Monthly Archives: April, 2016

Soul Care Conversation (Faith Community Assets for Veteran Care, Hospitality)

April 29th, 2016 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last week we concluded our conversation on developing a theology of healing and the faith community’s role. This week we will begin a conversation on the faith community’s strengths and capacities for care.

BACKGROUND

Beyond the difficulties our warriors experience in combat, the transition home from a deployment presents numerous challenges for the veteran and the family. War changes all who step onto the battlefield. A sense of brokenness and alienation from God, self, and others result.

God’s response to heal human brokenness is powerfully lived out in the midst of the faith community. The faith community has an important role in a healing strategy; be a blessing to others. God gives life as a gift and expects that those who know God’s mercy share it with others. A faith community that lives this role will partner with the veteran on a difficult and long journey toward transformation and healing of the soul. The faith community has unique strengths and capacities for care, one being hospitality.

HOSPITALITY

The dictionary defines hospitality as;

the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers, the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

But, Biblical hospitality goes much deeper than hosting or feeding a guest. Hospitality means to love a stranger or alien. From ancient times until today, hospitality has been an important part of the faith community’s identity.

The Hebrew and Christian texts both command and commend hospitality. 

Hospitality commanded in scripture;

  • Do not exploit the foreigners who live in your land. They should be treated like everyone else, and you must love them as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34 , the New Living Translation)
  • Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other…cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given gifts to each of you for God’s great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you. (1 Peter 4:8-10, the New Living Translation)
  • Romans 12:13 encourages us all to practice hospitality. “When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.” (New Living Translation)

Scripture commends hospitality;

  • Abraham’s servant is welcomed in Rebekah’s home (Genesis 24:22-25).
  • Moses is welcomed by the priest of Midian (Exodus 2:20).
  • When David arrives at Mahanaim, he is provided vital supplies (2 Samuel 17:27-29).
  • Jesus received hospitality from people of all social backgrounds (Matthew 9:10, Mark 14:30, etc.).
  • Hospitality was shown to the disciples, and Peter and Paul post-resurrection (Matthew 10:11-12, Luke 10:5-7, Acts 10:32, Acts 16:15).

IMPLICATIONS FOR FAITH COMMUNITY 

The above examples of hospitality are just a small sampling of what scripture shares about the practice. Hospitality in the ancient world focused on the alien or stranger in need. The plight of the alien was dire. They lacked membership in a tribe or community. Because of their lack of “status,” the alien was in need of food, shelter, and protection. Hospitality meant graciously receiving an alien or stranger into one’s home or community. It also meant providing directly for that person’s needs.

 The story of Abraham points to how God can use the faith community to touch lives in a powerful way, by loving the stranger and alien. So, what did Abraham do when faced with the stranger in his midst? He practiced hospitality by; (Genesis 18:2-8)
  • He did not wait for the visitors to come to him, Abraham went out to meet them where they were.
  • Abraham was humble in conversation and action (used humble forms of address, bowed before the guests, washed their feet).
  • Abraham and Sarah prepared a meal using the best ingredients.
  • Abraham walked a distance with his departing guests.

What lessons can the faith community learn from this example in practicing hospitality to the veteran?

  • We do not wait for the veteran to come to us, we meet them where they are.
  • No matter our feelings toward war or the warrior, we treat every veteran with respect as we listen to their story with our hearts, not judging them or their experiences.
  • We provide for their needs, whatever that may be, by giving the veteran our best effort and resources.
  • We walk with the veteran on their journey, not passing the veteran or their challenges on to someone else. When the veteran feels ready to move on the journey without us, they will let us know.

RELEVANCE FOR THE VETERAN

In last week’s blog,  Honoring Relationships, we discussed that the church has a unique capacity for care, hospitality. Hospitality takes on an important role to the veteran and the veteran’s family. Veterans have experienced a strong sense of community in the military, a band of brothers and sisters. Relationships to veterans and their families are quintessential. When warriors demobilize and return to their civilian communities, they often miss the close bond of the military family. The faith community can become a resource so that the veteran and family feel a part of a social network, a family.

Also, hospitality opens doors for developing a relationship and trust with the veteran. Both are important. The veteran no longer has his or her brother or sister in arms to rely on. A congregant who truly practices the biblical model of hospitality can become a friend or spiritual mentor that will journey with the veteran or the family through hell if needed.

When we practice hospitality, we have the opportunity to touch lives in an intimate and personal way. God calls us to love everyone, including the veteran, but we may be doing much more than we thought.  Hebrews 13:2 says, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it.”  (New Living Translation) When we show genuine hospitality to a stranger, we may be serving an angel of God. Indeed, the story of Abraham’s hospitality reminds us just that.

I am not saying that our veterans are angels, but they do deserve our respect, honor, and hospitality. Next week, we will discuss the role of liturgy and traditions. Until then, thank you for the conversation…

Soul Care Conversation (Toward a Theology of Healing, Part 2)

April 15th, 2016 Posted by Blog 2 comments

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last week we developed the foundation toward a theology of healing and the faith community’s role in journeying with the veteran and the veteran’s family in well-being and wholeness. We will continue this conversation as we further discuss God’s response to a broken world.

BACKGROUND

You will recall last week that we began our conversation on how love becomes the medicine that galvanizes God’s response to a broken world. We reviewed the sacred story in the Hebrew scriptures that wove the importance of restorative justice as part of God’s healing plan. We determined that the ideas of justice and righteousness are deeply intertwined in the Hebrew scripture.

This week we will move to another time in the sacred story, the days of Jesus. Healing and restorative justice remain at the center of God’s response. Rome dominated Israel.  Economic injustice remained widespread as well as poverty. The religious leaders supported the status quo. However, Jesus’ message focused on something radically different; God gives life as a gift and expects that those who know God’s mercy share it with others.

Jesus instructs his followers to do the same. It is a reminder of our conversation several weeks ago, that God’s “medicine” for healing begins in the promise as summarized in Genesis 12:3: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God’s calling of a people included two elements; “I will bless you,” God said, “so that you will be a blessing.” God’s healing “medicine” is in and through community.

How did Jesus live this out? Salvation comes as God’s gift—a God of restorative justice. Jesus combined his teaching with his healing activity. Jesus proclaimed God’s healing strategy through community intended to bless all the families of the earth.

GOD’S “MEDICINE” TOWARD HEALING 

So what does this look like? The story of the paralytic suggests a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Up to this point, Jesus’ healing of the sick and lame focused on the physical. The story of the paralytic points to a deeper reality, healing also involves a spiritual dimension – the forgiveness of sins.

After the paralytic is let down through the roof by his friends, Jesus’ first response is a word of forgiveness. Jesus recognizes that the man’s physical infirmary is somehow bound up with a spiritual alienation; fear, shame, or guilt. (Mark 9:1-8) This healing miracle points to the following realities;

  • restoration of relationship
  • inclusion in community
  • recognizing the importance of the whole person, both spiritual and physical

But, the healing of the paralytic teaches us something else, it has implications for the community of faith. The gospel of Mark makes a curious comment in chapter 9 verse 2. “Seeing their faith,” Jesus turns to the paralyzed man and says, “Take heart son. Your sins are forgiven”. It was not the paralytic’s faith that prompted Jesus’ action to forgive his sins, it was the faith of his friends. The paralytic’s friends interceded on the man’s behalf. They were instruments of healing.

So healing, is more than simply the act that brings physical health to the midst of physical sickness. It’s a point that the Gospel narratives make, in various ways, again and again. Somewhere in the background is a brokenness, an emptiness that needs to be addressed. And the act of healing frees the person to express what they are made and called to be, which is members of a community that lives in gratitude and in praise; members of a community in which flesh gives voice to spirit and, in so doing, creates further networks of healing, integrating relation. (The Theology of Health and Healing – Hildegard Lecture, Thirsk, Friday 7th February 2003, Transcript of an address by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, delivered at Holy Rood House Centre for Healing)

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This has relevance for the care of our veterans and their families. As the Hebrew people understand God’s involvement in restorative justice, so should the church. God’s healing medicine is Love. Love shapes God’s activity; patient and persevering. Love becomes the “medicine” that galvanizes God’s response to a broken world. The core ingredient of God’s healing “medicine” is restorative justice.

As the Hebrews understood that the Torah (the Law) was central to their understanding of their call and their covenant with God, the faith community understands its call and covenant with God as it hears Jesus say, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another”.  As the church lives out its call, the church will be;

  • an additional work of God’s grace
  • a resource for ordering peaceable living in the community of God’s people
  • a guide to wholeness that serves justice

The faith community has an important role in a healing strategy; be a blessing to others. As we recall Jesus’ message, God gives life as a gift and expects that those who know God’s mercy share it with others, the church can walk with veterans and their families on healing journeys as a means of restorative justice. A faith community that lives this role will be a partner with the veteran in a difficult and long journey.

As we continue our conversation on soul care for our veterans and their families, we will reflect back on this theological foundation of healing. Next week, we will begin a conversation on the assets that the faith community has for care and strengthening the soul…until then, thank you for the conversation.

Honoring Relationships

April 7th, 2016 Posted by Blog 1 comment

Critical to hospitality is honoring relationships. By honoring a relationship with a veteran we then can begin to understand our connectedness as God’s children and we can transcend our biases and pre-conceived notions about the person. We then can relate to the person, not the war. By honoring relationship with a veteran, we can become a catalyst for the veteran to find meaning. If we do this, we become people of grace.