After 30 years of directing funerals, I’ve come to believe in open caskets. A service to which everybody but the deceased is invited, like a wedding without the bride or a baptism without the baby, denies the essential reality of the occasion, misses the focal point. It is why we comb wreckage, drag rivers and bring our war dead home.
In the Jubilee vision of Leviticus 25, the dispossessed and disenfranchised are allowed to return to their ancestral homes every 50 years. More than 50 years have passed since the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe of 1948, in which 700,000 Palestinians became refugees and hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed by Israeli troops.
What kind of relationship do you want to have with your teen in five years?” Tim Tahtinen, youth leader at the United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, likes to pose that question to parents and then add, “What’s your plan? I have a plan that works.”
At the pastors’ conference, a church diagnostician has been telling me and other glassy-eyed pastors that we have to start seeing things differently. Regional churches, more commonly known as megachurches, are the wave of the future.
Eleven-year-old Jennifer has invited her friend Claire to spend the day. Jennifer’s younger sister, Laurie, who is eight, is trying to keep up with the older girls. None of them has any interest in Claire’s six-year-old brother, Michael, who is staying with them for about 15 minutes.