The Blog of Pastor Mike Wilkins
"The long run" referred to in the title of this blog is, in the first place, the many years Mike Wilkins served as West London's solo pastor, and then its Senior Pastor, since he and his wife Deb moved to London (and this church) in 1984.
In these past few years (beginning November 2011,) Mike's various health challenges, particularly a serious and ongoing case of cancer, has added another layer to the "long run" metaphor, and lots to blog about. Mike is currently on an extended Sick Leave, but generally worships with the church family on Sunday mornings.
With the publication of a book he wrote in 2016 entitled "Glory in the Face" (now available electronically and in paperback from Amazon.ca, and other online venders), Mike has just launched a new website, which will serve as a sort of scrapbook for readers of the book, with relevant background photos, for example, of That Last Final Solo Canoe Trip in May, 2011, as well as additional information about the book, and--coming soon--a new set of blog posts, mostly about the peace of God and the joy of the Lord and the face of Christ and the strength to face anything. You'll find the new website now at www.gloryintheface.com.
Aug28WedAugust 28, 2013
Mark 12:28-31 ESV
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [Deuteronomy 6:4,5] The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ [Leviticus 19:18] There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Here in the Gospel of Mark (and also in Matthew 22 and Luke 10), Jesus identifies a whole-hearted, whole-souled, whole-minded, full-strength love for God as "the most important commandment." It's easy, I think, to see how it is, for in one simply-stated law, our ongoing obligation to the God who has made us, sustains us and offers to save us is thoroughly addressed. In the same breath, Jesus identifies as "the second" most important commandment our obligation to love our neighbour, that is, all the people in any kind of proximty to us.
This past Monday, having met for a second time with the surgeon who in June had turned me over for the summer to the care of two oncologists, Deb and I heard some not very good news about how much, that is to say, how little my six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation had actually accomplished. Contrary to what the early-August CT-scan seemed to indicate, the rectal tumour isn't really much smaller than it was in June and is almost certainly still inoperable. Surprisingly, the punch line of this bad news is not that I don't have an upcoming surgery after all. Instead, I have been scheduled for a four-hour surgery on Friday, September 20th: a procedure intended to prevent the prospect of a complete bowel obstruction. What this means in the long run is that my two oncologists now need to weigh in on the question of what other chemotherapy might be successful in shrinking, and so making operable, what presently remains unshrunk and inoperable. (Yikes.)
In the hours, and now the days, following the appointment, there has come to my mind what might be labelled "the third most important commandment." I am definitely free-styling here -- a questionable Bible study practice, to be sure -- but what I am thinking is this: since "the most important commandment" addresses our relationship with God and "the second most important" addresses our relationship with all of the people in our lives, a commandment that addresses our relationship to the details of our own lives, to our own challenges, to all our own stuff -- might possibly be the third most important commandment. So here, trying to be helpful, at least to my own disappointed self, is my shot at naming #3, extracted from the Old Testament as are the two commandments cited by the Lord as the first and second most important. What I'm suggesting is that the third most important commandment is this: "Trust God." Just trust God.
The Old Testament reference, of course, is Proverbs 3:5,6 ESV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.
This is a very good and helpful instruction to me just now -- except that it's not my heart that I am concerned and uncertain about. Neither this upcoming surgery, or the surgery that may or may not follow the upcoming chemotherapy, is a matter of the heart. It's not my heart. It's my bowels. In just over three weeks, this surgeon, who is reputed to be very good at what he does, and certainly seems to be a very caring and knowledgeable man, is going to cut me wide open and temporarily, for the sake of the cause, disembowel me. To put it plainly, for a few hours this September, this man who I have only just met will hold in his hands my intestines, all of them, both the large and the small. And I've never even seen his resume. I don't even know if he wears gloves. And all the while, I'll be fast asleep and so unable to make suggestions or offer feed-back.
What I have here is a great demand for trust. And I have twenty-three days to get clear and okay on this, because, to use a technical medical term, these surgeries are going to be gut-wrenching.
Psalm 20:7 ESV
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
So wrote King David in the days of ancient Israel. His point, I think, is that even in regard to our best assets and most high-tech advantages, it is God we should be trusting with all that concerns us. Even when the chariots are shiny and new and fully-loaded, and the horses are fit and chomping at the bit, it is God we should acknowledge as the giver of all good gifts and the director of our paths -- and the healer of all our diseases.
What was true for King David in ancient Israel is true for me in modern south-western Ontario. Some trust in surgeons and some trust in oncologists, but, according to the third most important commandment, I will endeavour to trust in the Lord my God. With all my guts.