Thought for the Week – 14th August 2022
At the end, God
This week I was at the bedside of my father as his life came peacefully to an end after 95 years. Death, loss, is never easy to deal with but I felt it was the right time for Dad to go and his ending was as good as I could have wanted. I am sometimes asked (or told!) if having religious faith helps me to cope with death, particularly of those closest to me. I think by this people mean that I have a hope that I will be reunited with Mum and Dad, my grandparents and others once I am dead. The truthful answer is rather more complicated. A few years ago, a book was published called “Heaven is real”, based on someone’s near death experience when this individual became convinced that in Heaven a detached house with a car in the drive awaited the deceased, along with his/her relatives awaiting. To be honest, this picture of Middle-America suburbia sounds to me more like a vision of hell. The classic Christain picture is that after death, the deceased sleep until everyone is resurrected in a one-off event. I can buy more into this picture, but I am also reminded of the words of the head of Cuddesdon College, Bishop Humphrey Southern, who when I was training to be a vicar once observed that in his opinion, most theology is pious speculation. He was speaking tongue in cheek, but he was making a serious point. The General Resurrection has some truth in it, but I would not want to push it too far. What I think really gets closest to the truth are the words of a great American Old Testament Scholar called Walter Bruggermann, a man in his 90s, who was asked what he thought would happen when he died. He replied that in words to the effect that he neither knew nor cared about the details; for him it was enough that the God of Life prevails, even in the face of human death. As St Paul put it almost 2000 years ago, there is nothing that can cut us off from the love of God, not even death. Rest in peace Dad, and rise in Glory.
Rev David Poyner