Our help is in the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth (Psalm 124:8)
In the name of the God who makes us, shapes us, and calls us home.
Being called home is a phrase I grew up with, a euphemism for death that was used a lot in the faith of my childhood.
Called home. I know it to be true. I know that in the end, after this life, we do return to the very source of our life, and we continue in that light and life. We return to God, to that which is beyond us, to the one who does make us and shape us.
But I also know that God doesn’t use bullets to call people home.
I know that God doesn’t retract a person’s life in the end, but instead, has been calling out life all along.
So when we talk about being called home it is something sweet, a nice way to think about a truth for us all, especially for those who have lived a full life. But it has nothing to do with a violent or premature death. When life is taken instead of lived, well, what euphemism should we use for that?
From before time we were made and named and loved of God. Our life began with the making of all that is. Our life on this earth spirals out of that place where we know we are loved and known and beloved…spirals out like so many suns.
Getting to know the life of Jesus has taught me that actually God has always called us home, not to the end of life, but to its source. God has always called us to be a home in this world, a home of light and love. A home that reflects God to all of creation.
Jesus was born into the world that God had called “good.” and from that beginning, from his birth, death sought him. Hatred and Fear snatched babies from their mothers to silence God’s move of love in this world. He continued to to teach that God’s home is with people, is in relationship, and is known as the source and aim of all love. He taught that the full life is that which fully expresses God’s love and care for each of us, for all of us and is the model of the care we are to have for one another.
Ultimately, Hatred and Fear broke the very life of Jesus in two.
That’s the odd thing, though. How we deal with life when it is broken, shattered.
We always gather in tragedy. We come together to be close, to look someone else in the eye without hatred. We come together for courage. For strength. For a glimpse of hope. We come here and lift our prayers and cry our laments. We mix these broken words with other songs of hope and praise to someone who is beyond it all. In the darkness, we look for hope.
But you will not find hope here. Not an easy sort of hope.
Even as we gather, we do so in the name of someone whose life was cut short. An executed man, whose body was broken. We gather and remember.
We gather around this table that for a moment holds the body of another broken victim. And we remember that death is not the way of God, was never the plan, was never the dream of God for us, for anyone.
And yet, knowing this we are too often shockingly silent when fear and hatred retract the life of someone of God’s making. We shake our heads as if we have nothing to do with it, “another senseless tragedy” some say. As if this doesn’t happen every day.
And all this while someone we know is sharply aware that it does have something to do with us, because it has to do with them, with each of us.
The life and death of Jesus continue to teach me that God’s home is here. Not distant. Not beyond. Not out of reach. Not out of touch. God is here with the broken and the dead. God is here with the guilty and the ignorant. God is here with the privileged and the oppressed. And this is our hope, that our life might proclaim this. That not our words but our bodies and souls, and even whole selves might act as if this were true. . . for once.
That our life might proclaim that there is no death that glorifies God. Instead, we are to shout that God only calls out life in this world and the next. Any evidence to the contrary is not from God.
God continues to call out life in the middle of our pain and our questions. And, for those of us with the privilege of not living in fear or hiding, God calls out our voice and our integrity.
Because the God who died is alive. We remember, too, that life is stronger than death. That light is the beginning and end of darkness, that love is the only answer to fear.
Whoever might chase death in this world or parade fear in front of us cannot silence the love God has for each of us, cannot quiet the river of restoration God is pouring into the chaos. Our life is what God uses as the antidote to death in this world. Even as, every day, God calls us home, calls us to be a home for hope.
The Rev. Alan Cowart
June 15, 2016
A Service of Vigil and Remembrance for Orlando listen to the service