My father-in-law bought each member of the family the same book this past Christmas. He mentioned how he read the book and found it inspiring. He asked if we would be willing to read the book together as a family over the course of the year and share our insights each week through email. The name of the book is “My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging.” The author, Rachel Naomi Remen, is a medical doctor, professor, and author of another best-selling book called “Kitchen Table Wisdom.” One quote says, “Where most doctors treat symptoms, Dr. Remen heals souls.”
From the back cover it says, In “My Grandfather’s Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, cancer physician and master storyteller, uses her luminous stories to remind us of the power of our kindness and the joy of being alive. Dr. Remen's grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi and scholar of the Kabbalah, saw life as a web of connections and knew that everyone belonged to him, and that he belonged to everyone. He taught her that blessing one another is what fills our emptiness, heals our loneliness, and connects us more deeply to life.
Life has given us many more blessings than we have allowed ourselves to receive. “My Grandfather’s Blessings” is about how we can recognize and receive our blessings and bless the life in others. Serving others heals us. Through our service we will discover our own wholeness— and the way to restore hidden wholeness in the world.
I would like to share with you a passage from the book that is shaping my life personally. It begins, “Most of us have been given many more blessings than we have received. We do not take time to be blessed or make the space for it. We may have filled our lives so full of other things that we have no room to receive our blessings. One of my patients once told me that she has an image of us all being circled by our blessings, sometimes for years, like airplanes in the holding pattern at an airport, stacked up with no place to land. They are there waiting for a moment of our time, our attention.
People with serious illness have often let go of a great deal; their illness has created an opening in their lives for the first time. They may discover ways to receive all the blessings they are given, even those that we were given long ago. Such people have shown me how to receive many blessings.
Many years ago the doctor cared for a woman called Mae Thomas. Mae had grown up in Georgia. She had worked hard all her life, cleaning houses in order to raise seven children and more than a few grandchildren. By the time the doctor met her she was old and riddled with cancer. Yet, Mae celebrated her life. Her laugh was pure joy. It made you remember how to laugh yourself. Just thinking of her made the Dr. smile. As Mae became sicker the Dr. began to call her every few days to check on her. She would always answer the phone the same way. The Dr. would ask, “Mae, how you doing?" And Mae would chuckle in reply, "I'm blessed sister I'm blessed.” On the day Mae died her last words to the Dr. were, “I am blessed.” Mae was one of those kinds of people. And perhaps so are we all.”
I was blessed reading that excerpt from the book. I have known many dear friends in the church who count their blessings and bless others. I hope you will know that you are blessed and that you will find ways to receive your many blessings and to bless others, too. May you enjoy the beauty of the earth, the laughter of life, the sacredness of tears, and the deep joy of hope in Jesus whose will is making the world a blessing for all. Amen. Rev. Trey Hegar
We live in an age of increasing doubt and skepticism. Our fellow Americans boast about how much they distrust the United States government. Our brothers and sisters in Christ brag about not believing many of the teachings of the church. Have you discussed the virgin birth lately? Our Catholic friends struggle with faith in their long trusted institution because of priestly scandals. We doubt science and put religion at a distance. There is no authority for the right belief.
We also live in an age of increasing unexamined belief in the absurd. Conspiracy theories comfort our political views. We don’t care if they aren’t proven. They just have to make sense to our minds. “Well, that sounds right.” We accept pseudo-science over long evidence based research using the scientific method. As one author put it "aliens are real, ghosts exist, and the earth was made in six days, but climate change and GMOs and vaccines are made up by the government deep state to control the masses." The age of complete relativism is upon us.
With all of this I find myself at a crossroad about how to articulate my hope in Christ and the doctrines of the church. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” Hebrews 11:11 says, "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
At my last church I did 20 funerals. In each we talked about the “Witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.” We did not talk about what to believe about Easter. We did not talk about how chocolate and bunnies got involved. We talked about hope.
I remember holding the hand of one friend who was dying. She had said in Bible study that she had doubts about the resurrection and heaven, etc. Later she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We talked in her hospital room. She shared how she was moved to tears with hope and comfort about who Jesus was. In a way, her doubt still lingered. She knew it was absurd. But to her the hope was beautiful and
a comfort. In her reality of living and dying the hope of the resurrection was real. Nothing else mattered about skepticism or belief for that matter. What mattered was comfort and peace.
That is what the resurrection means to me. It is a gift from Jesus and our tradition of faith. It gives hope. Romans 8:24 says, "For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see?” And from 2 Corinthians 4:18, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
May you have hope in Christ. Happy Easter!
Rev. Trey Hegar