Archive for August, 2011

“Falser Words Were Never Spoken”

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Brian Morton wrote an exceptionally strong OpEd piece in the New York Times recently.  What he pointed out was our penchant for taking quotes of the great thinkers and turning them into saccharine “feel good” slogans.  He noted …

Thoreau, Gandhi, Mandela — it’s easy to see why their words and ideas have been massaged into gauzy slogans. They were inspirational figures, dreamers of beautiful dreams. But what goes missing in the slogans is that they were also sober, steely men. Each of them knew that thoroughgoing change, whether personal or social, involves humility and sacrifice, and that the effort to change oneself or the world always exacts a price.

But ours is an era in which it’s believed that we can reinvent ourselves whenever we choose. So we recast the wisdom of the great thinkers in the shape of our illusions. Shorn of their complexities, their politics, their grasp of the sheer arduousness of change, they stand before us now. They are shiny from their makeovers, they are fabulous and gorgeous, and they want us to know that we can have it all.

This line of thought has been much on my mind as of late.  We exist culturally within an environment that appears to offer the mirage we can have it all, and that we can have it all with no cost.  We can have what we can imagine.  What we miss however is one critical and embarrassingly overlooked word – discipline.  Imagination meshed with discipline moves us forward.  Imagination without discipline is meaningless fantasy.

I think of Jesus’ words in the same way that Morton notes the words of other great thinkers.  How many times am I prone to use His words as gauzy slogans vs. words with heft and meaning, calling and sacrifice?  In tending towards the former I use them more that way than I comfortably admit.  And a Christian faith without words of import rapidly becomes the simple syrup Morton writes of.

And yet when I go into the words of Jesus, when I truly find the gifted grace to preach them, people get it.  They get it!  We all want more somehow – more meaning, more call, more purpose, more sacrifice.  The discipline.

Hurricane Irene in Hindsight

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Hopefully we all made it through the hurricane relatively unscathed – flooded basements, power outages, and downed trees.

In the Biblical book of Isaiah, God announces  to the prophet, “My mouth announced them and made them known.”  (Isaiah 48:3)   Thinking of the Hurricane, yes we knew it was coming and even forecasts don’t make it any easier.  And this will not be the last hurricane.

Lives play out much the same.  We do know hurricanes etc… are part of the human experience.  And there is nothing that occurs “out there” that does not also occur “in here.”  Events like hurricanes (and the earthquake of a week ago) remind me there are forces far bigger than little old me, things far more powerful, completely out of my control.  And what can do?

The first thing we can do is just simply prepare – even when the preparations appear silly.  (Imagine the photo below – “Quick honey, through the pool furniture in the pool!”)  Preparation is important.  For me, it is about acknowledging storms happen – a clear starting point.  God is with us in all of it – the light and dark. Let me do my bit, however small that might be.  Let me draw my loved one’s close.  Remind me to “check in” with others who might be alone.   Allow me to be graceful with others.  Allow me to calm, an un-anxious presence.

And the second part deals with fear.  Fear really is the biggest challenge.  Fear debilitates.  There are numerous ways to confront fear.  One way is simply to find joy in the moment.  I love this picture because it is of someone finding joy in the moment, in Irene.  Of course, their basement was probably flooded, their power was probably out, and what will the story be in upcoming years?  Memories of body surfing in the yard.

Finding joy is not about ignoring the great pain and suffering Irene caused.  Certainly for a family who lost a loved one the above photo would be crass at best. And life is life.  Hurricanes happen.  They will happen again.  When the storms hit, it brings out the best and the worst of human experience (My mind goes back to the looting of Katrina.)  And maybe that is the final prayer.  ”Lord, allow me in times like these to be my best as You give me to see my best, knowing that in finding that true self beyond worry and beyond fear, I find you.”

Hurricane Homework

Friday, August 26th, 2011

We may just be sitting for awhile without electricity, so here is your homework.  Use it if you’d like.  This Sunday may actually be a true sabbath – a day of rest, a day of making sacred, a day without pursuing, doing, or achieving. (Actually a pretty ingenious part of the plan on God’s part!)

Reading: Read the selection below on “Grace.”  (Print it out if you would like before Sunday due to possible power outages)

Questions: After reading, answer/ discuss the following questions.

  1. When you hear the word “graceful” who do you think of?  Who do you consider “grace-full?”
  2. How do you see “grace” connecting to empowered forms of “humility?”
  3. Where are you most prone to “cheap grace?”
  4. Where have you experienced or witnessed “true grace?”
  5. What does it take, for you, to move from one to the other, from “cheap grace” to “true grace?”

“Grace”: Cheap Grace vs. True Grace

Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned of “cheap grace”, a grace we bestow on ourselves.  This is where he believed many Christians had gone astray.  Faced with the cultural pressures to simply “get along” with the Nazi regime, a regime that was promising and delivering economic and political security, as well as scapegoats on which to focus the source of all problems, many not only gave into the Nazis but were actively complicit in the party’s rise, war, and the Holocaust.  Grace for many of these individuals became cheap grace with no cost attached, without a price.  Theology then becomes hollow.  One author spelled out this challenge, one which institutionalized faith faces often.  What occurs is that “We largely stop reading the Bible from the side of the poor and the oppressed. We read it from the side of the establishment and, I am sorry to say, from the priesthood, instead of from people hungry for justice and truth.”  Church then simply settles into a convenient game – one that asks nothing, and is used to add a religious patina justifying acts of oppression and violence.

What then of real grace?  Real grace is “true”, “free”, and comes with a cost.  The price is a willingness to give oneself to the process of life.  Restated, cheap grace is grace without the process.  Real grace is turning oneself over to the process. Bonhoeffer phrased that turning over to process out of which true grace grows this way….

“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”

The miracle growing is a blessing – a blessing in which we discover “the Lord’s presence and grace.” (Heavenly Secrets)  Bonhoeffer’s imagery is deeply profound – of living completely in this world, living unreservedly in life’s dues, problems, successes and failures.  That is not obviously giving oneself over to hedonistic pursuits, but something far more profound – giving oneself over to God.  That is living into Incarnation theology.  Think of this in light of what Bonhoeffer felt were some of the most profound teachings in Christianity – the Beatitudes.

    • Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    • Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
    • Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
    • Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
    • Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
    • Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
    • Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.

Beautiful stuff!  And please note, the life we talk of with true grace is a life of real joy.  It is not dour.  This is a life of full engagement and deep purpose.  And we are fully engaged, fully present to life’s textures, involving ourselves in deep purpose, a place in turn where our joy will be full even in the midst of great suffering.

“Cheap Grace is the Grace We Bestow on Ourselves”

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned the words, “Cheap Grace is the Grace We Bestow on Ourselves.”  Bonhoeffer spoke movingly of the danger of “cheap grace” as opposed to the real grace modeled in Jesus.

It is easy to commoditize “grace”, treating it as a thing to be had, or gotten, or bought.  In other words, treating grace as something we bestow on ourselves.  Yet God’s grace is far different.  True grace arrives as something loving bestowed not clutched and held.

It’s arrival I picture as a soft, still blanket, gently placed, as we humbly bend to the earth and compassionately serve.  The Irish poet John O’Donohue penned these words, words which for me, capture some of that essence of grace, true grace.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

Those who I know to be grace-full carry that “invisible cloak”, “words of love” wrapped around them which mind their life.

Last night, as we often do, we cooked dinner for the families at the Ronald McDonald House.  I have traveled there dozens of times and each time is new.  The newness comes from a witnessing of grace.  See here is the paradox.  There is nothing as difficult as what one sees or experiences at a place like the Ronald McDonald House – sick, very sick children.  And, at the same time as awfulness beyond measure becomes apparent, so does grace – not cheap grace but real grace.

Now the grace comes in many ways.  One wheel chair bound girl wore slippers, not just any slippers but doggy slippers – brown, floppy ears sown on.  One of our group asked what she wanted for dinner – her reply – “tacos.”  His response “Is there a Taco Bell nearby?”  (Unfortunately there was not.)  See right there are two examples of simple, profound, quiet, overwhelming grace.  A deeply loved child for whom someone had made or purchased these smilingly goofy slippers.  And a stranger very willing to simply serve with no agenda.  Two examples of grace.

And the night abounded with example after example.  In the midst of unbearable breaking – blessing after blessing.  Grace after grace.

That does not of course mitigate the pain of the children and their families.  It does however, give a glimpse into God’s grace: “..words of love around you,
an invisible cloak to mind your life.”

“Peace must be dared”

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

In 1934, Deitrich Bonhoeffer speaking at a ecumenical conference in Fano Denmark wrote, “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture, and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to mistrust, and this mistrust in turn brings forth war. To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”

Inspirational words.  And they come from a deep, weakened space – a man who saw his beloved Germany and his beloved Church being co-opted to serve the machinations of Hitler and the Nazi state.

As we look at Bonhoeffer’s legacy in our current series “Church vs. Hate” I am reminded of how delicate and how strong the Gospel message is.  Like Christ, it does allow itself to be get “nailed to the cross”, to suffer abuse, to suffer humiliation at the hands of the lower instincts of our humanity.  And yet at the same time there is hope, a strength, and even a daring within Christ’s message that defy those very instincts that appear to destroy it.

So lets dare.

“I am so worried about the stock market.”

Friday, August 19th, 2011

I read the New York Times daily.  Over the past weeks, nearly every day is headlined with news of economic challenges.  The language accompanying these headlines often includes words like …

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Risks
  • Lehman like collapse
  • Need to calm
  • Strain
  • Skittish

Those words don’t exactly bring peace.  And we clearly need to take a breath and get perspective.  Even today an article on the front page of the Time’s business section wrote of panic because a European bank had tapped into an emergency fund set up to ensure that the banks have a safety net in oder to avoid panic.  So even taking the steps to avoid a panic create more panic!  There is no end to that.  If the two polls of human motivation are truly fear and greed, we will go “broke.”  And we get to choose.  We can choose fear and greed or we can choose differently.

I shudder hearing the market made into a person, aka “We will see if the markets like (don’t like) the latest news” or “How will the market react?”  It as if we have bowed down and offered our destiny and our serenity to the “market.”

The market does serve very useful functions.  It creates wealth and capital, funds retirement plans etc….  However it is a man-made creation and as such is fallible.  Period.  It is not a person.  It is certainly not God.  It is not a relationship.  It is not love, or connection.  It is a man-made creation and as such is fallible.

Relationships filled with too much drama are toxic.  I wonder if our relationship with the stock market is the same – a relationship in which there is too much drama.   We can let the market do what the market does minus the drama – maybe that is our individual choice.  We can also focus on what is actually far more “real” – each other, God, and the need to connect, create, love, and serve.

What does “regeneration” mean?

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Dear Pastor Chuck,

I’m new to the New Church and have heard the term regeneration mentioned in a number of services.  Can you explain what that means in relation to New Church theology?

“Regeneration” means “recreation.”  We believe spiritual growth follows three steps. “Regeneration” is the third.  The first step is “repentance”, a word meaning to “change one’s mind.”  We look to look at our lives and rethink, reconsider, asking God to help us formulate a “not to do” list to get our own blocks born of selfishness out of the way as well as a “to do” list that helps us to reach out to others.

Then Step Two kicks in – reformation.  Reformation means to “restructure.”  If we stay in our head, we will miss it.  We need to bring head, heart, and hands together.  We do that as we re-form our lives, a.k.a. reformation.  The alcoholic needs to stop going to bars.  The porn addict needs to stop looking at porn. The angry parent needs to stop getting mad. Of course we will fail often in this endeavor.  Our job is to keep picking ourselves up, asking God’s help, and moving on.  This where New Church influenced like 12 step programs can be particularly helpful.

And then we arrive at the final step – “Regeneration.”  This is where God re-creates us, giving us a new heart of “flesh” instead of “stone” as the Old Testament puts it. We awake to the wonder of life.  We awake to love and service in a new way.  We know heaven, a knowledge we can have in this life.

What Can We Truly Offer Our Children?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

There is a clear tension in parenting.  On the one hand, we clearly would do anything for our children.  On the other, we are clearly told not do everything for our children.

Many enjoyed the Depression era movie “Cinderella Man.”  In one touching scene, the father shares his breakfast with his hungry daughter, Rosie, claiming he is “full.”  Of course that connects.  Who would not give their last for their child?

And juxtapose that with the Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 29, verse 19. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”  A very different picture.

Many biblical passages clearly orient us to take care of family.  Many clearly orient us to leave family behind. And there lies the tension, one true 1000′s of years ago and true today as well.  What is Jesus saying?  I believe He is saying, “Family is everything and nothing.  Hold tight and let go.”

Complicating this tension is that our love for our kids feeds certain hopes we have for them.  I know for me and imagine for many readers those hopes are connected to creating safety, security, a known future, and happiness.  In that pursuit we many actually find ourselves unwittingly “metabolizing” our kids anxieties, seeking to save them from the vicissitudes of life.

Lori Gottlieb wrote of this in a recent article in The Atlantic titled “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy.”  (Link)

But after working with these patients over time, I came to believe that no florid denial or distortion was going on. They truly did seem to have caring and loving parents, parents who gave them the freedom to “find themselves” and the encouragement to do anything they wanted in life. Parents who had driven carpools, and helped with homework each night, and intervened when there was a bully at school or a birthday invitation not received, and had gotten them tutors when they struggled in math, and music lessons when they expressed an interest in guitar (but let them quit when they lost that interest), and talked through their feelings when they broke the rules, instead of punishing them (“logical consequences” always stood in for punishment). In short, these were parents who had always been “attuned,” as we therapists like to say, and had made sure to guide my patients through any and all trials and tribulations of childhood. As an overwhelmed parent myself, I’d sit in session and secretly wonder how these fabulous parents had done it all.

Until, one day, another question occurred to me: Was it possible these parents had done too much?

The answer to the question is that frankly, yes, these parents had done too much. We can mistakenly believe that in working hard for our kids, we can actually give them safety, security, a known future and happiness.   As such we often go overboard in building our child’s self esteem believing that somehow self esteem is the talisman that will ward off all unhappiness.  Well, not true.  Inordinate energy poured into self esteem actually feeds a certain self absorbtion that rapidly morphs into narcissism.

Self absorption simply put does not create happiness.  David Brook’s made note in a recent editorial that in 1950 12% of children said they saw themselves as “very important.”  By 1995 that number had risen to 80%, where it no doubt remains today.  And, this year a University of Michigan study found freshmen stress levels to the highest ever recorded.  Great self imagine?  Overwhelming stress?  It appears to be a non-sequitor but if one thinks for a minute, it actually is perfectly logical.  If I am self absorbed, expecting the world to do my bidding, the world will not cooperate.  The world is not there to serve my ego.  That in turn builds frustration that my plans don’t appear to be the world’s or God’s.

How then do we find a way out.  Start with a simple concept.  Safety, security, a known future, and happiness are not our’s to give.  They are God’s to give, and because they are God’s, it will not look the same as we have it, because we tend to define the above financially, a.k.a. the more stuff I pass on to my kid in the form of material comfort (read cheap plastic crap) the more safe and secure they will be.  God’s currency is somewhat different.

I believe a key “legacy” he calls us as parents to confer, a key “currency” he asks us to give, is Resiliency.  We can help our children build resiliency many ways.  Some noted in Gottlieb’s article included (a) allowing our children to feel anxiety, by giving them a moment to right the ship themselves before we rush in, (b) allowing them to have a sense of “earned accomplishment” in which rewards are legitimate and not mere kindling thrown on the fire to build self esteem, and (c) allowing them to loose. These three are different type of “allowance” then many of us give our kids.  It is one that calls on our kids to “dig deep” in the face of inevitable disappointments of life.

If we allow them to feel anxiety, earn their accomplishments, and loose, we actually create a space where a fourth form of resiliency can enter – centering their life on God.  In so doing, they will learn, they will discover, a new safety, security, known future, and happiness that parents simply cannot supply.  It is grounded on what is most ultimately true, what is most ultimately loving. And, miracle of miracles, in working to re-orient them that direction – towards God – we actually help God in helping them to see family in a far empowered and cherished way because the family is no longer just about them.  There is a bigger picture, a bigger context, as they learn to place happiness somewhere beyond themselves.

So what kind of future do you picture for your kids?  Is it the “Veruca Salt” image from Willie Wonka and the chocolate factory?  A young lady who wanted it all, and wanted it now?

Or is there another picture in your mind?  One of your children as resilient, able to deal with the ups and downs of life with grace, with faith? A picture filled with the fullness of joy Jesus promised – a security, safety, known future, happiness – not of this world but filling this world with light.

For in the end their journey is not, in many ways, ours.  Their success cannot be attributed to you.  And, neither can their failures.  For God is at work underneath it all, underneath your work as parent – something Perfect underneath your blessed imperfection.  That is the big picture. That is where we hold tight.  That is where we are able to let go.

Blessings of a skinned knee? Yea right.

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

We live in a world in which I firmly believe one of the key attributes will be resiliency – the ability to bounce back, to morph and change – while at the same time remaining centered and grounded.  The world simply put increasingly demands flexibility.  That means skinned knees can actually be good.

Working on flexibility is not easy.  I know I spend inordinate amounts of time scripting not only my future but the future of my loved one, seeking to give them safety, security, and a future of “knowns.”  And, I will fail at that endeavor.  They can have those things but not as I define them. They can have them in God. What I can help them with is resiliency.

Lori Gottlieb wrote a brilliant article in “The Atlantic” that spoke to this very point.  The title: “How to Land Your Kids In Therapy.”  (Article)  I would urge to read it even if you don’t have kids.

This Sunday we are looking at the above, juxtaposing Jesus’ clear teachings on the (a) need to take care of family and (b) not take care of family too much.  In other words, “family” is a clear priority in the Bible, and equally clear is the call to reject it as the priority of life. What is that all about?  Could He be telling us something about resiliency, about really helping our kids and loved ones, about safety, security, and what a future of “knowns” really is?

I suspect that family relations are strengthened even more when held in the right way.

Memorial Address for Mark Salvati

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Memorial Service for Mark J. Salvati (By Rev. Chuck Blair)

We gather here today to honor the life of Mark Salvati.    Born in Bryn Mawr and delivered by C. Everett Koop, a man who would go on to be Surgeon General, Mark was a miracle baby, not expected to live.  But live he did in more ways than one.

And what did that living look like?  It looked like unconditional love and perspective.  These frankly are uncommon gifts.  Of course, they are not hard to talk of, but unconditional love and perspective are hard to live, and live them he did.

Unconditional love.  It was striking in talking to the family about how common this theme presented itself, and it did so in big ways and small.  How many here received calls from Mark?  Several heard from him daily.  Several heard from him when he was “… just in the area and wanted to see what you were doing for lunch.”  And we heard from him – from “Gloria the favorite niece”, to Guam, to Cadillac Dave, to Mommy Dearest, Glow Girl, Muffie, Big Vern, Hazel, Stella, Coal Miner’s daughter – we heard from him.  Some heard from him as their rock, others a true friend, for some as a second father.

That love evidenced itself beyond just keeping in touch however.  It often included food, lots of food, copious amounts of food, as well as red wine.  Guests were just that – guests – and often traveled home with leftovers.  Soups were an apparent favorite – Chili, Gumbo, Tortellini.   There are probably a few leftovers still sitting in some of the refrigerators of those here today.

And important to note that at the core of that unconditional love was a love of his wife Brenda and their two children Christina and Michael.  Brenda and Mark met and married young – 19 and 20.  Their young age was of such worry that one concerned family member assured them she would say special prayers for their marriage to work – and it worked for over 30 years.  Must have been good prayers! Brenda spoke of how Mark often prepared her breakfast for her in the morning, occasionally remarking on how he added extra sugar to her tea just to make her “a little more sweet.”  One must smile with great joy at that and the fact that he often called her “smokin’ hot.”

What he offered his children, Christina and Michael, growing out of that love, was something of immeasurable wealth as well.  Aside from being their biggest fans, he offered perspective.  Perspective is not easy to come by.  We often fool ourselves by what we call “real.”  The anxiety is “real”, the frenzied activity becomes “real”, and accumulating a boatload of possessions becomes “real.”  One is left with the feeling that these were not “real” to Mark.

As such, the perspective he offered was one that held simple yet deeply profound truths.  Imagine living into “There is more to life than this. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  See the larger picture.  It is going to ok.  There are good days and bad. Don’t hold a grudge.  Relax.  Breathe.  Ride a Harley.”  Of course not everyone would agree with Mark and the voice of reason, and as a man who disliked conflict and yelling, in those situations he could often choose to simply go to bed.

Mark was not without areas of struggle.  This is a man who felt deeply uncomfortable with change.  He also was not beyond complaining.  Hearing him complain, one individual remarked, was how you knew everything was ok with Mark.  One must chuckle with what his thoughts on the recent Federal budget debate must have been.

He especially struggled as his health increasingly limited his ability to work, to contribute in overt ways in supporting those around him.  This was a man who liked to fix things, and his circle of life was becoming increasingly circumscribed as health worsened.  That had to have built frustration.  On Tuesday of last week, the day before he passed, he found out that he qualified for disability benefits through Social Security.    I don’t think he would have wanted to us to hear that as a “poor me” but as just part of life.

And what then is the new life that Mark is waking to right now?  From a Christian New Church perspective, Mark is coming more and more into a realization that his time on earth has some to an end.  Met by kindred souls who will help him find his way home, now is not a scary time.  It is a time of peaceful assurance –  a time of great awakening, a time of seeing in a much broader and expansive way than we are able to see in this life.  For a man who constantly reminded others to “see the big picture”, he is REALLY seeing the big picture.

He is seeing all he shared with his beloved wife Brenda.  He is seeing his two beloved children in ever-deeper ways. He is seeing what all of you, gathered here today, meant to him – why you were in his life, and why he was in yours.   As is often said, when we die our “life passes before our eyes.”  Maybe it is connection that passes “before our eyes” – connections far deeper, far more purposeful than what we could imagine seeing with our earth bound eyes.

And where is Mark headed?  Though we never know someone’s eternal destiny, we do know, from our New Church perspective that the angels ask those who have recently died, not “What did you believe?” but “What kind of life did you live?”  I don’t view this question as asked with the scathing critique of judge but I see it asked with the gentle eyes of souls who lived well.  What would Mark answer?

Well, his life DID answer that question.  It answered the question, “What can we be for each other?” – which is THE Christian question, THE human question  – with a simple answer.  What can we be for each other?  Mark answer as lived it – A LOT.   For those who can say A LOT, there is one eternal home – Heaven.

That does not of course mitigate the pain the family is feeling at such an unexpected loss.  What I can offer is that yes grief will take you. Some days will seem surreal – like walking through water.  Other days will yield happier times – maybe even laughter as you remember Mark – what he found funny, what he would have smiled at – like the anchor thrown overboard without a chain to tie it to a boat.  And you will adjust not to life as you knew it with Mark before but you will adjust to a new normal of life without his immediate presence.

And maybe Mark’s words are the most comforting as you search for the new normal.  Mark’s words: “There is more to life than this.”    There is more to life than this!  This life is so precious, so critical, and it one piece of very large picture.  That includes deep breakings – passings so abrupt and harsh that they leave us twisted in pain.   And those ironically maybe where God creates His biggest miracle, a miracle in which we get to experience in the deep suffering the intimacy that God intends.  For the simplest message of Christianity is that loss and hurt do not have the last word.  When one hears or experiences the outpouring of support, and yes food, for the Salvati family what is it that we are witnessing?  Simply put, we are witnessing as willing participants the intimacy God intends.

And you will see Mark again.  We all get our turn at this “death” this thing.  Imagine the kind of heaven Mark will be living in.  We wake slowly.  Dear friends surround us.  We hear there is a Folk Festival at the end of road this weekend.  You are invited to someone’s house.   The house is full.  Of course the furniture has not changed since 1981 but who is counting.  You may even notice the bathroom – painted coral just in your honor.

The top shelf of red wine is open.  The soup is on.  And there is Mark, smiling.  Overjoyed to have you home again.  With great joy, he says, “I told you there was a bigger picture.”  And you dance.

Rev. Chuck Blair