Posted by: dacalu | 7 February 2011

You’re going to die

Well, it’s a bit blunt, but it’s true.  I’m going to die.  You’re going to die.  Mortal things die.  The real question is what you’re planning on doing in the meantime.  Jesus died because we couldn’t handle life with God.  And yet, in his 30-some years, Jesus of Nazareth did many important things.  He taught us how to live in a new way and, when he returned from death, he showed that death was not the barrier or ending that we thought it was.  Jesus taught us how to live, even in death – before, during, and after.

It’s a tough lesson, and one I think we’ve encountered even in secular culture.  Hard to learn, but relatively available.  I just watched “Stranger than Fiction” for the second time.  Imagine, a deep life lesson found in a Will Ferrel movie…  It’s not about avoiding death, it’s about actually living.  There are hundreds if not thousands of opportunities to live each day.  Every person you meet, every insight you have, every bit of joy you can inject into the world.  That’s life.  It reminds me of a line from the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore:

 

I slept and dreamt that life was joy,

I awoke and saw that life was service.

I acted and behold, service was joy.

 

What more could I ask of life.  It’s a simple insight, but it has an important corollary we rarely hear.  Human institutions come and go.  They live and die.  I have heard much fear from fellow Episcopalians that our church may die.  I would be sad for this to happen, just as I would be sad to see any friend die.  I cannot tell you how much love I have for the Anglican tradition and for our local incarnation – the democratic, missional, constantly questioning Episcopal Church.  Still, churches die.  The socialist community of the Book of Acts has passed away.  The house churches of Roman persecution are gone.  The Imperial Churches of Rome and Byzantium.  The unifying, feudal church of Christendom.  Individual churches come and go.  The Church remains (the Body of Christ, the great cloud of witnesses, the church triumphant,…).

And still, it is not how a church dies; it is how it lives.  So let me be blunter still.  Whether we live or die, the real question is how are we living.  I had the great privilege and pleasure of hearing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori speak this weekend.  She’s visiting Arizona.  She reaffirmed for me some simple truths about our church.

We promote conversation.  The Anglican communion reaches around the world.  We are the third largest social network in the world.  The Episcopal Church has been a leader in Ecumenical discussions, working closely with Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Romans, and Moravians. We have been active in emerging church movements as they explore new ways of being church together.  We are known throughout the country and the world for our debates on sexuality and money.  It can appear as simple argument, but at it’s core it’s the kind of talking with one another that leads to understanding, love, and yes, even conversion.

We welcome the stranger, caring for the sick, the hungry, and those in prison.  The Episcopal Church does service and mission work around the globe.  We plant churches, connect local communities, lobby governments, and create families.  A friend has called us “Episconinjas” because so much of our work occurs below the radar, but it’s there and it’s an important part of our life and identity.  If you have any doubts, check out Episcopal Relief and Development (http://www.er-d.org/), the Young Adult Service Corps (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/109460_107651_ENG_HTM.htm) and Episcopal Migration Ministries (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/emm.htm).

Of course, the Episcopal Church does other things as well, but those two stand out for me this weekend.

You will die.  Your church and your country, even this planet will come to an end.  The question is, what will we do with the life we have.  I hope we can take the opportunity to love one another, to respect the dignity of every human being, promote conversation, help those in need.  I hope we will pause to thank God for life and love and the opportunity to serve, because even that is a joy.  If we learn anything from the Bible, we should learn this.

Death is less important than you think it is.

Life is more important.

Let us live it while we may.

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