Reflection: From Dust
You are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
Last week was Ash Wednesday, when we are reminded of our own mortality. If someone put ashes on you, it’s likely they also repeated this snippet from Genesis from the end of the punishment God stated to Adam at the time of the Fall.
So last Wednesday, I was thinking of my own mortality as I awaited the ashes. I am now of the age when I think of mortality once in a while. It occurred to me that I now have an opportunity to be reminded of my mortality—or more precisely, my physical frailty—because I’ve been having trouble with my eyes for several weeks now. I was diagnosed with moderate glaucoma a few years ago. It doesn’t impact my eyesight; the only reason I know is because my cousin told my sisters and me about the incidence of normal-pressure glaucoma in our family (it’s more common in Japanese). Due to an allergic reaction to my current prescription, my eyesight is affected as I try new eye drops I can tolerate.
As it happens, several of us on your Presbytery staff are being reminded of our human limitations. This coming Wednesday morning is the funeral mass for Twila’s mother, Loretta Guimond. And this last Friday, Lauren Evans had emergency surgery to remove her gallbladder. Twila will be out of the office Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and Lauren was told by her doctor to take two weeks to recuperate.
This is tough for us, because as one pastor noted, we are a “get it done” kind of staff. Lauren was especially disappointed because she just started her work with Monte Vista Grove, and the people there were so welcoming to her as she began to meet with them. So I ask for your prayers for healing, and ask your patience as we need to slow down somewhat, and tend to some earthly cares. (Also, I will be in Georgia all next week, doing continuing education with my cohort of presbytery executives.)
So it’s getting easier for me to spend the Lenten season contemplating our mortal weakness. But because we live on this side of Good Friday, we know that we are not condemned to be dust for eternity. We are an Easter people, living in the hope and promise of eternal life that Jesus brings. In his resurrection, Jesus Christ vanquished the death sentence that this world gave him, and he saved us from the punishment that God gave Adam: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:49)
This last weekend, several things happened that gave me hope even in my Lenten disciplines. First, Char Sevesind, former leader of South Hills Presbyterian, finally got to go home from a month in the hospital, recovering from surgery. Prayers of healing for her and her home nurse, husband Don (who has been a godsend for the presbytery, especially helping with the properties of South Hills, Baldwin Park, and West Covina).
On Sunday, Northminster Presbyterian Church called Charlie Campbell to be their pastor with great optimism and gratitude. They have experienced significant transformation in recent years with Jake Kim. As they move forward with their installed pastor, they hope to build on their new outlook and lessons they’ve learned.
And on Saturday, I attended an event at Chapman University. I was looking forward to the event, partly to see Cisa Payuyo, associate director of Chapman’s Office of Church Relations and a national leader of the Disciples of Christ for many years. Cisa shares a common link with Dave Tomlinson, David Cortes-Fuentes, James and Charlene Jin Lee, Diane Frasher, Frank Hsieh, Bong Bringas, Zihong (Bob) Huang, Deidra Goulding, Brian Gaeta-Symonds, Jack Rogers and several other former pastors of this presbytery (and many others I am failing to mention), and myself—we have all been teachers or students at SFTS’ Southern California campus. I have not seen Cisa for several years, so it was a blessing to reconnect. I also heard briefly of the events of her life, which included a medical issue that blocked her ordination path. But the joyous news is that from this life-threatening crossroads, she has emerged as strong and vibrant as ever, and she is scheduled to be ordained this Pentecost!
Indeed, we are mere mortals, created out of the stuff of this universe, imperfect and subject to illness and grief, pain and sin that cause fear, anger, and oppression. And yet, we are created by God who is almighty and creative beyond imagination, and in Christ we are loved beyond our shortcomings and mortality. So even as we accept our frailty and need for God, let us also hold fast to the faith and our own experience of God’s life-giving love in Jesus Christ. And, empowered by the Holy Spirit, let us go out and share Christ’s good news of new life to all the world.