Mundane events can mirror the mysteries at the heart of faith
Jan 11, 2005
Red Sox fan George Sumner was on his deathbed last October, and things didn’t look too good for the Red Sox either. They were about to be eliminated from the playoffs by the hated Yankees, thereby adding another year of heartbreak to the previous 86 in which Boston’s beloved Sox had managed, sometimes in jaw-dropping fashion, to fall short of winning the World Series.
Give yourself a treat and put Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope under your Christmas tree. Moltmann published the book in German 40 years ago. After it was translated into English three years later (1967), he became an instant theological celebrity in the U.S. The book even made it to the front page of the New York Times.
Paul’s daunting promise to the Romans haunts me: “Suffering produces endurance,” he assures the Romans and us, “and endurance produces character and character produces hope.” Recently I stood in the pulpit of my church and looked over the top of a white, 32-inch-long casket at a young couple from my congregation. Their six-month-old son, who had been happy and healthy just days before, had died in his sleep. The unfathomable suffering of the family was shadowed by a church filled with mourners for whom the scene enacted their most dreaded fears.
"A virus breached the campus computer network last week and the entire system crashed. Repair has been difficult, but I bring a word of hope.” The director of information technology at the college where I was about to lecture on eschatology added, “This has been frustrating for everyone. Files have been corrupted and programs do not run properly. Please be patient. Some files have been restored. . . . Any day now we will be back to full operation.”
It can be hard to keep up with Marva J. Dawn, since she usually produces a book a year. But this one should definitely be on your reading list. Perhaps because Dawn has a new publisher, this book is crisper and more concise than her previous works.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream / Bears all its sons away . . .” [or, as alt. would have it, “soon bears us all away”] would be a paralyzing line were it not for the hymn’s opening invocation. “O God, our help in ages past . . .”
One of the difficult decisions, and sometimes compromises, ministers regularly make involves conducting funerals and memorial services for people who are not members of the congregation. It happens fairly often: a telephone call, sometimes from a funeral director, informs you of a death and the family’s hope that the service can be in your church and that you will preside.
We watched in horror as both towers lit up, then fell into a cloud of smoke and ash. Then we gathered in the chapel with hundreds who came to pray. I asked the people to name the folks in their hearts and their concern as our prayer before God. The chapel rang with the precious names of loved ones.