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Avoiding “oops”

Avoiding “oops”

Psalm 24, 29 (Morning)

Psalm 8, 84 (Evening)

Joshua 24:1-15

Acts 28:23-31

Mark 2:23-28

Although I do think the adage “never get sick near a teaching hospital in July,” is a little overblown, July in a teaching hospital does have its moments. I get asked some pretty strange questions, where I literally have to hold myself back not to say, “Whaaaaa? You mean you don’t KNOW this????”

I admit when I was younger, I didn’t hold myself back very well. More than one new clinical medical student got charbroiled by my response. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved to a new tactic. I frame multiple questions until the learner either goes, “Oh! I get it!” with the light bulb of recognition, or the stony silence of “Oooops.” If it’s the “oops,” I now commiserate and say, “yeah, we’ve all gotten that one wrong ahead of you. But here’s how you solve it next time. The good news is you are asking me now, ahead of time, before someone could have gotten hurt–not after the fact, which would upset a lot of us, most of all the patient! So pay attention to what I’m going to tell you, so you can make a good choice.”

Now, what I end up telling them, whether they are in the “Oh, I get it,” category, or the “Oops” category…well…I’m pretty sure is more than they wanted for an answer, especially if they sort of found their way to the correct answer. My answer often starts with a historical perspective of how something was treated or what lab tests we used to order, to bring them to a place where they understand why they are doing things this way, now. At times, they have the look like someone who asked for a drink of water and got a 5 gallon bucket poured on them in reply. But I do it anyway, so they can understand their choice. Sometimes I qualify my answer with, “Now, there are lots of other ways to do this, but this is how I would do it,” i.e., I have a right way I prefer, but that doesn’t make someone else’s choice wrong.

In our reading in Joshua today, Joshua, old and near death, does sort of the same thing. He tells the people that they are at a crossroads, they need to choose. Is it going to be the God of Israel or the gods of the neighboring folks? He starts it off by telling the narration of the relationship between God and the Hebrew people.

Now, you know some of those folks in the crowd, well…I’m sure some of their eyes were glazing over through most of it. “Yeah, yeah, we know this stuff already.” Also, he doesn’t really threaten, although he certainly is a proponent of choosing the God of Israel. He says, “If you’re unwilling to make this choice, then choose this day whom you will serve.” In other words, whatever you do, make it your choice–don’t just drift.

Later in the chapter, you will see the various ways he reinforces the people’s choice to follow God. It’s not a lot different than what we do in the times we renew our Baptismal Covenant. Although some folks were baptized as adults, and made a conscious choice, others were baptized as infants or young children, when it was not really our choice at all. Still others have yet to be baptized but are considering the possibility, and a lot of folks simply won’t be, having chosen another path.

Yet, if you spend much time in the Episcopal Church, you will probably see and hear the congregation renewing their Baptismal Covenant at each baptism and during selected times in the church year. We do that, not because it didn’t “take” the first time, but to hold before us as a reminder of the places where we feel we are doing okay serving God, and the places where we need to do some more work. Like the people of Joshua’s time, we’re asked to choose this day whom we’ll serve, over and over.

Which line in our Baptismal Covenant is the one that most frequently speaks to you, when we renew our baptismal vows?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. She occasionally finds time to write about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid.

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