Earlier this year I attended an ordination service for a good friend. During the course of that worship service she went from being a faithful lay member of the United Church of Christ to an ordained UCC minister.
The movie Heaven Is for Real—based on the book by the same name—tells the story of minister Todd Burpo and his four-year-old son Colton. The main plot revolves around Colton’s near-death experience and his claims that while undergoing surgery he visited heaven and sat on Jesus’ lap. Burpo struggles to define what happened to Colton for himself as well as for the community of faith to which he ministers.
Like the disciples, I often have no idea how to pray. I don’t know what to ask for, I don’t know how long to keep asking, I don’t know if I am doing it right, I don’t know how it all really works. That doesn’t sound very pastoral, I know. What can I say? I suppose I am, at least, in decent (or at least populous) company when I say that prayer is often very hard for me.
What does one do, after all, with the sheer weight of sadness and longing and confusion that so many must carry?
My father died about three years ago. As May comes around, the azaleas spring to life, and I remember my father's passing. Just as sure as the tulips and dogwood blossom, my mind wanders back to my dad. Even when I begin to open up to these strange and wonderful stories of Easter, struggling with the notions of recognition and revelation, I think about the last few months of my father's life.