Life, Death, and Resurrection in Boston

I don’t know exactly why, but I keep going back! I am running in my tenth Boston Marathon today. My first Boston Marathon was in 1999, and I fell in love with this granddaddy of all marathons. This wasn’t my first 26.2 mile race, however. Boston is a race for which you have to qualify. That’s one reason it is so special. For amateur athletes like myself, qualifying for Boston is never a given. It takes determination, persistence, and a little craziness. That’s why my oldest grandson first began calling me Crazy Grandma.

I never took up running as a child because there was no such thing as girls track or girls cross country. Yes, I am old. However, I did play just about every other sport in which girls were allowed to compete, including field hockey, basketball, softball, and volleyball. I began running at Yale Divinity School as a way to keep in shape when I no longer had the opportunity to play team sports.

After a few years, I decided to challenge myself. My first running competition was a 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) race in May, 1980. I was an organist and choir director in a United Methodist church at the time, and the race started at 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. It just happened to be Communion Sunday. When the 11:00 a.m. service ran quite looooong, I realized that if I stayed to the end, I would miss the start of the race. I whispered to a choir member who was also an organist and asked if she would play the last hymn and a postlude. I slipped out at 12:30 p.m., drove as fast as I could to the start (in another town) and was in place just seconds before the race began. Thanks be to God, I wasn’t fired from my job. Prevenient grace at its best!

Why am I still running, 37 years after my first race? I often call running “wasting time with Jesus.” When Gary and I were raising our young children, I couldn’t run unless Gary was home to watch the kids or they were at childcare. Running gave me time to clear my mind, ponder the problems of the world, savor the beauty of God’s good earth, and waste time with Jesus. Some of my best ideas have come to me while running. Even today, when I am pounding the roads or trails, no one can find me, although I now carry a cell phone.

In the local fitness center where I do some of my training, the overhead monitors display rotating slogans for a program called Alpha training. The slogans remind me why seeking to keep my body in shape is more than a physical discipline. It’s also a mental and spiritual discipline that enhances my personal and professional life.

  • Having the endurance to keep going means I can stay ahead of problems.

Cultivating endurance means never giving up and always finding a way to move forward in a positive manner.

  • As my balance improves, so, too, do my opportunities.

Balancing work and play is one of the greatest challenges of our busy lives today. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

  • More speed will help me get to the top faster.

The pace of life today is so much faster than when I started running long ago. The wisdom I have gained over the years is three-fold: 1) Getting to the “top” (or coming in first) is not always the goal. 2) When speed implies sacrificing quality, I need to slow down. 3) Building speed in order to accomplish more happens when we follow a careful plan that includes appropriate rest.

  • With more power, I can crank up the energy in the afternoon.

My life of faith becomes deeply ingrained when I tap into a power outside of myself, which is the power and energy of the Holy Spirit.

  • Having the flexibility to bend but not break is a benefit in all areas of my life.

Consider these profound words from the spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, “Flexibility is a great virtue. When we cling to our own positions and are not willing to let our hearts be moved back and forth a little by the ideas or actions of others, we may easily be broken. Being like wild reeds does not mean being wishy-washy. It means moving a little with the winds of the time while remaining solidly anchored in the ground. A humorless, intense, opinionated rigidity about current issues might cause these issues to break our spirits and make us bitter people. Let’s be flexible while being deeply rooted.”

  • As I build more strength, I also build a stronger sense of community.

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second (commandment) is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Mark 12:30-31

  • Increasing my agility will help me sidestep the office cookie plate.

One of the words we use today to describe vital churches is nimble. Congregations (or conferences, for that matter) that focus on their strategic priorities are able to switch directions and make quick adjustments, avoid the pitfalls of becoming distracted from their core values, and are always on the lookout for new ways to achieve their mission and vision.   

Everyone has a story for why they endure such strenuous training in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Some run in order to battle addiction. Some run to remember and honor a loved one who has died. Some run to celebrate conquering cancer or some other disease. And some run to witness to their faith. In every single race, I see people wearing t-shirts emblazoned with Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I’ve always thought it would be nice to include verse 14 as well, especially when runners “hit the wall” around mile 20 and simply want to lie down in the road and take a nap. “In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.”

Simply put, the marathon is a metaphor for the Christian life. I love running the day after Easter because marathoners experience life, death, and resurrection, all in one race! I’ll be running smoothly for a while, then all of a sudden, I’ll feel a twinge in my hamstring and wonder if I’ll make it to the end. Then I’ll feel woozy and realize that I’m not drinking enough. After that, I get to the hills and wonder if I have enough energy to make it up without walking. Finally, it’s simply one mile and then one grueling step after another of pain, mental anguish, and prayer, “Jesus, run with me. I am losing my life in order to find a greater one. Help me persevere to the end. I can’t do this on my own.”

And then a miracle happens. Someone hands me a cup of Gatorade. A spectator shouts, “Go, Granny, go!” A child offers me an orange and a smile. Another runner sees that I am flagging and stays with me for a while. 500,000 people line the road from Hopkinton to Boston because the marathon is always held on Patriots Day, a Massachusetts holiday. The cheering is non-stop and deafening, and it gets us across the finish line. Why? Because no one ever runs alone.

After a certain point, runners don’t get better with age. I reached that point fourteen years ago. But that just means I get to waste more time with Jesus on the course! So don’t wait for me. I’ll see you at the finish line. There I’ll find my youngest daughter, who is running in her first Boston Marathon and will be way ahead of me. My husband, Gary will be there, too, both of them cheering on the thousands of runners of all shapes and sizes as they experience life, death, and resurrection in Boston. And, in case you were wondering, the resurrected Jesus will be at the finish as well, offering each brave soul a high five, the words, “Good job!” and a bagel.

What does it mean to die before you die? How do you go about losing your little life to find the bigger one? Is it possible to live on this planet with a generosity, abundance, fearlessness, and beauty that mirror Divine Being itself?

 

Passion

Here you come, making your grand entrance into Jerusalem
Sitting on a donkey
Weeping over the Holy City
Emptying yourself
Letting the crowds hail you
Holy Week … Passion Week
Passion: from the Latin pati, meaning “to suffer or endure”
If you knew all that was to come, would you have turned around?

Santisimo de Cristo – Cathedral of Burgos, Spain

Active early in the week
Chasing moneychangers out of the temple
Cursing a fig tree
Honoring a widow’s generosity
Foretelling the destruction of the temple
Playing verbal cat and mouse with the chief priests
Radical love and righteous anger
Two sides of the same coin
My kingdom is not of this world
Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God
A passion for justice nailing your coffin.

At night, retreating to the safety of Bethany
Staying with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus
Accepted and loved as you are
Allowing a woman to anoint your head with oil
Let her alone; why do you trouble her?
She has done what she could
Anointed my body beforehand for burial
Passive: being the object of action rather than causing action.

A last supper with your disciples
Sitting next to the one who would betray you
How could you keep your composure?
A fight breaking out: who is the greatest?
Have I not taught you anything?
Bread and wine: offering your own body and blood for the sake of the world.

Jesus in Gethsemane – The Basilica of Agony (Church of All Nations), Jerusalem

Great drops of sweat pouring out of you
If it is possible, let this cup pass from me
Everyone sleeping
Would I have done the same?
Friend, do what you are here to do
The hour is at hand
No turning back
Passive – derived from “passion”: suffering without resistance.

Three years of action, now only passion
Tell us if you are the Messiah, the son of God
You have said so
They spit, strike, slap
No response
Peter sitting outside, the only one
Certainly you are also one of them
I do not know the man
The cock crows for me, too
Jesus’ last night on this earth spent in prison.

Are you the king of the Jews?
You say so
Don’t you hear how many accusations are made against you?
Passive
Who should I release for you?
Barabbas!
What should I do with this Jesus?
Let him be crucified!
Pilate actively washing his hands
Jesus passively putting himself into God’s hands.

Crucifixion
Passion
Submission
Let it be to me according to your word
Women beating their breasts and wailing
The disciples: where are they?
This is Jesus, the King of the Jews
He saved others; he cannot save himself
Remember me when you come into your kingdom
Forgiving a thief on the cross
One last action
Today you will be with me in Paradise.

Charred cross from WW2 – Coventry Cathedral, England

Passion: It is finished
Action: The curtain of the temple torn in two
Earth shaking, rocks splitting, tombs opening
The centurion and those watching over Jesus
Truly this man was God’s son
The first converts
Resurrection before resurrection.

Lord Jesus, I give myself to you
Passive, waiting
I want to begin a new life now
I give to you all of my fears and failures
I release them into your hands.

Fill all of me with all of you
Resurrection power
Offering all that I am and hope to become
A pure expression of your love
All you want is love for you
For my neighbor
And my world
Passion.

With Our Faith and Hope and Energy

“Good health is an essential to happiness, and happiness is an essential to good citizenship.” – Dr. Charlie Mayo

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a two-day health program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. My goal was to maximize my capacity to be fruitful and effective as an episcopal leader by investing in my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

My experience was unlike anything I could have imagined! Dozens of wheelchairs were lined up outside the main building at 6:30 a.m., waiting for the arrival of hundreds of patients from around the world. Every year 1.3 million people from all walks of life as well as every state and 150 countries visit one of the various Mayo facilities, most as outpatients. In 2016-17, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, was ranked as the #1 overall hospital in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.

“Within its walls all classes of people, the poor as well as the rich, without regard to color or creed, shall be cared for without discrimination.” – Dr. Will Mayo

William Worrall (WW) Mayo came to Rochester, Minnesota in 1863 as an examining surgeon for the military draft board during the Civil War. After the war was over, Mayo opened a medical practice, and his sons William James (Will) and Charles Horace (Charlie) followed in their father’s footsteps.

August 21, 1883, was a defining moment in Rochester and in the Mayo family. A tornado destroyed one-third of the town, resulting in thirty-seven deaths and over two hundred injuries. The Mayo family escaped serious harm, and W.W., his son Will, and other doctors set up a temporary hospital in the city dance hall. Called in to serve as nurses were Mother Alfred Moes and the Catholic Sisters of St. Francis, who had no medical training.

Mother Alfred Moes subsequently suggested to Dr. Mayo that she and her sisters would fund and build a hospital in Rochester if Dr. Mayo and his sons would serve as the staff. St. Mary’s Hospital opened in 1889, and an addition followed five years later. W.W. Mayo, who was seventy years old at the time, was a consulting physician at the hospital while sons Will and Charlie saw patients and performed surgeries. They, along with four other physicians, were the founders of Mayo Clinic.

“With our faith and hope and energy, it will succeed.” – Mother Alfred Moes

From the beginning, Mayo Clinic was a different kind of hospital, providing integrated care focusing on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. According to Mayo Clinic’s website, “Mayo Clinic is a non-profit organization committed to clinical practice, education, and research, providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing.” Mayo’s mission statement is “to inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education, and research.”

Mayo doctors consult with each other about patient care and collaborate on comprehensive diagnoses and treatment in almost every medical and surgical specialty. Since the Mayo system has 4,500 physicians and scientists as well as 57,000 health staff, most patients can receive coordinated and multidisciplinary care from many physicians and staff in a single visit.

Chaplains are available 24-hours a day, and chapels in the three main buildings are always open, including worship spaces for Muslims, Jews, and Christians. There is also a new Healthy Living Center, which offers physical activity assessments, personalized wellness plans, meditation, yoga, and classes on stress relief, resiliency, and nutrition.

“We must not forget that happiness is a state of mind, not necessarily of body, that life is what each person believes it to be. The sick man needs faith, faith in his physician, but there comes a time when faith in a higher power may be necessary to sustain his morale.” – Dr. Will Mayo

As has happened so often in American history, the Methodists made their mark on the Mayo story as well, for the church is also God’s agent for healing of mind, body, and spirit.

Twenty-three years after the Mayo’s opened their first clinic, John H. Kahler decided to build additional hospital facilities for patients near the Mayo brothers’ offices in Rochester. These buildings were a combination of hospital rooms, operating rooms, and hotels.

By the early 1950’s, the Kahler Corporation decided to offload their hospitals. A group of influential citizens, including former U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Methodist Harry Blackmun (then a Mayo Clinic legal counsel), convinced the Methodist Church in 1954 to become the sponsor of these hospitals. A new 794-bed hospital was built in 1966 and was called Rochester Methodist Hospital. By 1986, Mayo Clinic, Rochester Methodist Hospital, and Saint Mary’s Hospital integrated their operations, and in 2014, they finally became one single hospital. The Mayo Clinic Methodist Campus continues the legacy of John Wesley’s 1778 words.

It will be a double blessing if you give yourself up to the Great Physician, that He may heal soul and body together. And unquestionably this is His design. He wants to give you . . . both inward and outward health.” – John Wesley

Is health care the privilege of those who can pay or a right for all? It continues to be a critical question. Who deserves health care in the US or anywhere in the world? And what obligation do governments have to care for the whole person, no matter what their financial resources might be? Living as I do in a state where funds for the treatment of mental illness have been cut so drastically that there are not nearly enough beds for those who need inpatient care, or therapists for those who need outpatient care, how will the church make its voice heard?

“It is a poor government that does not realize that the prolonged life, health, and happiness of its people are its greatest asset.” – Dr. Charlie Mayo

As people of faith, we know that Jesus always saw the whole person. Matthew 4:23 says, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” Resolution #3201 from the 2008 and 2012 United Methodist Book of Resolutions was amended and readopted in 2016 by the General Conference and includes these words,

“In a just society, all people are entitled to basic maintenance and health-care services. We reject as contrary to our understanding of the gospel, the notion of differing standards of health care for various segments of the population. The American Health Care system must serve and be sensitive to the diversity of all people in the United States and its territories.”

“If we excel at anything, it is in our capacity for translating idealism into action.”      – Dr. Charlie Mayo

Every single person I encountered in my two-day health program was not only excellent, but caring: from the internist, to the integrative medicine doctor, to the x-ray techs, to Sherry, the person with the unenviable task of cleaning wax from my ears. When Sherry found out what my job is, she talked about how her parents were “dumpers”; that is, they dumped her off at the local United Methodist Church on Sunday morning without going themselves. She also testified that the faithful disciples at her church modeled how to love as Jesus loved and make a difference in the world. It was a deeply touching story that only reinforced my passion for the church and the conviction that each one of us is a healer.

“The success of the clinic must be measured by its contributions to the general good of humanity.”Dr. Charlie Mayo and Dr. Will Mayo

With our faith and hope and energy, we can not only heal, but we can change the world!