Death, Grief, Sports, and the Company of Heaven
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. Titus 1:2 (NLT)
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
“with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven, we praise Your gloriously name” (words of our liturgy, prior to singing the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)
It was October 28th, 2004 about 8 o’clock in the morning. I was listening to Jim Rhome’s show on the radio, driving up Palms to Pines Highway, heading to a meeting at my church in Anza. I had to call into the show, but even as I wanted to tell the story about my grandfather playing catch with me and telling me stories of the red sox greats…. I was overwhelmed, and missed my grandfather. The grief was hard to bear… even now remembering the grief that flooded….
Friday, two of my friends and I went to see the move Sniper. Watching the PTSD build up in Chris Kyle made me think of my dad. No movies were made about him, but he too saw things, did things, that would haunt him.
Sunday, after an incredible morning in church, my son and I watched our family’s favorite football team, the New England Patriots, come from behind to win a superbowl. I put on facebook my feelings a few moments after, as I walked through the bedroom and saw the flag presented to me at my dad’s service. How he would have loved the game. How he would have loved watching my son throwing a ball back and forth with me during it. Flashbacks to our driveway in New Hampshire, and my dad and playing catch. More and more emotions… more and more grief….
Being raised in a Irish/Italian home, I tend to sentimentality. Even more though, I was raised not to bury grief, but rather to embrace it. As I say the words in blue above, as I look out over my congregation, faces comes to mind. I can almost hear their voices as well, part of the great company of heaven. Those we’ve lost for the moment, those we’ve said good by to over the years. Guys like Dale, and Richard, my first vicar Clyde and his buddy Armando, Rich B, who helped me define a vision for my present church, and Warren, who helped that vision become reality. Others who’ve placed great faith in me, like my wife’s grandmother, or Joseph, a dignified retired pastor from Guyana, who pastored “his pastor” with encouragement. Or Harley, a man who proved I could be his friend as well as his pastor. And yes, my dad…
Grief upon grief, we face a lot of it in life.
Some is quite poignant, the bitterness of not being able to play catch anymore, or watch a game together, arguing about referees calls, or trying to break the record for the most consecutive throws and catches. (football with my dad was 232 – don’t know why I remember – with my son yesterday… it was 33)
The experience as we get a sense of the great cloud of witnesses, the whole company of heaven is different. Yeah, I wish I could commune my dad one more time, or either of my grandfathers just once. Or have a service with all those guys mentioned above…..and yet I know there will be a communion, that lasts eternally, that lasts forever. And this celebration here, is a small sense of the one there.
For all who believe in God, who trust Him for what He promises will be gathered together again. We can have confidence in that, because it was promised, this plan of God that even preceded creation. This promise is the joy that Christ focused upon, even as He was crucified by us, for us.
We will all share eternity with God, our Father, ou Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I can’t tell you what that will look like, because it will beyond anything we’ve ever seen, heard, even thought of, but it will be with Him.
As we hear those words, grief becomes… blessed… it transforms into yearning, and hope. Not just to see them again, but to be together in the incredible presence of God. He’s promised it, this family gathering that will be forever. We take that hope into the world, an share it with those who need it as much as we do. we share it with those who know it, as we celebrate it together, and with those who do not…as we minister to them, where ever we encounter them in life.
even as we play catch with them…. or watch a game with them… or argue about which team is the best in history….
God’s peace to you… in