed by T wave inversion in stand leads II, III, and VF (Fig. 3).  When this evidence is coupled with ST elevation in V1R to V3R, right ventricular involvement should be suspected. The use of right pre-cordial chest leads (V4R, V5R, and V6R) may be useful in confirming the diagnosis of RVI (Fig. 3).  The ST elevation seen in the right pre-cordial leads is frequently of short duration and disappears within 10 to 24 hours.”  Are you lost in this mysterious world? 

Now let me move from medical horizons to theological horizons. Rain dance, doctrine, beliefs, Bible, pope, spiritual, experience, disciple, church, the prophet, synagogue, imam, rabbi, mosques, prayer, heaven, hell, myth, reason, after-life, evil, sin, Koran, celibacy, truth, and goodness.

The discussion of many of these terms and explanations are part of the vocabulary of people involved in religious communities. You may realize or use the term metaphor in employing some of these expressions. 

If you attempt to place any of these words through a large strainer, a filter, your references may by mystery. Terms related to religion are often mysterious. They are often many-sided. Sometimes contradictory, confusing and create disagreement. 

For me, in terms of mystery, the whole Trinity takes a lot of my mental powers. The word is not in the Bible, its construction was formed by a Church Council, years following the earthly ministry of Jesus, and it has dozens of interpretations. I do think, it embodies mystery; God the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, viewed as ONE.