I’m Jon. I’m one of the chaplains here.

I never really know what’s going to happen when I walk into a hospital room. Or better, I never really know what’s happening and how I’m going to enter in

In my almost best moments, I forget what happened in the previous room and what’s going to happen in the next room. I walk in ready to listen. I look around carefully, I ask thoughtful questions, I respond with appropriate levels of energy and encouragement and empathy.

In my worst moments, I remember what I should forget and I forget what I should remember. I carry worries from room to room like viruses, ready to infect people with pat answers and trite prayer.

In my best moments, I’m surprised and a little uncertain about walking into the room, responding as I did to the tiniest nudge, the odd pull back into the room I just passed. There was a split second of eye contact that draws me or the whisper that says, “turn left” or “turn right.”

But in truth, this isn’t about chaplaincy at all. This is about all of the conversations each of us has when we are wanting, somehow, to help people out in moments of crisis.This is about the conversations we have when try to respond to Jesus’ invitation to love one another, to His challenge to care for and about.

You know?

Today, I have one simple piece of advice. Even at our worst moments, we are still offering our presence to other people. We are still walking out of ourselves into the path of others where the Holy Spirit can, in ways that I do not understand, help through us.

So here’s the advice.


Somewhere. Anywhere. Across the sofa or the room or the block or the world. Intersect with someone.

And pray.



Passing the peace.

Andrew leaned toward Nancy and me and whispered to us: “We usually sit down and wait for the line to go through a bit.” We sat down.

The congregation lined up at the tables near the center of the room, around the platform. In ones and twos, people dipped wafers into the grape juice. With several hundred people in the room, the lines were long.

Eventually, Andrew shifted, and the four of us stood up. We got in line. Andrew and Allie were in front of us. They dipped their wafers into the juice, held their hands under the wafer, and returned to their seats. So did we.

When we got to our seats, Andrew whispered, “Go ahead and eat. You can eat it up there, but we usually sit down first.” Shoulder to shoulder, Nancy and I ate and remembered body and blood shed for us.

Twenty-some years ago, Nancy and I were the ones giving instructions about Communion, first to son Andrew, then to daughter Hope. We explained the meaning and the process. Decades later, we’re in Allie and Andrew’s church, in their community, We’re the ones receiving the whispered directions for this community, and for their personal practice within this community.

This teaching back and forth has happened for hundreds of generations, billions of people, It’s how the body of Christ remembers and embodies the Body of Christ. “Do this in remembering me,” Jesus told the disciples. As we have patience with each other, as we teach each other, as we guide each other, we are remembering and demonstrating and expressing the love that Jesus showed with his complete self-sacrifice. And as one generation makes room for the next, listening to and deferring to quiet leadership, we are each offering and receiving the love of Christ.

Gentle giants.

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” That’s what Paul says after he says to rejoice. Growing up, the translations we used said ” let your gentleness be known.” The two words overlap well, speaking of an intentional style of interacting with others.

It’s no surprise Paul mentions it in the immediate context of two good people not getting along.

I know people whose presence fills a room. When they walk in, everyone looks. Everyone listens. Everyone is interested in what they have to say. Or, often, is terrified by what they might say. We worry about what might set them off. They don’t worry about filling the conversation.

308_0330In contrast, the kind of person Paul is talking about is often ignored when they walk into a room. But soon, voices that had been overwhelmed are being heard. The person sits next to the quietest person in the room, the most ignored person in the room. And she says, “How are you doing?” and waits for the answer. And in the very waiting compels others to wait. And in saying “#metoo” opens space for community and conversation.

Because the person Paul is talking about, the person with a reputation for reasonableness and gentleness, is known for holding truth tightly and people gently, for allowing justice to work carefully and quietly, for inviting people to a table.

The person Paul is talking about, the person who lives preferring others, is found in more rooms and more groups than we imagine. It’s just that we miss them. Our eyes are on the noisy ones, our ears are dominated by stridency. We miss the people at the edges, who sit quietly by piles called ‘collateral damage’ and call them back to being human.

There is much work to do. That’s why the Spirit invites us to build this reputation.

Instead of the one we’ve often made for ourselves.