The older I get (and I am getting older but not ready to be “old” quite yet) the more I tend to stand back and question, wonder and ponder things. As I’ve written previously, I sit in my hot tub several nights a week and I ponder the universe, its origins and expanse. Given the work I do as a chaplain where I am frequently on a scene where a death has occurred witnessing the grief of others, I quite often ponder my own death, the day it will come, how it will come. All of us do at various times, don’t we? I just happen to have numerous opportunities to have it cross my mind. So much death has caused me to wonder about heaven and how it might exist. Sometimes I question the afterlife to be honest with you, but of course that’s where faith comes in, right? Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot know. Living in the “what you cannot know” for me has been an opportunity to dwell in the mystery in ways I never dwelt much. Our Western Christianity, as a religion, is all about answers and knowing and learning and getting it exactly right. Right? Shouldn’t it be all about living? Really living? And what is living? What is that?
This past weekend I officiated a wedding for a young firefighter and his bride. It was a wonderful affair. I was asked to say a prayer at the rehearsal dinner and to say a prayer before the 250 family and friends gathered for dinner at the reception. Being asked to pray in public always brings about a conscious decision I make to speak to God and not babble on with something religious. At least I try. As you know, a public prayer can often turn into a mini sermon or an opportunity to show off one’s eloquence, if they really have that gift to start with…which most of us don’t. Being asked to pray in a gathering of 30 family and friends at the rehearsal and over 250 at the reception is but a brief slice of opportunity to remind others of why we exist. It occurred to me as I witnessed all the relationships coming together and the love of family and friends during the celebration of one of life’s paramount occasions—that is why we exist. To love. To celebrate. To have joy. To share in happiness. Not alone, but together. I choose to pray into that, always giving thanks for that.
Because of the way doctrine has developed over the many years since the birth of Christianity and more so since the reformation and enlightenment, we can easily lose sight of what should have the most meaning in our lives when it comes to our faith in God and the reason why we exist. We meet people for the first time like I met dozens of people at the wedding I’ve never met before, and one can immediately go down the road of wondering if someone is a Christian when you meet. Are they “walking with Jesus”? Are they “born again”? Have they “accepted Christ”? Are they “saved”? You know what has worn me out over all these years since I “came to Christ” in 1977? Always feeling the pressure of having some role in first being “a witness” and having some responsibility to “save the lost.” Hell awaiting “the lost” seems to be the vortex that sucks the gospel out of our lives before we even get a chance to really live it out with others and love them with no other agenda than being compelled to do so by a work that comes from our spirit (where there is Spirit). There are some who can be a witness by loving others, and some do that quite authentically without feeling the responsibility of being a lifesaver.
Jesus seemed to have a knack for simply being with others, saved or not, manifesting a sincere love without being verbose though he always had something simple to say, often profound and at times confusing. What Jesus did say in his short 3 years on earth was often mysterious and often cloaked in hidden meaning. Many of his parables are not so easy to understand. I don’t know why he spoke in parables and in ways that were sometimes hard to understand but what was clear was how he lived and how he loved. And it wasn’t complicated, nor did it require endless Sunday sermons to learn the lifestyle. With God in us, we live, and we love. We need the interaction of relationships to learn the way of Jesus far greater than we need endless books, sermons, and lessons to gain knowledge. One of Jesus’ first miracles was to get the party started when at a wedding the wine supply ran out. Must have been quite a party and Jesus kept it going. He must have seen that people were really in the moment, living, and loving and celebrating and having joy! I love that Jesus!!