Presentation on theme: "UnitingCare Ageing The 7 th National Ecumenical Aged Care Chaplains’ Conference 22-25 October 2007 Merroo Conference Centre Kurrajong NSW The Pastoral."— Presentation transcript:
UnitingCare Ageing The 7 th National Ecumenical Aged Care Chaplains’ Conference 22-25 October 2007 Merroo Conference Centre Kurrajong NSW The Pastoral Consolation Sitting with exiles: Ministry with people experiencing Relocation, Isolation and Dislocation REFLECTION 3 LAMMENTATIONS
Nothing contrasts pastoral care and the humanist traditions more clearly than their respective responses to suffering. The modern humanist traditions see suffering as a deficiency – usually under the analogy of sickness. Something has gone wrong, and a therapist is called in to set it right. Some of this is merely modern: it is the kind of thing Ivan Illich objects to when he argues that there is an American myth that denies suffering and the sense of pain. We act as if they should not be, and hence we devalue the experience of suffering
But this myth denies our encounter with reality. The approach is to find the cause of the suffering and to eliminate it, either through psychoanalysis, or through environmental change, or through social- political reform. Suffering, as such, has no value and no meaning – it is only a sign that things have gone wrong, and a challenge to humanity to set them right again through goodwill and ingenuity,
CPEClinical training movement Positive side it has taught pastors to pay scrupulous attention to each instance of suffering, to bring an intelligent compassion to the event of hurt. It has given proper warnings against the futility of moralizing.
Eugen Peterson is concerned that CPE also has a potentially negative side Negative side, Eugen Peterson is concerned that CPE also has a potentially negative side Negative side, ”It has encouraged the use of secular, medical models for understanding suffering, and therefore has perpetuated the myth of the therapeutic. Instead of attributing the suffering to the “sins of the fathers,” It has assigned them to the neuroses of the mothers”. Nothing has been gained and much lost by substituting psychological presuppositions for theological understandings.
Pastors have been herded into the temple shrines of psychiatry, trained in its incantations and rituals, and then sent back into Christian churches to try to practice what they have learned. They have been put in hospitals and clinics as “chaplains,” made to sit at the feet of a medical priesthood, in order to learn the cure of souls. Awed by the prestige, the salaries, the vast technology, and the immense power of the medical elite, they return to their parishes thoroughly convinced of their inferiority to the practitioners of modern science.
They are sentenced by ordination to live among the suffering in awkward amateurism, mumbling prayers, and handing out prescriptive scriptures, while their superiors scientifically titrate drugs and sell advice with an arrogance unrivalled since the days of the Greek sophists (against whom Socrates railed and fumed). Pastors have been told by the clinical pastoral training people that they are a part of a “healing team” with physicians and nurses.
The pastor who accepts this work will neither attempt explanations of suffering nor mount programs for the elimination of it. Pastors have no business interfering with another’s sorrow, or manipulating it. Suffering is an event in which we are particularly vulnerable to grace, able to recognize dimensions in God and depths in the self. To treat it as a “problem” is to demean the person. Lamentations is not grief management. It does, though, by sharing the suffering, help. But it doesn’t solve it; it doesn’t eliminate it. And it doesn’t try. Suffering is a task on which it does not turn its back.
…suffering is not always a pathological phenomenon; rather than being a symptom of neurosis, suffering may well be a human achievement, especially if the suffering grows out of existential frustration. I would strictly deny that one’s search for a meaning to his existence, or even his doubt of it, in every case is derived from, or results in, any disease.30. Frankl, p. 102.
Lamentations stands as a counterforce to the “triumph of the therapeutic.” It grounds pastoral care and chaplaincy in the painful, patient facing of suffering that is an unavoidable part of the task Encouraged by Lamentations, the chaplain will have the strength to ‘DO’ far less in relation to suffering, and ‘BE’ far more. Being honours the sufferer. Nothing can provide more meaning to suffering than a resolute and quiet faithfulness in taking the suffering seriously and offering a companionship through the time of waiting for the morning.
Human life consists in satisfied seasons of well- being that evoke gratitude for the constancy of blessing. Human life consists in anguished seasons of hurt, alienation, suffering, and death. These evoke rage, resentment, self-pity, and hatred. The move of the seasons is transformational and not developmental; that is, the move is never obvious, easy, or “natural.” It is always in pain and surprise, and in each age it is thinkable that a different move might have been made.
Dismantling of the old, known world and a relinquishment of safe, reliable confidence in God’s good creation. The movement of dismantling includes a rush of negatives, including rage, resentment, guilt, shame, isolation, despair, hatred, and hostility. The sphere of disorientation may be quite personal and intimate, or it may be massive and public. Either way, it is experienced as a personal end of the world
In a society that engages in great denial and grows numb by avoidance and denial, it is important to recover and use Scriptures like Lamentations that speak the truth about us – in terms of God’s engagement with the world. The dominant ideology of our culture is committed to continuity and success and to the avoidance of pain, hurt, and loss.
The dominant culture is also resistant to genuine newness and real surprise. It is curious and true, that surprise is as unwelcome as is loss. And our culture is organized to prevent the experience of both. A form of social control.
But at best, this is only partly true. It is my judgment that this action of the church is less a defiance guided by faith and founded in the good news, and much more a frightened, numb denial and deception that does not want to acknowledge or experience the disorientation of life. The reason for such relentless affirmation of orientation seems to come, not from faith, but from the wishful optimism of our culture
Such a denial and cover-up, which I take it to be, is an odd inclination for passionate Bible users, given the large number of psalms that are songs of lament, protest, and complaint about the incoherence that is experienced in the world. At least it is clear that a church that goes on singing “happy songs” in the face of raw reality is doing something very different from what the Bible itself does.
We have thought that acknowledgment of negativity was somehow an act of unfaith Unfaith and failure, but for the trusting community, their use is an act of bold faith The world must be experienced as it really is and not in some pretended way. All such experiences of disorder are a proper subject for discourse with God. Everything must be brought to speech, and everything brought to speech must be addressed to God, who is the final reference for all of life.
The God assumed by and addressed in Lamentations is a God “of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Life is understood to be a pilgrimage or process through the darkness that belongs properly to humanness. Precisely in such deathly places and circumstances as presented in Lamentations new life is given by God. Newness that is not of our own making breaks upon us. They lead us into dangerous acknowledgment of how life really is.
The remarkable thing about Israel is that it did not banish or deny the darkness from its religious enterprise. It embraces the darkness as the very stuff of new life. Indeed, Israel seems to know that new life is rooted nowhere else. God does not have protected sensitivities. God is expected and presumed to receive the fullness of Israel’s speech.
What we do know, both from the structure of the text and our own experience, is that grievance addressed to an authorized partner does free us. The is the insight behind Freud’s theory of talk- therapy, that we do not move beyond the repressed memory unless we speak it out loud to one with authority who hears. In our culture we have understood that in terms of one-on-one therapy. We still have to learn that this is true socially and liturgically. Lamentations and the psalms provide important materials for that learning. We still have to learn that this is true socially and liturgically. Lamentations and the psalms provide important materials for that learning.
We live in a society of denial and cover-up, and Lamentations provides a way for healing candor. It may also be so because we live in a society in which the disorientation is not only personal but also public. The “sacred canopy” is clearly in jeopardy, and that jeopardy must be dealt with as a religious issue.
If God is powerful and good, how can there be evil in the world? If the question is posed in this way, religion can offer no adequate logical response. Logistically one must compromise either God’s power or God’s love, either saying that evil exists because God is not powerful enough to overrule it, or because God is not loving enough to use God’s power in this way.
Today the theological discussion seems to insist on holding on to God’s love even at the risk of God’s sovereign power. What faith offers is a sense of trust that is prepared to submit. That deep trust summons us to hard rethinking about the categories in which we do our reflection.
We already noted that genuine communion with God is never removed from the seasons, times, and crises of life.
Bibliography Biggs C R &A Way Into The Old Testament – Uniting Church Press – Melbourne Brueggemann Walter ‘Cadences Of Home’. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1997. Quoting Buechner Frederick ‘The Longing For Home; Recollections and Reflections. Harper San Francisco, San Francisco1996 (pp 110,128,140) Brueggemann Walter Spirituality of the Psalms – Fortress Press - 2002 Catlin A L G Frannkl ViktoMans Search For Meaning. Simon and Schuister New York 1959 Foster R. J. (et al)The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible’ Harper `San Francisco 2005 Klein Ralph W Israel In Exile – A Theological Interpretation – Fortress Press 1979 Meyers Jennifer ‘A Winter’s Prayers And Songs Of Death’ JBCE 1988. Moran FrancesBeyong The Culture Of Care. St Pauls, Strathfield 2006 Moran FrancesListening – A Pastoral Style. E J Dwyer, Alexandria 1996. O.Connor KathleenLamentations And The Tears Of The World’ Orbis New York 2002 Peterson Eugene H Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work William B Eerdmans Michigan – 1980 Webb Barry G Five Festal Garments - Apollos - 2000 Westermann Claus Handbook To The Old Testament – SPCK – 1969 Westermann Claus Lamentations – Issues and Interpretation – T&T Clark - 1994 Wise Carroll A The Meaning Of Pastoral Care. Harper and Rowe, New York 1966
Introduction PoemQuoting Buechner Frederick ‘The Longing For Home; Recollections and Reflections Music‘ Streets of London’ Ralph Matel Bible Reading Lamentations 1:1-7,12,20-22. Text Music ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ Bryn Terfel 2.Introduction Poem‘Sometimes Angry’Jennifer Meyers Reading‘Psalm 137 Sir Lawrence Olivier Bible Reading Lamentations 3:1-30. Text Music ‘The Steadfast Love Of The Lord Never Ceases’ 3.Introduction Poem‘Sick Fools’ Jennifer Meyers Music‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child,’ Bible Reading Lamentations :5:1-10,19-22. Text Music ‘God Be With You Till We Meet Again’ Bryn Terfel PicturesSieger Koder “Art and Inspiration” Pauline Books and Media SLOUGH SL3 GBS ENGLAND www.pauline-uk.org SLOUGH SL3 GBS ENGLAND www.pauline-uk.org