Hospital – 27 April 2007

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Today is day 1 of cycle 2A – a cyclophosphamide and vincristine with dexamethasone cycle, plus a few other drugs I don’t remember. I actually came into hospital yesterday. I had a new PICC inserted into my right arm in the morning (9.30am), then, because there wasn’t a bed free until 4.30pm, had to wander around and generally entertain myself. I finally got into bed, did all the usual things, was prehydrated for four hours, and then premedicated. I eventually got the cyclophosphamide at 10pm, and the dexamethasone. All things considered, I didn’t have too rough of a night. The dexamethasone generally makes you sleepless, especially when given so late, but I did sleep a fair amount, until about 5.30am when the morning blood and observation round happened. All seems, otherwise, to be going well.

I can’t think of much else that has happened so far. I will probably go for a trip down to the apheresis facility this morning, to see what will happen. And, all things running to plan, I’ll be out of hospital on Sunday. I find myself growing a bit tired of the hospital experience. It is dull, and the being woken in the middle of the night – multiple times – is frustrating. However, it is for a limited time. I keep reminding myself of that.

I said morning prayer early this morning. The New Testament reading for this morning was from John 10:19-30. The Jewish leaders are trying to clarify who Jesus is, or at least who he claims to be. Jesus, typically, doesn’t answer directly, but does answer clearly, by saying:

“I did tell you [who I am] but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:19-30, NIV)

This passage is interesting, and possible challenging. One of the first challenging things is “…you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” Jesus is speaking to the Jewish leaders, at a moment in time and for a particular reason – to address their question about who he is. It is because the questioners (and I don’t think we should extend it beyond them to a whole class or group of people, it seems to me the text doesn’t support that) don’t belong to Jesus that they don’t believe, perhaps can’t believe.

The next part describes how Jesus’s sheep – those who belong to him – behave, and what Jesus does for them by virtue of their belonging to him. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” This part does apply to those of us who are Christians, who are adopted as Jesus’s brothers and sisters through baptism and faith. This is a list of what we do (listen and follow), partly out of obedience, partly out of love, partly out of gratitude (and no doubt for other good reasons, too). But it is important to remember, it seems to me, that the listening and following is enabled because of God’s love, and the grace he gives to all of us who believe and trust in him. The list is contains what Jesus does – knows us, gives us eternal life so that we shall never perish, protects us from being taken away from him. In Greek the last two statements about eternal life and protecting us from being stolen from him are very strong – we are placed into that condition by Jesus’s actions and it is impossible for us to be in another condition unless we cease to belong to Jesus (which is always possible if we choose to make it so).

“My father, who has given them [Jesus’s sheep] to me is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” This last part is perhaps the greatest challenge for the Jewish leaders. The mission, action, and continuing protection of Jesus is based on his relationship with the Father, and the sealing of the Father on his mission and continuing presence in the lives of all of his sisters and brothers. Nothing can take us from Jesus, because the Father, who is greater than all – all of the forces of the world, all of the forces within us, all of the things that fight against the light of God in the world. “I and the Father are one.” This was obviously, judging by the reaction of the Jewish leaders to the statement, profoundly affronting – and looking at the radically monotheistic background of Judaism, one can well understand how it would be so, and how natural it was for the Jewish leaders – protectors of the history, doctrines, dogmas and practices of a Judaism under threat – to react in the way the did. In fact – how could they react otherwise, because “… you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

In Greek the statement “I and the Father are one” is not asserting that Jesus and the Father are the one person, but of the one essence – a distinction that becomes important in the development of the revealed doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, this whole passage speaks to the internal relationship of the Trinity, and how that becomes important in our lives and being.

Coming back to listening and following. Remember, we are enabled to listen and follow by the grace of God. Our own energies and enthusiasms will help, but they help us to co-operate with God’s action in our lives. Our listening and following can’t be ad hoc, either – they need to be built into our lives. That is one of the ways in which we co-operate with God, by giving the relationship we have with God the importance and centrality it deserves. In the way of contemplative prayer, which the way of Christian Meditation seeks to support, we allow internal and external silence to be present in our lives as a sign of our commitment to God’s work within us, and as a way of creating the space in our otherwise hectic and God excluding lives to allow the still small voice of God to work, change, refine and form us into who we are meant to be, in God’s love.

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