Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Pastor vs. The Clinical Ethicist

The following quote of Pastor BT Ball, posted on Four and Twenty Blackbirds, requires a bit of context. Pastor Ball's parishioner lay dying in the hospital, and in much pain. The staff, including the hospital's "clinical ethicist," recommended increasing the dose of morphine, which would make the patient more comfortable and also likely kill him. The parishioner's family, with Pastor Ball's guidance, decided it was the Biblical path to forgo the morphine rather than risk the accelerated death of their loved one. These are a portion of Pastor Ball's comments, so descriptive of the transitory sufferings that unite us with Christ in this life and the ultimate glory that we will also share with Him in the next:

Jesus really means this business of bearing the cross, of denying the self of following him in suffering with the promises of resurrection and glory to come. We want to avoid this reality, and in doing so we are very tempted to avoid the glory of the cross itself, that God has done His greatest work in the suffering of His Son. The cross, it is His glory, it is our life. The promises that He gives through the Apostles are real too, of eternal glory of suffering a little while and receiving His gifts, real.

That it why it was with such joy that we prayed the Commendation of the Dying. Reading St. Matthew's Passion to a dying man, and to his family and telling him that because of Christ's suffering, of the fact that the Father forsook His Son, he was not forsaken in that room, nor would he ever be. That he was baptized into that one death, that his sins were truly atoned for and forgiven; that he was free from them and from death itself. And then to read St. John's account of the resurrection, "go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Telling him that Christ has been raised that He is now at the Father's right hand, the one mediator who has destroyed death, who has prepared a place for him and will take him to his side with all the saints. And then the fullness of his baptism into Christ's death and resurrection to come, his own resurrection on the last day. That he has a true Father in heaven, because he has all that the Son is and has through Holy Baptism. All of this is the real comfort, not some drug, these Words. And I got to rejoice in the faithfulness of these people, commending their husband and father completely to the Lord knowing what he would face, but that he would face it with clarity of mind and they with clarity of conscience.

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