Garrett on Jesus’ nature

In his May 2014 essay “Jesus:  Flesh and Spirit,” spiritual philosopher Leroy Garrett has written such provocative statements as these:

I am not a traditional Trinitarian. I do not believe that Jesus was God, who according to James 1:13 cannot be tempted. . . .

The Logos was “equal with God” but he emptied himself and became human. In doing so he became Son of God, but not God. This is why our Lord resisted being called God:  . . .

But there remains abundant mystery to the relationship between Jesus and God, . . .

Find the complete essay here.

Leroy Garrett, probably 20+ years ago
Leroy Garrett, probably 20+ years ago

I have for a couple dozen years questioned the Trinity idea.  It appears to be a humanly devised concept.  As Garrett has said, roughly, noting that “Trinity” is not a scripture term, “I don’t claim something that the scriptures themselves don’t claim.”  For my part, I have never found a scripture passage that says “God is made of up of precisely three parts, and their names are ____, _____, and _____.”  Since I haven’t unearthed such an assertion in scripture, I resist asserting threeness myself.

Back to the particular essay referred to above.  In dealing with Jesus’ nature, Garrett doesn’t feel the need to differentiate overtly between “Christ” and “Jesus,” yet he does do that if one reads closely.  On this point, I also track with Garrett.

My own suspicion — and it is only a suspicion — is that there is a “part” (whatever that means) of God (mystery that He is) that has always existed (whatever that means) and became a “Son” (in some sense).  “The Word” (whatever that signifies) is identified with “the Son” in John’s gospel, and Jesus is clearly “the only Son” there.  The divine mystery includes some sense the binary nature of Jesus/Word/Son/Christ.  It seems to me that “Jesus” — and probably “Son of Man,” too — might fairly be used to designate the time-bound, mortal existence of the divine “Son.”

In that the nature of God defies numbering and naming, it appears to be a mystery.

Voices: lowering oneself to elevations

I have a generally positive, albeit surface-level, impression of the relatively new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.¹  He seems to rise above even their mere tradition, making his own way based on conscience, if not scripture.  Yet Francis is not above descending to the so-called “elevation” of mortals to some presumed special standing!  Please note these words from Leroy Garrett, just posted in his newsletter, available via  These succinct thoughts are much better put than my own would have been.²

The presumed saint-making presently going on in Rome strikes me as juvenile, like children playing games in the street.  Children make castles of snow and sand, while clergy in sacerdotal robes create saints with incantations and holy smoke.  Only he who “planted the ear and formed the eye” can turn sinners into saints, and this by their turning from their sins and believing in and being baptized into Christ.  All those who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism are sanctified or made saints.  Rome’s game-playing, which is receiving premier media coverage — as if it were for real — reminds us of what Luther and the Reformation did for the church by restoring “the priesthood (and sainthood) of all believers.”  But it can’t be plainer than the way Paul put it to the Philippians (1:1):  “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”

Sainthood is God-given by grace, not hierarchically bestowed or politically endowed.


¹ I specify what he is Pope of because “Pope” is an in-house title, inapplicable to the broader world.  In other words, just as your “pastor” is not my pastor, the RC Pope is not pope of the cosmos or of the earth or of the country of which I am a citizen.  “Pope” and “pastor” are titles that deal with functional and/or hierarchical relationships inside an organization.

² I may yet comment on President Obama’s Easter words.  (It is interesting that he seems to have had a “take” at all.)

Voices: Garrett et al on “trinity”

Jesus’ concept of God and goodness are the subjects of a recent essay by Leroy Garrett.  Since it was first through Leroy’s writings that I began to probe the doctrine of the Trinity, about 20 years ago, it’s fitting that I share a quote from a recent essay by this same author.  Garrett, a theological philosopher and elder Christian statesman, is now in his 90s and has edited several periodicals — including his own Restoration Review and the current Soldier On! — for an aggregate total of some 60 years.

Jesus was hardly a Trinitarian, and [Matthew 19:16f]  does not lend itself to that hallowed and historic doctrine.  Jesus would have balked at such theological inventions as “the Triune God” or “the hypostatic union of three persons.”  – L. Garrett

Note:  Garrett’s complete essay may be viewed here.  It treats well some of the differences among the gospels’ portrayals of Jesus and others, notably focusing on Matthew.

For what it’s worth:  Mark and John are probably bit more inclined toward trinitarian thought (e.g., a reference in the longer, less well-attested ending of Mark; and the references in John 14, 15, and 16 in particular).  Still, there appears no well-attested original passage that clearly lays out “three.”  I do not think it is contra truth to consider 1-Father, 2-Son, and 3-Spirit — those are all present, in function — but no gospel or letter appears to have as part of its agenda the specification of a divine triumvirate.

For an example of stereotypical, articulate trinitarian support, see this page.  While I appreciate the intent and heart of the quotations (Winslow and Wilson), it’s difficult for me to affirm wholeheartedly a doctrine never claimed in scripture per se.  It’s not that Father, Son, and Spirit don’t exist — they certainly do — it’s that the supposed “triangle” has been superimposed through the intervening centuries.  Orthodoxy is not all it’s cracked up to be; it’s kind of like a dictionary — a reflection of usage, but not necessarily a trove of well-founded accuracy.  [ADDENDUM 7/16 — my comment on the trinitarian blog noted above has not been approved — it is under “moderation.”  I’ll check back later, but I can’t help but wonder why the person doesn’t want an equally God-honoring, although not orthodoxy-worshipping, comment appearing on his site.]  [ADDENDUM 7/20 — I wrote the author on Facebook, asking him to approve my comment.  I now see that I am dealing with quite a clout covey!  The group represented by the trinitarian post includes such luminaries as the pastor of a high-profile Nashville church frequented by CCM artists, the president of Wheaton College, the president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, a Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and noted author John Piper.]

Like Garrett, I consider “trinity” to be a “theological invention.”  I prefer to think of God as transcendent and many-faceted, without locking Him in to being “three” — which may be, after all, a mere number suggested for the sake of the limited human mind.

For more on the topic of trinity, please see this post:  Sorbet as a Symbol.

Doubt and belief

A couple of suspicious folks once doubted Lynn Anderson’s value as a Christian speaker when the latter touted “Doubting Thomas” in a presentation at our church in Delaware.  “That man Lynn Anderson,” they accused, “doesn’t know if he believes.”  Of course that wasn’t true; it was merely that Lynn was trying to help people deal with honest doubts that occur from time to time during life.

Now comes Leroy Garrett, a man who, in his mid-90s, ought to know by now whether he believes or not.  And believe he does.  Yet he also gives credence to ol’ Thomas’s apparent doubt in the recent essay “An Overlooked Beatitude.”

. . .  There are other beatitudes in the New Testament with which we are less familiar, such as Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,” and Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” There is yet another with which we are even more unfamiliar. I am calling this one an “overlooked” beatitude. It is in John 20:29: “Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

   You will recall the story. We call him “doubting Thomas,” which, due to the profound faith he manifested, may be unfair. The risen Christ had appeared to his disciples — apparently on Easter evening– behind closed doors. They were locked in “for fear of the Jews.” He showed them the marks of crucifixion on his hands and side, but not his feet as is commonly assumed. In Roman crucifixions the feet were only loosely tied. Jesus blessed them and breathed on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. He then disappeared as quickly as he had appeared, the locked doors never being opened (John 20:19-23).

   But Thomas was not present on this occasion. We may assume that he was not as fearful of the Jews as the others, and that he chose to grieve alone. . . . 

   When they told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, he responded with “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hands into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). This is not necessarily weak faith, and you will notice that when eight days later Jesus appeared to the same group, with Thomas present, again behind locked doors, he does not fault Thomas for a lack of faith.

   Jesus might have agreed with Tennyson that “There is more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds.” And it was surely honest doubt with Thomas, who might have supposed the other disciples had seen an apparition. That his crucified Lord was alive again was too good to be true. He would not believe until he had hard evidence. What is so bad about that? If we call the brother “doubting Thomas,” we ought to make it “honest doubting Thomas.”

Too good to be true


by Leroy Garrett

It is another Harvard story. It was a class with the late Professor Henry J. Cadbury, at the time a world renowned New Testament scholar. We were discussing the resurrection narratives in the gospels, and even the beloved professor, who was not a believer in the divinity of Christ, seemed impressed with the weightiness of the evidence. We had noticed that on Easter morning no one believed that Jesus would rise from the dead, not even his most devoted disciples. Even when trusted women reported that they had seen Jesus alive they did not believe. But in time his disciples came to believe with such conviction that they were willing to give their lives for their faith, as were thousands of others. It is difficult to account for this other than their own testimony, that they too had seen the risen Christ.

I was impressed with the professor’s respect for the evidence, and for his reluctance to disparage the testimony of the witnesses, even while remaining an unbeliever. He at last said to the class, “Something must have happened.” Years after his retirement from Harvard and into his 90s the dear old professor died from a fall down a stairwell in his Pennsylvania home. When I heard the news I thought of what he had said in class that day — “Something must have happened” — and I sad to myself, “Now he knows what happened.”

I simply loved that anecdote and wanted to repeat it here and now for my readers.  Leroy continues, relating that there was another student in his class — likely a Unitarian — that took a different view.

Neither did he attempt to discount the evidence, but rejected the whole resurrection story on the grounds that “It is too good to be true.” The class as a whole seemed willing to accept that explanation, including the professor. It was their way of saying that the resurrection story is illogical, anti-natural, and fantasy because dead men don’t rise. It contradicts human wisdom!  I at last had my say, and I was probably the only believer in the class, and I agreed that the Easter story might well be too good to be true, but that I was pleased to believe that what is too good to be true is indeed true.

That was not particularly heroic on my part, and if I had it to do over I might have better said, “Isn’t the resurrection of Christ a grace story, and isn’t ‘Too good to be true’ a good definition of grace?  Grace is illogical, anti-natural, extravagant, supernatural, even nonsensical. We‘re talking about the grace of God, which reaches beyond human wisdom.” But that probably would not have impressed that class!

Thank God for His indescribably illogical, extravagantly merciful, world-changing gift of life.

Truly “catholic” (and other labels)

Names and labels often pique my interest (as do grammatical things and words — which reminds me that an older friend once paused to ask me, in a Bible-class setting, whether the spelling of the word he had just used were “p-e-a-k” or “p-e-e-k,” to which I replied “p-i-q-u-e,” but this is all beside the point).

For instance, a “sanctuary” often isn’t one, really, so that’s a misnomer; “pope” and “narthex” and “sacristy” are just silly words devoid of substantive meaning.  And what about this one — the piece of furniture in which a baby can be ceremonially, un-biblically sprinkled may be labelled “baptistry” or “baptismal font,” but those are both misnomers.  Presbyterians often have those (not-)baptismals, and so do Catholics and others.

There are commonalities all ’round, and sometimes they unite people you wouldn’t expect to be united.  Leroy Garrett, a respected scholar and writer now in his mid-90s, wrote this of a recently unifying experience at an institutional church building in New Mexico:

What particularly caught my eye at the Chapel was a notice that the Independent Catholic Church of Antioch at Santa Fe conducts Mass there each Sunday afternoon. It bills itself as neither Roman, Orthodox, or Protestant, but just Catholic. But it is high-church, with a rich liturgy, with priests, including women, in colorful vestments conducting Mass at what was once a Roman Catholic altar. It calls itself “a love church” that reaches out to all humanity, and as for such social issues as abortion and birth control it leaves it up to each person to decide for himself. They emphasize that Jesus rejected no one, and they seek to be like him. One of their “Spiritual Principles” is: “We affirm that we are a truly Catholic Church in the most universal sense. Our altars and Priesthood are open to all humanity.” It is one more example of the diversity of Christendom.

I would call into discussion the implications of certain capital letters in the above description, as well as the extent of the “universal” acceptance to which this unique NM group aspires.  (The “rich liturgy” often appeals to non-liturgists until they experience “richness” over a period of months or years, at which point they finally realize that pretty much every liturgy is just another overblown human creation.)  Still, that particular liturgy in — which I presume amounted, at one point to a departure from a-biblical restrictions of the Roman Catholic institution — is laudable at least for said departure!

On the sidewalk recently, I overheard two students talking of what I took to have been a reference to, or a congregational recitation of, one of the so-called “creeds.”  They were taking exception to the appeal in this “creed” to the “holy, catholic church”–a designation that is for me at once inspiring and off-putting.  I only heard two or three sentences, but I think one of the two students had no idea, as yet, that the meaning of the word “catholic” is “universal.”  The other student, I think, was about to start explaining this.  I wonder, though, whether even after hearing the explanation, the first student would have been left, like me, unconvinced that the expression “holy, catholic church” should be recited by believers today.

Words are, after all, symbols and communicators.  Communication scientists make all sorts of studies of linguistics and semiotics, and they doubtless have a lot to say about such things.  I am but a closet observer of, and participant in, communication, but I do have the distinct feeling that using the term “catholic” is not appropriately communicative in a protestant church.

And the term is all the more a barrier for a neo-Protestant such as myself.  (There is so much to protest; vive la rebellion!)

Uniting Christians

When we ponder unity, we may be considering the uniting of entire denominations with other ones, or entire local congregations with other ones, or simply — most significantly, I think, as an introvert! — the way individual Christians accept and interact with one another.

Churches and denominations may be labeled “inclusive,” which of course implies that other ones are exclusive.  Ecumenical churches would tend to be more inclusive, but the exclusive/inclusive dichotomy does not necessarily parallel the ecumenical/non-ecumenical one.  Nor does the conservative/liberal contradistinction necessarily predict aspects of unity among believers.  It is possible, in other words, to be biblically conservative without being relationally exclusive.

Leroy Garrett wrote recently on the so-called Lunenberg Letter of Alexander Campbell:

It is when differences are allowed to make a people quarrelsome, hateful, and factious and thus exclusive — drawing the line of fellowship — that divisions come. Exclusivism has been the culprit, and when we look for its beginnings in the Movement we find that its roots had been there all along. From the outset Alexander Campbell talked about “uniting the Christians in the sects,” which inferred that he believed there were Christians in the sects,  but to some of his followers this appeared to conflict with what he had been saying about baptism by immersion being for the remission of sins.

This gave occasion for the Lunenburg Letter, which became the basis of an ongoing controversy that began in 1837. A lady in Lunenburg, Virginia, one of Campbell’s readers, wrote to him about this apparent contradiction. In view of what he had taught about immersion how could there be Christians in the sects if they have not been immersed, she asked, and sharpened the question by asking him to define a Christian.

After warning against being an “ultraist,” noting that any command can be distorted through overemphasis, and insisting that the devotion of the heart means more than outward forms, Campbell gave the definition the woman asked for: “But who is a Christian? I answer, Every one who believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God, repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will.”

Alexander Campbell’s “Lunenburg letter” is a seminal document in the American Restoration Movement.  It shows not only Campbell’s developing thinking, but also his willingness to engage a serious question from someone apparently to his right — a statement about unity in itself!  Moreover, Campbell’s definition of “Christian” is worthy of careful thought.  One belonging to Christ (= “Christian”), says Campbell, has a personal belief in Jesus, and makes necessary changes in life.

The final phrase in the response–“according to his measure of knowledge of his will”–is of clear significance.  It is much easier to be in practical, accepting unity with individuals if we can allow for individual measures of knowledge.  In other words, something may be utterly clear to me (and I may or may not be right about it), but if my sister’s or brother’s “measure of knowledge” is different on some point, that matter is better left between that person and God.  This principle has come to be known as the “principle of available light.”

Next:  a few misc. (finer?) points about unity

Names (2) — nondenominationalism everywhere?

I once delivered a full-length sermon on the topic “the denominationalism within us”—to the horror of several siblings who had some wool shreds near their chins and noses (the wool’s having been pulled down from above).  Born ‘n bred as nondenominational Christians, they were more than offended to be accused of being denominational.

Now, most church groups don’t fear denominationalism at all and in fact find the denomination “nest” quite homey.  Leaving alone the issue of that false comfort for now, I merely want to say that the Church of Christ has for decades employed a set of terminologies that discourage honesty about structure and identity.  Disingenuously, it has in some circles used a lower-case “c” on “church,” as if to say, “we’re not a denomination,” all the while using the oddly fashioned term “church of Christ” in precisely the same way as the Methodists use the initials “UMC,” Baptists use the term “Baptist,” and Catholics use the pretentious label “The Church.”

Yes, Virginia, there is denominationalism within the Church of Christ.  There is no doubt about this.  Despite not having an earthly headquarters (a plus in many respects), any real system of ordination (a plus in most respects), a general conference (a plus in all respects), etc., “we” are a Yellow-pages-identifiable religious group that has a name.  That makes us a denomination, period.

Leroy Garrett tells of the early concerns with naming in the Restoration Movement:

Once the Stone and Campbell movements united and became one church, a story I shall be relating, they settled the name issue by calling themselves by both names, Christians and Disciples, and their congregations were variously known as Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches, and Churches of Christ. It was unusual — a church with three names! The cruel irony is that once this unity movement betrayed its own heritage and divided into three churches, a sad story that I will also relate, each of the churches ended up wearing one of the three names, and for the most part only that name.

I still heartily reject “Methodist,” “Catholic,” “Baptist,” “Lutheran,” etc., as having anything to do with anything eternally significant (although they are in some contexts valid, helpful descriptors).  In the last case:  I find it patently irreverent to name with a human’s name a group that purports to claim allegiance to Jesus as Messiah, so “Lutheran” and “Wesleyan” and “Swedenborgian” are right out.  The epithet “Methodist” speaks of a way of Christian living, and as many believe to have been the case with the first use of the term “Christian,” it was originally derogatory.  “Baptist” is much more biblically based but also belies a sectarian, human philosophy or set of practices.  “Catholic” is, etymologically speaking, less provincial than all the rest in this paragraph, but that label, of course, carries with it centuries of apostasy, strongly suggests the Roman hierarchy, and gathers with it whole nationalities, ethnicities, perversities of both living and doctrine, not to mention weird habits like Bingo nights.  A trunk full of junk like this represents major baggage that no one should carry.  Better never to use the common adjective “catholic” without clearly explaining it as meaning “universal.”

I perpetually find myself with mouth agape when I see evidence that human allegiance can still be paid to these human labels, or to any like them.  Although denominational loyalties seem far weaker than they were years ago, they are still with us.  People consider themselves “Methodists” and “Episcopals” and “Assembly of God” more than “Christians.”  Not being one for mob mentalities, I don’t get it.

But again:  what is it to be Christian?  I grew up thinking it meant “Christ-like.”  I don’t think that’s as helpful a definition anymore, though.  In the sermon referred to above, I defined “Christian” as I would define “Bostonian”:  the suffix “-ian” designates one who is of something, possessed by something, belongs to something.  A Bostonian is of Boston and in some sense belongs to Boston.  A Christian, likewise, is of Christ, possessed by Christ.

The definition of “Christian” is infinitely more important than affiliation with any denominated subgroup within Christendom.

Next:  ecumenism

Names (1) — denominating

A few weeks ago, three student ensembles under my direction presented a chamber music program at Baker Memorial Church in East Aurora, NY .  This was a most enjoyable experience in terms of the hosting, the music, and my students.  All this added up to pure delight.

But I’m caused to think about church names and am not so delighted anymore.  The Grace Dean Memorial Concert Series, held throughout the year at this United Methodist Church facility, is presumably aptly named for its original benefactor, but the naming of a church (or church building—I’m really not sure which, because there’s no distinguishing with the UMC and many other church groups) with some human moniker is, in my opinion, inappropriate.  In fact, I continue to believe that most church names are to some extent inappropriate—when they take a human, or a human aspect, as their jumping-off point rather than simply labeling themselves, and simply being, Christian.

What is it to be “Christian”?  And what is it to be a “Christian” church or a “Christian” college?  Will the adjectival use of a significant noun be appropriate?  Will it be enough?

Hear Leroy Garrett on the naming of the American Restoration Movement church groups:

Our name had to be biblical.  Alexander Campbell preferred Disciples, while Barton Stone insisted on Christians, believing it to be the divinely-appointed name, based on Acts11:26, “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”  It was one of their disagreements. Campbell believed Christian was a name used in derision by outsiders, noting that in Scripture the disciples never called themselves by that name, not even Luke, the author of Acts, after saying that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.  He went right on calling them disciples, and never Christians.  Hardly a divinely-appointed name, Campbell insisted, but he was nonetheless honored to be called a Christian, even if at first used in derision.

I grew up sensing an almost reverent conception of the term “Christian” and for a long time believed that that word was the only apt label for me, for us, for anyone serious about God.  I have since added “believer” and “disciple” and, in my more quirky moments, “Jesus person” and maybe a few more.  I still use the term “Christian” most often.  Perhaps this is the term that describes status, while “believer” describes personal faith, and “disciple” describes living patterns?

What happens in life is more important, but names are important, too.

Next:  denominationalism within a “nondenomination”

Body and grave, spirit and destiny

The following was written by Harvard-educated philosopher, Bible student, and seriously Christian writer Leroy Garrett.  I greatly admire Leroy’s constancy through the decades and have greatly benefited from the spiritual commitment of his writings.  He once stayed in my home during a special series of presentations to my church in Delaware, and I stayed in his home in TX once, as well.

Leroy’s wife of more than 60 years died a week ago, and the essay below shows his devotion to her while expressing an eternal truth about, well … eternity!

May more people read this than typically read my own words, and may we all be moved toward a deeper, stronger faith that the unseen God will bring our unseen souls into an unseen world of bliss.  Marana tha.


This affirmation out of the life of Alexander Campbell was especially meaningful to me as I had my cheek next to Ouida’s, and holding her hand , as she breathed her last. I told those in the room that she was gone, in a moment’s time. that she had just transferred from being part of the family of God on earth to being part of the family of God in heaven, to use Paul’s way of putting it in Ephesians 3:15. I had whispered to her sometime before that it was time for her to go, and that she was about to embark upon life’s greatest adventure. She labored to reply, her last word to me, Yes, affirming her faith.

I have been telling friends that our relationship began with a yes, when she agreed to take on the risk of marrying the likes of me, and it ended 66 years later with a yes to our separation for the sake of her homegoing. There were numerous affirmations in between, even amidst tragedy and sorrow , in which we said yes to God’s sovereign will, even when we did not understand.

The Campbell story goes back to 1847, the year his eleven-year old Wycliffe drowned in a mill-pond on the family farm. The reformer was in Scotland when the tragedy occurred, and came home to a grief-stricken family. The boy’s mother was inconsolable, to the point of being a problem to the family. One evening when she could not be found bout the house, her husband supposed he might find her at the family burial plot, where not only Wycliffe lay buried but other loved ones as well. He found her standing before the graves weeping. He stood behind her and whispered, “My dear, they are not here,” and gently led her back to the house.

That story touches my mind as well as heart, for it defines the essence of faith. If the believer is not captured by the grave, but lives on in the Great Beyond, we have a living hope. When we believe such affirmations as “to live is Christ, to die is gain” and “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” to quote the great apostle, the victory is ours, with “exceeding great joy.”

Campbell’s profound expression of faith, “They are not here,” gave me strength when the van arrived from the medical college to take the body away. I had said my farewells while she yet breathed, and now I was there when they reverently wrapped the body, covered it with a blanket, and secured it tight to the gurney. As the body was taken down the hall, I followed close behind, accompanied by elders from our congregation and several close friends. It was important to me that I could say, “They are not taking my sweetheart wife away, only the body in which she lived.” And yet the body in which she lived was precious to us, and we were releasing it to the medical school with prayer and dedication.

We paused at the entrance way. The elders read Scripture and prayed, and one of them, referring to Romans 12:1, mentioned how Ouida in life had presented her body a “living sacrifice,” and in her demise she donated her body as a “dead sacrifice” for the good of medical education

I had prepared this prayer for the occasion, which one of the elders read.

May this body, donated by our dear sister to the Southwestern Medical College, be, used by student doctors and nurses and their professors to the glory of God. May it be treated with dignity and respect, and may those who make use of it realize that it is not only the creation of God, but that it once served as a temple of God in which the Spirit of God dwelt. Bless her who made this priceless gift, and bless those who make use of it to the enhancement of medical science.

I stood by as the attendants eased the body into the van and made it secure. I thanked them for the dignity and reverence they had shown. We all watched in silence until the van disappeared out of sight into the night. The body will be used for medical study and research, perhaps for a time, then cremated and interred anonymously in the memorial garden at the medical school.

As we went through this emotional ordeal of “telling Ouida goodbye,” as it could have been seen, we might have heard the reassuring whisper of Alexander Campbell in our ears, “She is not here.”

Caring and loving

The following words come from the “pen” of Leroy Garrett, a saint of approx. 90 years of age, whose writings and constant “soldiering” in the Christian walk I respect deeply. Leroy is a couple of years the senior of his wife, whose health is not good.  He writes of caring for her in a way that should humble every husband and wife … and every Christian, really:

In recent weeks Ouida has struggled to maintain hardly any quality of life. Growing weaker and more fatigued, she is so exhausted that she barely walks, talks, or thinks. Even taking medicine is a problem, so I now grind the pills into powder and put them in her yogurt. I never told her, and she doesn’t miss the medicine! Her nurse, who was just here to bathe her, told me that dementia is part of the problem, leading to incontinence and loss of memory. But her vital signs remain normal, her weight is holding, and her appetite is good. I still read to her at table time, various things, and she is attentive when I read of our “blessed hope” and of the “exceeding great and precious promises” that are ours. She is so dear to me that caring for her is my labor of love, and if I am risking my own health, as her other caregivers fear, I can’t tell it. They suggest nursing care in this same facility, which would separate us. I agree, but not yet, not so long as I have the strength to lift her. I know it means as much to her as to me for me to be with her 24/7. And the nurses who come in are of great help. I pray for “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” which we also joyously sing in the assembly of believers.

There has been some further deterioration in Ouida’s condition since the last report. There appears to be a continual decrease in quality of life. She is up very little, and can barely walk, even with a walker. She communicates almost none at all, even when I or others talk to her. The nurse explains that she simply doesn’t have the energy to talk. She may go to nursing or go on hospice at anytime, depending on my ability to care for her. I look to the nurse and the doctor to make that decision. She continues to have home health care, which includes bathing and medicine monitoring, which helps a lot. She is still my sweetheart wife, going on 67 years together, and I thank her every day for being such a precious wife all these years, and that I am wonderfully blessed to be caring for her in her time of need, which makes it our very best time together. That always brings an appreciative and loving smile. And she still smiles and sometimes laughs at my jokes, depending on the joke. She laughed out loud when I told her bout the little boy who learned that you can’t baptize a cat!

Communion unbound

The following is a quote without (much) comment from Leroy Garrett, who is something of an elder mentor to me.  I’ve been in his home only once but have to come to respect his constancy in faith, and his wisdom and persistence in spiritual-emphasis writing.  I disagree with him sometimes, but I never question his sincerity of conviction or his devotion.

In the passage below, Leroy uses the phrase “break bread” to refer to the Lord’s Supper or Communion.  It’s a nice expression that simplifies the beauty of the memorial “meal” and makes it all sound more familial, which is a good thing.  But “break bread” in the scriptures, as I have pointed out, does not seem to refer specifically to Communion.  More important here is the view of the geographically and chronologically unbound family of believers….

I often ponder “the family of God in heaven and on earth” when I break bread with my fellow believers in assembly each Lord’s day. From sundown on the seventh day to sundown on the first day the family upon earth, all around the world, is in assembly remembering the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread. I recall dear brethren of different color, nation, race and language with whom I have broken bread — in Australia and New Zealand, in India and Japan, in the Philippines and Thailand, in Russia and Eastern Europe, and even in China, meeting with “underground” believers. And of course Western Europe, Canada , Mexico, and South American countries. The family of God on earth! I love them all in precious recollection, and in my old age I yet break bread with them each Lord’s day.

And I remind myself that I am in some sense breaking bread with the family of God in heaven, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29). There is an ongoing fellowship in the heavenly banquet, realized in glory and anticipated in this vale of soul-making. We all have beloved brethren who have gone on to become part of the great cloud of witnesses that encompass us, the family of God in heaven.

We are all the one body of Christ, one church, separated only by time. They are there now, we will be with them then. “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).