Blog Archives

1 April 2020 – So you’re not planning on dying then?

So you’re not planning on dying then?
(Some thoughts written before lock down and limitations on funeral services.)

“Everybody does it – nobody talks about it.” Sounds like a taboo, doesn’t it? In the Victorian Age this would have described sex. Now it describes dying. We have come a long way in dealing with death since the early part of the twentieth century. Since the 1970s the medical profession has begun to deal with death as a part of medicine – rather than focusing on healing and recovery alone. Although one has to day that some hospital staff don’t always handle terminally illness in the best possible way. They’d much rather see their patients go home alive!

We still have a taboo in general society – people don’t talk about death. Everybody will die and nobody likes to talk about it. Death on the other hand is accepted on TV and at the movies.. We watch movies in which people agonise over the loss of loved ones, and even have TV programs about undertakers, although the series I have in mind is rather off the wall!

We have to accept death as a reality in order really to become fully human beings. At the same time we don’t want to focus on sad and depressing things. So what do we do? Here’s one way of facing our immortality. We have a facility for people in our local church to plan their own Funeral or Memorial service. Sounds odd for some, but it makes absolute sense. The point is – what would you want people to do when your time comes? Mourn or dance? Weep or celebrate?

Planning your Funeral is not as macabre as it sounds. It helps your family to know what YOU really would like at that service. And there should be a service of remembrance or celebration of some kind. All too often undertakers are being requested to have “non-attendance” cremations, where no one stops to remember or give thanks. They pretend to move on and leave granny or dad for someone else to dispose of. In the long run that is not a good move.

In years gone by when people didn’t talk about sex (but clearly “did it”, otherwise there might have been a problem with the human population), they had to “undertake” for themselves – laying out the bodies of their loved ones in a room in a house and preparing it themselves for burial. Clearly they faced death and mourned. In Africa many cultures have more elaborate funerals – mourning for some days and bringing the bodies of loved ones home for a vigil the day before the Funeral. They MOURN because they need to.

So do we all. The grief process is a journey –nothing happens overnight. And you should not try to forget someone too soon. The process of mourning is the journey of ADJUSTMENT to a new life without that person, parent, spouse or child. Support groups really help. Having a friend who has been there also helps, because we need to talk and work through the trauma of loss. Our friends should not be afraid of mentioning our loved one’s name – they too should break the silence and remember them regularly.

It is foolish to prepare everything else (finances, wills, and disposal of property and possessions) without preparing one’s family and one’s self. And of course planning your Funeral service helps your family not to worry about what is important from your point of view – hymns and songs, special readings and poems, and even a letter to be read to them on your behalf. You could remind them how much you love them! Even better, say those things when people are alive! Fix those broken relationships – before you become one of those people who have to talk to a coffin to make things right.

Christians are not afraid of death. We may fear dying – that it may be painful or very difficult. We do fear leaving those we love behind, and we are often afraid of the unknown. Our Faith, however, has this to say about this ultimate journey: Paul writes in Philippians 1:21: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Jesus reminds us of His amazing plan for us in John 14:2: In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. Many people retire to the some lovely place. They plan for years for that moment when they don’t have to work – when they can enjoy doing what they really want to do. But do they prepare for this ultimate reality? One thing is for sure – we don’t always see it coming. We do know that our destiny as humans is sealed and certain.

The Christian Faith talks about ASSURANCE (remember the hymn Blessed Assurance?). In a sense this involves a promise, a guarantee, a pledge that those who have trusted in Jesus have the promise of eternal life. Eternal Life for the Christian starts now – in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Paul sums it up like this in Romans 8:38 to 39: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. And then look at these words of Jesus in John 17:3: Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Remember His promise – that makes all the difference! Believe in Him and give your life to Him. He has dealt with the power of death through His own death and resurrection. Thinking about dying puts our living into perspective. Not only can we plan well – we can also live well and love well.

REFLECTIONS ON THE CHRISTCHURCH SHOOTINGS – 15 FEBRUARY 2019

Can you imagine what it must be like when the place you hold dear – a place of worship – becomes a killing field? It’s hard to get your head around it – imagine it happening here in our church.

It’s happened in other countries. In the country of my birth – in the St James Church massacre in 1993 (25 July) 11 people were killed and 58 wounded. The perpetrators were eventually granted amnesty by the truth and reconciliation commission in 1998. Families  of victims and survivors of that shooting have suffered  a lot and still do. It makes my recent talk on trauma very relevant.

It’s happened more recently in Christian churches in Egypt and other North African countries. We don’t think too much about them – it seems too far away.

But here? In this country? It would be like something happening on the South Island far from us – and something down the road if we lived in Christchurch. Unlike the earthquake which shook everyone again and again, a shooting down the road would have sounded like fireworks and maybe someone else’s problem.

Except that wounded people were running through the neighborhood. A young man asleep – not unusual of course for young people at lunch times some days – was more than slightly surprised to find a wounded man running through his home. He and his friend helped him and applied pressure on the wound and so forth, as you do when a man with a rifle shot wound walks through your house. He called for an ambulance. None came. So the friends took the man to hospital themselves.

You would have heard the stories as the world has – of a 66-year-old woman driving down the road being shot at and helping one wounded man and watching another die – feeling helpless and yet helping a great deal indeed. Other amazing stories abound.

You will hear the concerns about slow response time – about poor intelligence services, about innocence and complacency. About who should be held responsible for not picking up on extremists who can post things in advance on social media and not be picked up. You probably now know what a GoPro camera is – so that a shooter can broadcast live what he is doing – like a personal dash camera. You will also probably wonder about people who posted and shared video footage on line of old people, women, children, in a place of worship, being wounded and killed. And you may rightfully wonder if the world has finally gone mad and if people are actually totally depraved after all.

This kind of violence is not new, however. New Zealand has simply been spared it at home thus far. Sadly, we will have to rethink our lax attitudes about all kinds of things from now on.

We extend our love and prayers to all who have lost loved ones or have been injured. And we stand in solidarity with all kiwis who reject violence, hatred and prejudice of any form.

A lot of kiwis may well be reflecting on their identity today. Many are certainly standing together with the communities of those two Christchurch mosques in a powerful witness of unity as a people. They may well be thinking more about Muslim citizens of this country and the world. Maybe we all will begin to appreciate more that God loves the whole world.

Let’s hope that people who are often prejudiced toward those who are different will pray for them all, and especially pray that those who have been bereaved in Christchurch may be comforted. I pray that they may be drawn to Isa’s (Jesus’) love at this time.

May the God who is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) richly bless those who grieve and this nation with his love.

PRAYER

God of compassion Hear the cry of those who mourn; where terror and violence have robbed them of their loved ones and shattered communities in our country; God of compassion, hear our prayer

God of peace hear the cry of those who yearn for peace; in battle zones and broken states, frightened, fearful, anxious; God of peace, hear our prayer

God of love hear the cry of those who yearn for love; fractured families, broken homes neglected, unwanted, alone. God of love, hear our prayer

God of justice hear the cry of those who yearn for justice; persecuted and oppressed, exploited, ill-treated, broken. God of justice, hear our prayer

God of healing hear the cry of those who yearn for healing; physical and spiritual hurting, weakened, depressed; God of healing, hear our prayer

Journey with us, O holy God,  as we continue our way to the cross. Sharpen our focus, that our attention may center more on you than ourselves. Lead us through the shadows of darkness and prepare our hearts, that we might be a people of prayer, ready to perceive and respond to your Son and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen.