Stark ... that is one word I would use to describe the events of the past week. The starkness of walking through my mom's house knowing that I would not see either of my parents again in this world. The starkness of helping the coroner with Mike Taylor as his earthly shell was taken from a house he had lived in for so many years. The vast contrast between the pettiness of our political candidates as we, as America ("we the people") tries to use a flawed process to address the many starkly real issues we face in our country. The starkness of life that shouts for seeing the important while being pummeled by the currents of the unimportant. If we open our eyes and wake up, there is a starkness and urgency to those important things.
My favorite C. S. Lewis book is called "The Great Divorce." It has zero to do with the institution of divorce but is a pointed expression of how God might see us and how we see the things of God. The premise of the book is that a group of people are given a second chance at heaven. A bus leaves hell and lets them out in heaven. Some are too afraid to get off the bus. Many get off the bus and, because of pettiness, pride, fear and self, they re-board the bus, choosing the emptiness of hell over the vastness of heaven. Only one stays in heaven. Why does he stay? Because he listens, watches and struggles through the stark reality of heaven wanting truth more than comfort. He decides to actually open his eyes and really see what heaven is all about. He suffers through stark reality to a strength and a love that cannot be reached any other way.
Sunday as I preached about the Saints that had lived life in our midst I kind of lost it. The losses were overwhelming but more than that God's love that gave me life beside those people was more than my heart could handle. If some of you were uncomfortable with the catch in my throat, the tears or the times I had to pause, I apologize. But I think most of you might have heard a more profound message in the silence, the "dead space" in the message and the obvious struggle I was having. Because it is those times in life when we are broken that we actually become more alert ... more attentive to life ... more real ... I think God would say more human. In a nation too proud of its collective will and too unaware of the real struggles we face, I think we could use a little starkness. Maybe we should pause ... cry a little ... really look at the blessing we have in our country ... really reflect on the great gift we have lived-out with the saints God has given us ... really pray for God to lead us (even when that leading is in opposition to our personal will) ... really take those stark difficult steps toward God ... really walk away from the bus that will only take us back to hell. Stark days are ahead, but this is the time we, as God's Church, can shine for Him.