Sunday, September 30, 2007

Three Hopeful Events

A few weeks ago I was blessed to experience all the major events of life in six days.

No, it wasn't the creation. That's already happened, you know. What I experienced was a birth, a funeral, and a wedding, all occurring in a six day span.

There's something about seeing a newborn and its parents that reminds me how miraculous we are. To think that we are all born helpless, totally dependent on others. Every newborn I have been around reminds me of the mystery and the beauty of our creative God. Each time I find myself in the hospital room with new parents, I am also returned to the joyous occasion of my own children's births. What joy there is in the birth of a child!

Two days later, I had to officiate a funeral. The woman who died was someone I had never met. Fortunately a member of the family was willing to speak about her life at the funeral, a trend of late in funerals that I think is very positive. As difficult as it was, I spoke at my grandfather's funeral several years ago. I came away from the experience feeling fortunate that I was able to honor his life with my spoken words.

What struck me about this particular funeral is how the same words are said at each funeral. "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." "Before this person was ours, he or she was God's." "Almighty God, into your hands we place ________, a sinner of your redeeming, a lamb of your own flock." Death, like birth, is very egalitarian. We all have or will experience the deaths of those we love and someday we too (barring Jesus' return) will face our own deaths.

Finally for the first time in many years, I was actually in a wedding party. Not as the officiant mind you, but instead as one of the groomsmen. (One item to file in the memory banks--shoes that come with rented tuxes are extremely painful to my old feet. Next time I'll bring my own shoes, thank you.) It was a heartfelt joy to stand so close to the couple, though it felt somewhat voyeuristic from my post on the second step, as they recited their vows and exchanged their rings. Having personally experienced divorce and seen its tragic consequences in my life and ministry, my prayer for the bride and groom was that somehow they might find strength to trudge through the hard times. Marriage is not easy and I have come to realize there is something very special, very God-like, when we human beings keep our commitments. Especially the commitment we make to each other in the marriage covenant.

Before this six days in my life, I didn't realize how much weddings, funerals, and births have in common. Hope, blessed hope, is what these events share. A wedding is filled with the hope and promise of a life lived together in covenant relationship. A funeral is primarily a reminder of the hope of resurrection that we have in Jesus Christ. And a birth, as it is reflected off the faces of mothers and fathers, grandparents and friends, is all about the hope that is inherent in the gift of new life.

Hope. A word that we need to hear more often. A word that was witnessed in a birth, a death, and a wedding. Who says not much happens in six days?
Thanks be to God!