Friday, October 21, 2011

Struggle is Temporary - But Love is Eternal

Tim Black leads the congregation in some opening thoughts...
There are so many directions I could go today!
  • Rebekah is on a plane, heading to see our 5-day-old grandson in Connecticut...
  • Last night over 400 people squished into our sanctuary for John Nugent's memorial service...
  • This morning we all woke up to an amazingly beautiful fall day...
I guess I'll start with the service. Because John's death and the pain - and the grace - surrounding his passing has dominated this week. We all met at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon for a 7:00 service that was, at once, both sorrowful and deeply helpful.

Rebekah made the hugely important observation that - because we were created for eternity - every loss of life we experience feels, by definition, untimely and unnatural.

John, who served with distinction in the US Army, was honored with this flag, presented to his wife, Peggy...
Death seems so foundationally wrong to us because it interrupts the continuum of eternal life. Therefore we are stricken with grief even at the end of a life that we expect to come to a close... let alone one that was sudden, inexplicable, and so out of synch with the story of the man we knew and loved so dearly.

And I love the way Rebekah engaged the congregation (folk from our church, folk from other faith communities, and folk with no church affiliation whatsoever) with the crucial question of the evening:
"I don't care what religious tradition you espouse - or reject," Rebekah said (and I both compress and paraphrase, from memory). "But I'd bet each one of you a dollar that you have an instinct for eternity, and that - at this moment  - that instinct is as sharp as a razor's edge. And that same instinct," she said, "tells us that this world alone is not enough...."

reception in Mauldin Hall
John's life eloquently illustrated the truth about the gospel. And John's death told us the truth too - the truth about the pain that so often defines our experience in this broken world. The beauty of grace is that God loves us and that God heals our hurt. Struggle is temporary, but love is eternal.

The service, and the reception following in the newly expanded and renovated Mauldin Hall (this was the first event), was a beautiful expression of faith and a profound illustration of promise. I've said this before, and I say it as loudly as I can whenever I'm on the road, "The community of faith tells the truth about the gospel that is proclaimed there." This community, at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, Florida, declares - and lives - a gospel of love and joy and hope - and we live it out loud.

TPA this morning - SW taking off for Connecticut
Then, this morning, I took Rebekah to the airport.Because she has been aching to see David Henry, who is now five days old. The birth of David also tells the truth about the Gospel of Love. I can't begin to express how transformational he has already been in terms of healing and grace and hope.

I recently heard someone say, sincerely, that they would never bring a child into a world such as this. But I say that this world needs children such as David Henry. This broken world needs more children and young people raised in the grace of Christlike love. This dark and fractured world needs the ministry of David, his parents, his grandparents, and each one of us who have the courage to follow Jesus - as we all recommit to the faithful practice of redeeming love.

And, speaking of David Henry, I promised I'd paste in the occasional gratuitous photograph. However, this one is not gratuitous. This photograph fits the conviction Rebekah and I hold that bringing such beings of light and life into this world is a deliberate act of love and redemption.

David Henry - agent of God's great love...
I believe. I really do. I believe that God is greater than any dark cloud that comes along. I believe that my friend John is resting in the open arms of a God who loves him so much that God sent his own son to open the door for redemption. I believe that each new day holds the promise of reconciliation for every sentient being. I believe that my new grandson has a pivotal role to play in God's great plan of love.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27
Peace - and I mean that - DEREK

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