Got (Theological) Questions?

Preached Sunday, August 2, 2015, at Euless First United Methodist Church.

I cannot even imagine.

restareashade 2On our way home from a vacation week in Galveston, we stopped at a Chick-fil-a.  Unsure what the muzak was that I was hearing in the background, I listened more closely than is probably ever intended by the purveyors of such.

It was “I Can Only Imagine,” the slowed down, instrumental version.  Felt odd to hear this song muzakked (is that a verb? Did I spell it right?)

I can only imagine.

Later today, I got stuck on “I cannot begin to imagine.”

This second phrase is what I’ve been thinking since hearing of the overnight death of a 3 year old grandson of one of my parish.

Yes, I hugged my own kids more often and more tightly the rest of today.  I likely will again tomorrow as well.

I cannot imagine.

Yet, as people who follow a God who refuses to be distant, even when we don’t understand, we know that we must move closer rather than further away in such times.

Some of the best, and most regularly used pastoral advice I received in seminary was this: “If you don’t know what to say, don’t force words; just be present.”

I cannot imagine. I don’t have words that work.  I will be turning to the Psalms deeply the next couple of days.  The Psalms are full of words and phrases and images that come along side us as we feel whatever we feel as humans.

Please hold this family in prayer.  Even if you cannot put words into the prayers, please pray.

A Day in the Life and Death

A week ago today rocked me a bit.  My phone told me I was receiving a call from my aunt.  The voice on the call told me differently.  The voice was that of a cousin, who, from her grandmother’s phone, was calling to tell me a first cousin of mine had died.

This Aunt had already lost a sister and brother in the past 5 months. Now her 61 year old son, himself a father of 2 and devoted husband, had died of a heart attack.

Later in the day, Rachel shared news with me from facebook that a dear friend of ours had lost a cousin to a massive stroke that same day. She had been 35.

The death of someone as close as a first cousin confronts one with one’s own mortality.  The death of someone a decade and a half younger brought it even closer to home for me.

As we sat watching something from our DVR, I actually caught myself praying that I would live to see the end of the episode.

I chuckled at myself, then gave thanks that, this same day that death seemed to impinge so closely, I had also received, by mail, results from the bloodwork of my recent annual physical.  All the numbers were good – confirming the call I had received late last week.

So I went to bed that night pondering this one line from the Service of Death and Resurrection – a line I had heard read at the funeral I led the day before:  “In the midst of life, we are in death.”

Indeed, we are.  Let’s be thankful for the days we have, and share the love with others that we have received.

God: active or passive or both?

At a memorial service the other day, it was said that “God took her home.” This is often said in memorial and funeral services, and otherwise when referring to friends and loved ones who have died.

Without taking issue in this specific case, I wonder if it generally wise (or correct) to say that God “took” someone in his or her death. I am not so sure that God plays an active role I’m everyone’s death.

I would rather say that “God has received or welcomed” than that God “took” them.

What do you think? Is God active or passive in people’s deaths?