Today, I worshipped quietly at a funeral service for a well loved member of our community. The music was beautiful, and I was glad to see so many wonderful people there to remember her presence and impact among so many. I was reminded that we’re born, we live our lives with family, our friends and our communities, and live out our faith in a world where we are interconnected – often in a winding and confusing but ultimately good way. We are fragile though, and we age and see and experience the lives of those who’ve entered the world after us who bring change and renewal. Then, inevitably (unless you’re like the prophet Elijah) we exit to return to our Creator, God, and those who remain feel the deep sadness of loss, but also the bittersweet memories that can be full of goodness and great joy. I still feel the pain of losing my Grandmother Nancy Sampson, and my Great-Grandmother Alice more recently as well. The electric grip of loss still affects me years after these losses. A few years ago, my wife remembered the life of her sister, who passed much too young, but left a deep and lasting impression on us all. Also very confusing, but essentially part of being human.
When I returned to the office at Trinity today, I prayed for many people and made a few calls to visit with folks from our churches in the next week, but when I sat down at my computer, some immediate news hit me pretty hard. I think that news, with the aid of technology always on, has begun to pang life with a constant stream of grief as we become reminded of the evils our world continues to face. We haven’t made it yet. This particular story, of at reporter and her camera man, being shot live on air hit me deep in the spirit as many stories lately have, and I walked out to the alter and stood in front of the cross, felt a shiver go down my body and soul, and I spent a moment without words sharing my deep sorrow with God.
In that moment, I knew God felt the same, but more so than I did, and it heightened my mourning over our inability to love one another. It confirmed for me that God is deeply invested in us and that our work to make “Thy Kingdom Come, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” is a mission worthy of continual and constant emphasis – and that the Good News – “euangelion” – The Gospel, needs fresh testimony among all people who are being pinged by the same reminders of evil in the world that we are. By actively promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and proclaiming a Kingdom where peace is possible inwardly, through right relationship with God, and through that inner spiritual transformation in the Holy Spirit, we bond together to form this amazing Kingdom without any geographical center, initiated by baptism in water, and through discipleship we’re slowly made whole. This is the mega-polis where Justice and Peace are practiced (rather than merely preached, or politicized), and we are reminded that the depths of our selfishness and ability to self-destruct are temporary, and through grace and self-sacrifice, God will cap this age with the re-arrival of perfection in our affairs. God will destroy evil once and for all.
All that and more. I surrender to this future reality, and I pledge to work towards it in my own life and to be more and more like Christ in His ultimate self-sacrifice on the cross. So at the altar, now, I recommit myself, and I will pray Wesley’s Covenant Prayer because I can’t think of a better one for these times. If you’d like to pray this with me, I would be honored and humbled:
“I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”
In all this, in God’s plan, I will not be afraid. I will continue to celebrate what is good, I’ll mourn and feel these losses knowing that it is temporary, and I’ll actively seek to represent God’s joy and goodness when some desire to bring evil to us all. Strengthen your people, Lord. Remind us of Your Presence. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Amen, and Amen, and Amen.