Marvin Repinski: The care that keeps on caring

Published 5:29 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

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A fellow clergy person in the Austin area is the Rev. James Steffes. He is moving to Rochester to be involved in a new ministry. He is my friend in the Lord. I affirm so very much of his theology, care for others, and his respect for the historic long tradition of Christianity.

His words could well be my own words. I add that for me, the grace he lives by, is the grace that a large cast of devoted persons in the world religions also may know as a Gracious Creation:

“I can assure you that in 30 grace-filled years of the priesthood I have never met a person that has a perfect life nor have I witnessed the model family.  Everyone has challenges, trials and obstacles through this earthly life.  But I can sure you as well, of the goodness of God that has time and time again touched imperfect lives and messy and dysfunctional families and transformed them.  I have witnessed freedom from addictions, miraculous healing, homecomings, redemption and forgiveness among peoples who thought none of it could ever happen.  It only takes an openness to God.

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We all need to open our lives to God.  Each and every one of us needs to keep our eyes fixed upon God.  If we would invite the love of God into our own lives, His grace would transform not only us but the world in which we live.  Our Risen Lord is the cause of our hope and means of our joy, nothing else.  This is the truth.

The only way is Jesus, for He is the Truth that we need to live in order to experience life abundantly on this earth and forever in heaven.  It is easy to see the darkness and devastation in our world but just as the sun is always above the darkest storm clouds, the grace and presence of God is always in our midst.  No one person nor any group of persons, community, media source, government nor any evil entity can block or take that away.  Jesus Christ lives now and forever.  Let us live this and give witness to it for others.”

A favorite commentator of ours on national and world news is David Brooks. In an excerpt from his book “The Social Animal,” he writes:  “I want to introduce you to a couple, a real couple, Douglas and Carol Hofstadter. Douglas is a professor at Indiana University, and he and Carol were very much in love. They’d throw dinner parties and then afterward, they would wash the dishes together and relive and examine the conversations they had just had.

Then Carol died of a brain tumor, when their kids were five and two.  A few weeks later, Hofstadter came upon a photograph of Carol.  Here’s what he wrote in his book, I Am a Strange Loop.  “I looked at her face and looked so deeply that I felt I was behind her eyes and all at once I found myself saying, as tears flowed.  ‘That’s me!  That’s me!’  And those simple words brought back many thoughts that I had had before, about the fusion of our souls into one higher level entity, about the fact that at the core of both our souls lay our identical hopes and dreams for our children, about the notion that those hopes were not separate or distinct hopes but were just one hope, one clear thing that defined us both, that welded us into a unit, the kind of unit I had but dimly imagined before being married and having children.  I realized that though Carol had died, that core piece of her had not died at all, but that it had lived on very determinedly in my brain.” 

An extrovert, wants you to reach outward and connect. It wants you to achieve communion with work, friends, family, nation, and cause. Your unconscious wants to entangle you in the thick web of relations that are the essence of human flourishing. It longs and pushes for love, for the kind of fusion Douglas and Carol Hofstadter shared.  Of all the blessings that come with being alive, it is the most awesome gift.” 

The urgency, if we have the ability, the health, and opportunity, is our sympathy for others. We may turn again to the stories of the compassion revealed by the One Christian and others follow.

Many people respond as volunteers to various organizations. In the Austin area, the Fourth of July celebration is given as a community uplift.

In the book “Tuesdays with Morrie” where Morrie is suffering with ALS, the author recounts:  “In all the time he was sick, Morrie never held out hope he would be cured.  He was realistic to a fault.  One time, I asked if someone were to wave a magic wand and make him all better, would he become, in time, the man he had been before?  He shook his head.  “No way I could go back.  I am a different self now.  I’m different in my attitudes.  I’m different in appreciating my body, which I didn’t do fully before.  I’m different in terms of trying to grapple with the big questions, the ultimate questions, the ones that won’t go away.  “That’s the thing, you see.  Once you get your fingers on the important questions, you can’t turn away from them.”  And which are the important questions?  “As I see it, they have to do with love, responsibility, spirituality, awareness.  And if I were healthy today, those would still be my issues.  They should have been all along.” 

In this book of Morrie’s life, the author, Mitch Albom, recalled words spoken from Morrie’s raspy voice — “As long as you can love each other and remember the feelings of love we had, we can die without ever really going away.  All the love you created is still there.  You live on — in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.”

When we realize that, values we admire are what we desire!  

I read of a man who went to a drug store and inquired. “Have you anything for a cold?”  The druggist replied, “Did you bring a prescription with you?”  No,” replied the man, “But I brought my cold with me.” 

Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 when he said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  When people appealed to Jesus for mercy, they usually were asking for healing. To have mercy meant to render aid.  The Hebrew word for mercy also describes Jesus’ reaction to such need:  it means “to be moved in one’s bowels.”  

My first response to this definition was, as the kids say, “yuk.”  But after reading more, I began to identify with this kind of mercy. The bowels were considered the center of kindness, benevolence and pity, the heart of compassion; with this I could identify.  When I feel sorrow for another person, I feel a “gut reaction.”  My stomach churns and flops. There is a deep seated internal response.  When I worked with youth groups in past years, I sometimes would tell the participants to “follow your gut; it will tell you what is best for you to do.”  

When Jesus was confronted with human need, the New Testament therefore says he was moved in his bowels; i.e., he had pity and compassion. 

It is important to note that Jesus’ reaction always led to an outward act of healing.  What Jesus is asking us to do as stewards of each other is to act compassionately.  Maybe we can’t heal the blind, but there are many things we can do to care for another person’s pain.  We can serve people.  We can share our resources and just exhibiting a gentle love is what moves the world.

A Prayer:  O God, who strengthens us and makes us whole; remind us of your parenting presence.  We sense your forgiveness as prodigal children come home from a far land.  Remind us of the teachings of Jesus where we are cared for even as “a hen gathers her chickens.”  We accept both care and forgiveness.  Grant us protection and embrace us with justice.  We know the comfort of loving families.  We affirm them.  So we kick off our shoes, let down our defenses and acknowledge that grace is the gift of home.  We bring neither tickets or proofs of our worth but are grateful for that voice that says “come.”  Amen.