I haven’t written a From the Rev since before Easter and to be honest, I haven’t really wanted to. Beginning with the news of Dr. Jim Dixon’s death on Wednesday, March 23 (which in some circles is known as Spy Wednesday) until even recently, there has been a number of significant deaths within the Christian community of Denver and within our own circle of friends and significant relationships. It is difficult to grieve when it comes in waves. It is difficult to write when you are trying to ‘grieve with those who grieve’ and also working through your own grief.
With the different losses, I have wondered whether this is some Divine ‘ingathering.’ I don’t mean to sound frighteningly apocalyptic, but I have wondered if God in His wisdom isn’t simply calling some of His long-time, faithful servants home. I have often remarked to my colleagues in ministry,
“When Billy Graham dies, perhaps, the beginning of the end will come…”
That’s perhaps a very silly thing to say. Maybe it is similar to what the early Christians thought in regards to some of the apostles when they died. Perhaps other Christian believers in another have wondered such things about someone in their own lifetime. But, regardless, these recent losses have made me reflect a bit on the end of life.
An Ingathering: Does Everything Happen in Three’s?
One friend commented, to me that it seems that certain things happen in three’s. Three deaths. Jim Dixon, Roger Cross, and Ken Atkinson. Each had a significant impact on the Denver Community – albeit in different ways. But for me, I hadn’t known Cross and Atkinson personally, so I dismissed my friends “un-theological musings.” But then a long time parishioner of my former church died and my good friend lost her mother shortly afterward. An ingathering of three?
An Ingathering: The End Rarely Happens Like We Imagine
One death came while riding a bicycle in the neighborhood. One had been on hospice for two years. One became ill and died within a month. Another brutally killed while helping a neighbor. When I worked for a local hospice, I used to imagine whether I might some day lie on the same beds where I had once prayed with hospice patients – it will never be as the hospice closed it doors a year or two after I left.
I have seen countless people at the end of life – they have saved and accumulated and in the end they have to sell it or give it all away. And, in truth, there’s no room anyway – I’ve seen the vaults and coffins. It’s amazing how the Egyptians once buried their pharaohs with so much stuff. I am constantly amazed at how the end doesn’t ever really happen the way that we think that it will.
An Ingathering: What’s Really Important
Perhaps one of the blessings of my work whether formerly in hospice or the church, or now with the football club is that I have watched and observed people through all stages of life. I have been blessed with the constant reminder of what’s really important. Now, confession here, even with the constant reminders I still don’t feel like I am really good at capturing what’s really important, but nonetheless.
In the end, whether your child or a strange pastor says your eulogy – rarely is there much thought or consideration toward the work that one has done. It’s more about relationships – with your spouse, your children, with God. When you don’t have those things, it’s usually up to the creative energies of the minister or officiant to find something to say.
An Ingathering: What We Do Know
I don’t know when, but I believe that we do know what the end will someday look like. We find these words in Revelation 21:1-5 –
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Trustworthy. True. The old order of things passing away. This is what we look forward to with hope and with faith. We look forward to the time when the relationship with God is restored and when He will dwell with us and we with Him. We are looking forward to the time when everything will be made new. We look forward to that last, great Ingathering when we will finally be with our Creator and those that we have loved and have died in the faith before us. This is why we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.”
Rev. Brad Kenney