Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On Dying Well

Some of us live well. Those who live well are often said to “have it all together”. That includes planning their lives down to the smallest details. It may even mean planning for funeral arrangements well in advance of their own deaths. My parents were often amused by the “big surprise” my grandfather gave them. He was so excited he called them both to the phone and announced he had purchased adjoining burial plots for the four of them together. Of course, simply because you may plan your own funeral, doesn’t necessarily mean you have got it all together. It could signify that you are a super control freak.
But even those of us who are skeptical can envy the organizational skills of others who may find it to be a good and positive thing to plan on dying well. If nothing else, one can truly say that it’s the only time we can envision where for once, all of our cares and woes will truly be behind us.
To that end, we can all learn to die well. Something that inspires me about the art of planning a funeral is the choice of hymns. It can say a lot about the person who can vary the assortment which usually includes a dutiful version of “Amazing Grace”. Amazing Grace is beautiful, no question. But there are so many other great and inspiring hymns that can uplift the souls of those left behind. For instance, “When Morning Gilds the Skies” is full of such flowing and evocative images. When Morning Gilds the Skies, My heart awakening cries, May Jesus Christ be praised!
Or even the old chestnut, In the Garden. I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses, And…he…walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am His own, and the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other, has ever known…
Then there’s “Joyful, Joyful we adore thee” and “Ode to Joy”.These are the type of uplifting and spiritual hymns that to my way of thinking should be the baseline for all services. Of course, we can also give our loved ones a much-needed laugh as one of my friends did at the end of his funeral service. We left the chapel with the song, “Drop Kick me Jesus, through the Goal Posts of Life” ringing in our ears.
I believe the old adage that "Funerals are for the Living, not the dead”, is correct.  In some respects, we may give our loved ones the final element of comfort in the joy of Christian Living as we celebrate the lives we have led, and the love we have shared. That is the point that Jesus was making. Love conquers all, even death in the end.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bless Them All

In regard to the current crisis in the Middle East, I’m reminded of an old song I heard in a movie with Robert Ryan. I believe the film was called, “Marine Raiders” and featured this song where they stood around a piano and sang, “Bless Them All”. It went something like this:

Bless 'em all,
Bless 'em all.
The long and the short and the tall,

Bless all those Sergeants and WO1's,
Bless all those
Corporals and their blinkin'/bleedin' sons,
Cos' we're saying goodbye to 'em all.
And back to their
Billets they crawl,
You'll get no promotion this side of the ocean,
So cheer up my lads bless 'em all
The song stuck with me. It comes to mind repeatedly when I see and hear the sad news emanating from Gaza. Both sides are hurting and are caught in a cycle of violence and mis-understanding and hatred. We are hearing stories of one side pitted against the other.
God would not be willing to take sides, and neither should we. But rather simply say, “Bless Them All, bless them all, the Long and the Short and the Tall” I am hoping and praying for the violence to end sooner rather than later. I pray for cooler heads to prevail to forge a lasting peace for the people who live their lives in this troubled region.
God, I am grateful to live in a place where rockets and bombs are not a part of my everyday existence. Please make us mindful of those who do not live in a peaceful land. Give them hope that soon they too may live in a settled and peaceful environment. In Christ’s Name, Amen

De-toxing your Christian Life

We have been dark at our church for the past month. Going green or going dark are not new things for businesses, but it does make us reflect on the time and energy we expend during the busy season so we eagerly anticipate the down time. Everyone needs down time. It’s a chance to relax and to re-fuel, to vacate our minds and schedules from the stresses of everyday life. Yet it seems we are reaching a time when there is no downtime.

I was disappointed this year when my down time became even more frenetic and my schedule was often too full to pause and reflect. Such is the nature of our modern world.

For that reason, we sometimes take breaks to de-tox and to refresh ourselves. Spas even specialize in de-toxification treatments. As Christians, I believe the same is true. We need to refresh and renew our bonds with Christ. The Eucharist, our monthly Communion, does just that. We take part to remind ourselves, ‘This is the body of Christ, who died for us”. We are reminded- and indeed we need to be reminded!- of our Christian bonds.

We need to refresh our memories. Christ extolled us to forgive, to be kind even to our enemies, and to follow the Ten Commandments. We need to purge and to detox our minds from the burdens of hatred and malice, of envy and greed-those shackles that tether us to the ground and keep us from looking upward to the inspiration of Christ as our Lord and Savior. That should be the meaning of de-toxing. We need to de-toxify our Christian lives.

Lord, Please help me to purge my mind from the dark and treacherous thoughts that sometimes cloud my vision. Please help me to de-toxify my soul; Help me to breathe freely and see clearly that He is the Way, the Truth and the Light forevermore. Amen.