Monday, 8 December 2008

Death creeps in like a thief

My daughter Lucie gave me the bad news when I phoned last night. Simon, her partner Tim’s brother, has been killed in a fall from a building in Penang in Malaysia. I never met Simon, but knowing his family, I am certain he was full of life and love. He lived in Thailand with his wife Mena, but had gone to Malaysia to renew his passport. They had no children. The whole family is in shock of course, made worse by being far away and not knowing just what happened. Delayed by the closure of the airports in Bangkok, Tim and his parents Betty and Andy fly out to Thailand tomorrow, to mourn with Mena and his friends and visit his grave. His sister Sarah, with small children, must stay at home.

I phoned and spoke to Andy last night, to offer sympathy – I hope I did not intrude on their grief. How can one find words to console a parent who has just lost a child? It is impossible. All I could do was to listen to his pain and assure him they are all in our thoughts and our hearts. I pray that they may find some consolation from their sad visit.

The old formulas that we still repeat no longer resonate. It is not possible any more to console ourselves and others by saying that we will all meet again in heaven with Jesus and be happy together ever after. How can we say today with conviction, in the words of the Apostle's creed, that we believe in ‘the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting’ ? I am certain that God, like a loving Father, keeps us safe and does not desert us, but I am driven to reinterpret the words in a modern metaphor. Our lives are surely like threads in space-time. What matters is the love we give and receive, as our individual threads touch and intertwine with others. To the God of love, outside space and time, we just are; our threads are complete and made beautiful by love. We are born, we live, and we die; but he loves us for the love that we show, and forgives our failures to love when we repent. Our resurrection and life everlasting are outside time and space.

As I write this, I am working on next Sunday’s sermon on this text, from Paul’s 1st Letter to the Thessalonians:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It must be so hard for Simon’s family and friends to reconcile Paul’s words with his untimely death. But let us pray without ceasing that as they emerge from their grief they may rejoice in his life and give thanks for his love.

No comments: