Wednesday, 27 January 2016

In Life, in death in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

In Life, in death in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
A New Creed, United Church of Canada

            A public meeting was held last Thursday evening in Windsor (the last of 11 such meetings) which was led by the Ipsos research firm. This meeting was to take the pulse of those who had gathered and who wanted their voices heard. Even from the early moments there was some tension when key pad clickers were sought and one’s say was threatened. Yet as discussions continued the crowd started listening to each other. Physician assisted dying is not an easy topic to discuss. The ethics around helping another leave this existence is still unclear in many people’s minds. The key point of discussion then became how one makes a competent decision and who determines this acceptable level of competency.
            Physician assisted dying and palliative care focus on the manner in which a person dies and prayerfully dies with dignity under their terms. Concerns raised as to why doctors would be willing to assist those who want to die when this goes against the physicians’ purpose of care. Palliative care is caring to keep people comfortable, pain free and in a state where communication is possible. But do we really seek palliative care appropriately?
            When Jesus was dying on the cross he wanted to make sure that Mary his mother would be cared for. He was in severe pain, was thirsty and was given wine vinegar. And then he gave up his spirit and died. Jesus’ death was horrible- crucifixion was considered one of the most inhumane ways to die; a slow asphyxiation. And this was the point- he died in agony so that we could live in peace. But the concern that this issue raises, should how we die be on our terms or God’s under all circumstances?
This is when this legislation raises the need for spiritual and cultural considerations. The stigma of choosing death over life by one’s hand in any form is still regarded unfavourably by many cultures. We are all going to die; this is a reality but should it be at our choosing with assistance.
As we continue to explore this legislation we each need to consider what might be called my dying plan. This would then be shared with family. But are we willing to do this?

One day you will die. Ideally what would you consider your plan to include. Ideally what is your life’s plan—to live or to die, or to live like you were dying? This legislation offers us many ways to discuss a very serious topic- filled with emotion and tears. This too is reason enough to reflect, pray and know that God leads you if you truly believe.

God you know everything about us- our life before we came into this world and all that we say and do. You have given us the ability to think, feel and to understand your love for us through Jesus. As we reflect on these questions of life, we pray that your Spirit will lead us to a clearer knowledge of life and death and you. For you have promised us an eternal resting place in heaven. Teach us and show us how we might get there as we live and lvoe other here on earth. Enable us to understand. Amen. .            

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Choosing Life or Death

Choosing Life or Death
Physician Assisted Dying 2
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
Deuteronomy 30:19
                A correction first of all. In last week’s blog it was stated “The Canadian government is considering legislation around what is known as physician assisted suicide.” The title on the Final Report is “Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying.” I apologize for this error. The first discussions I was involved with used the term physician assisted suicide as opposed to dying. But maybe this is also a starting point for this reflection as well. By renaming the process of helping another person complete the process of dying, maybe it will take the stigma of what is now pending implementation.
The report that this advisory group is now being taken on the road and meeting with interested people as they share 43 recommendations on the implementation of physician assisted dying in Canada.  The first recommendation is for the “provinces and territories (preferably in collaboration with the federal government) should develop and implement a pan Canadian strategy for palliative and end of life care, including physician assisted dying.” This document also recommends that this “collaboration and coordination with all relevant organizations and institutions as soon as possible to ensure the smooth and timely implementation of physician assisted dying in Canada.”  Therefore, it is not a matter of if, but the reality of when this will be implemented across Canada. (Quebec has already been doing this since the legislation passed in December.”.
The 41 other recommendations discuss the implementation of this process which leads to those with “grievous and irremediable medical conditions”  and  are competent to do so to seek physicians to assist in their dying.  This legislation affects more than physicians as it also deals with ethics and as people of faith, one must also question our spiritual understanding of God and the gift of life,
God breathed into Adam and gave life. At the end of one’s life, breathing slows and steadily stops. But what happens to the part of the individual who leaves that body- that is their spirit? What role does faith have in these discussions of competency leading to expediting the inevitable the separation of the body and the spirit.
                People have been struggling with death throughout time even though our stories of the Old Testament remind us that death only became a part of human life because the first people chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet it is God who called subsequent generations, including us, to choose life. And to choose life means to have a life of dignity love and hope. The question tosses us to the alternative- when a person’s life is no longer dignified or filled with love and all hope is gone who chooses what occurs.  This is when we should seek God’s guidance and strength and pray.

As I continue t read through the report I question ethics and faith and wonder what does it mean for this country. We value life, and often never talk about death but when it comes to being able to choose death we do so for selfish reasons?  Comment about this as we continue to lift up the issues and concerns of this report in light of your faith and God’s gift of eternal life.
Gracious God give us understanding and call us to know your will for us. You ask us to choose life, to live and prosper but what happens when diseases overwhelm us. What are we do to when new options are opened to us? What are we to do and how might we respond?  Help us O God to reflect on your words and to show us your way.  We ask this in Jesus’ name. For it is through Jesus’ death that there is life eternal. Amen.

If you would like more about the pending legislation regarding physician assisted dying please go to where  the Final report which is pending before the government is located.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Death, dying and Euthanasia

Death, dying and Euthanasia
“I know the plans I have for you…”
 Jeremiah 29:11

                The Canadian government is considering legislation around
what is known as physician assisted suicide. There are countries around the world where this action is legal and some families have flown to these countries in order that their loved one might choose to end suffering from terminal illnesses on their terms with assistance from physicians. The question before us and the government is whether this kind of legislation is necessary, desired and what its implications mean to Canadians.
                Conversations about have the right to choose how one leaves this world has been controversial since individuals started to choose to die under their own hands. Stigma against the act of suicide still lingers in many communities and cultures. This legislation pushes this request to die with dignity into the hands of doctors.
                But what are the key concerns surrounding this proposed legislation? There are several issues which arise. Competency and understanding of the action being requested even up to the time before death. The question around palliative care and physician assisted suicide advocates working together and whether this is possible. And of course the spiritual and faith based questions of whether this is ‘God’s will’ when one chooses to die or is this even a part of our faith talk at this time.
                The question is primarily would you want this option if you were capable of making the decision to die as you faced terminal illness.
                When young parents are expecting babies they often create a birth plan of what would be an ideal setting to bring a baby into the world. Maybe we are in need of reflection upon your death plan- what would be your ideal situation or worth. And significantly, what is God calling us to as we each prepare to die and should our dying be our choosing?
What do you think- feel about this legislation before the government? The government is asking for feedback to this question. How would you respond?  What questions would you raise first or what is your thought about life and death and eternal life?
                These are difficult questions but if you have faith in God- He will help you to discern what is right for you and with you at this time and in the days ahead. It’s time to pray.
Holy God sometimes we wonder why people think that life and death is in their hands when we know that all things are in yours. You created and continue to create all things. You show us life and all its possibilities yet we look to the dark side and want what is easy and comfortable.  May your Spirit speak to us as we look for answers and to have hope restored once again.  Show us O God life and enable us to choose. We ask this in Jesus’ name for he lived, died and rose again so that he might lead us to a new understanding living for you. Amen.
If you would like more about the pending legislation regarding physician assisted dying please go to where  the Final report which is pending before the government is located.

Let us pray and discern God’s will in these matters.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Epiphany- the Day of Gifts to Jesus

Epiphany- the Day of Gifts to Jesus
Matthew 2:1-12
                The star appeared over the place where Jesus lay. When
Jesus was born he was lying in a manger in a barn near a hotel in Bethlehem. No doubt Mary and Joseph were tired from their journey, tired from the birth of their baby and just overwhelmed wondering how to care for themselves and this infant. They did not expect Mary to deliver the baby while away from home and family. Yet here they were new parents in a strange town and welcoming their infant son. 
                A short time later they receive visitors who have been outside tending sheep. They tell the new parents their story about angels and how they came to see what this was all about. They are overjoyed at seeing Jesus and they leave changed. A new reality begins for this family. Mary cannot travel with such a young baby on a donkey and so they decide to stay in the community where he was born. They adjust to life in Bethlehem and Joseph earns money somehow to keep them. Maybe just maybe he finds some family members who he has not known for a while and they make connections. We just do not know. All we do know is that they did not stay in a barn.
                But a star still shone in the sky where the baby was born. It was a bright star noticed by astronomers, learned people from the east who knew that this star was not just a star but a significant sign of something important having occurred.  The prophets had written that a star would shine and that Israel’s light would shine for all. These wise men then travelled west to see the long awaited Messiah. For they knew that a messiah was to be born as this was part of their knowledge taught by Daniel who had faithfully served God while serving the kings of Babylon and later the kings of Persia.
                Daniel’s teaching led those Wise Men to Bethlehem where they found the place where Jesus was. Mary and Joseph hear a knock on the door and they welcome these learned men from the east. They receive them into their home where they offer gifts to Jesus as they worship him as the promised one not only as King of the Jews but the one who is King of Kings. They followed the sign of the star and believed in the promised one who was to come, Jesus was born and they worshiped him. And by worshiping him, they were changed and returned home differently. They did not go back to Jerusalem and tell King Herod yet they were changed from within for they had seen the Child born to become the Saviour.
                As Christmas celebrations become memories and are cherished as such let us take the time to reflect on this Manger King. Jesus’ birth impacted the lives of many people- not only his parents. And Jesus’ life would only continue on to impact the lives of people- those who came to see him, those in the temple and eventually all who believed and followed him as the King of kings. As we remember and celebrate his birth let us not leave Jesus in the manger nor at the house where the Wise Men worshiped him. Let us remember him as the teacher, healer and one whose purpose in coming was more than to be a cute baby. He is the Son of God who lived, died and rose again for our sakes. Let us give thanks for his birth and rejoice that he is alive forevermore!

How do you see Jesus in these moments of Epiphany. Is there something that stood out as a special moment as you celebrated His birth with family and friends? Were you spiritually moved as you sat with family and opened gifts and did you feel Christ’s love?
When the Wise Men presented gifts to the infant king they offered to him what he would need in his life- gold for monetary reasons, frankincense- to sustain him and myrrh which would aid in his burial. Are we will to experience His story and follow in faith? Or are we there only for the cute baby whose birth is celebrated worldwide yet whose death and resurrection are just to difficult to understand.
What do you believe about Jesus? And where does his life impact yours? Let us remember this as we enter into the season of Epiphany when God reveals himself to others through Christ and in Christ.
God of mercy and love, we thank you for Jesus and this day of Epiphany when we remember the Wise Men and the gifts they gave to Jesus after their long journey west. We thank you for the star that lit up the sky and we thank you for Jesus who is the light of the world if we truly believe and follow. We ask this in Jesus’ name Amen.  

NOTE: Next week we start another topic on death and dying and euthanasia~!