by Pastor Barb
I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately—its meaning and purpose, and how God might view it—no doubt because I’ve had to think a lot about death lately as well. We’ve said goodbye to our beloved Dale Szach, to our friend Larry Vance, and to other friends and family members of our congregation and those of our mission partners. We’re reminded that life is definitely a fatal condition. The circumstances of a death really matter to us, and affect the way we grieve. We might feel peace when death comes gently after a long life, or feel anger when a life ends too soon, or is cut short by tragedy.
Sometimes a focus on the circumstances of death can distract us from a more essential focus: on the circumstances of life. Jesus came that we may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). So maybe our effort could be to figure out what having “abundant life” really means. It can’t just be about material wealth, because we know of rich people who are lonely and miserable. It can’t just be about longevity, for the same reason. Then what’s it about? For me, it’s all about relationship. Because God is all about relationship. We are launched into the world with a few loving relationships, if we’re lucky: family and close friends. They are the roots. As we live and grow, our relationships grow as well. If we tend nurture them, they deepen and strengthen and become a more firm foundation for all that is growing and thriving above the surface, so that it can grow bigger and broader. The web becomes more intricate with more dimensions, and eventually it becomes so strong that nothing can break it. It’s the kind of web that structures our lives, as we go about our work and our leisure. It is our safety net in times of trouble. At those times of life when we start to sink downward, it catches us. And it flexes, so the harder we fall, the more it enfolds us, wraps itself around us, and holds us tight. So we never fall too far; we’re never in free-fall where we can’t see the bottom.
That web of relationships, held together by love, is always there. Even when death comes, we have it to hold onto. Because bodies fail, and people die, but love never does. The love we have shared with a person who dies is ours forever, to cherish and to share again. Love is the only thing that grows larger, the more we give it away.
Life lived in the comfort and support of such a web of relationships is abundant life. And such a life is of God. It grows out of that part of us that’s made in the image of God. We are taught: love God, and
love one another. Relationships are what God is all about; what God seeks to have with us, and how God wants us to live with one another. It’s what we were created for. It’s what gives us life. Because God is all about relationship.
You might see, as I do, that in the world around us this way of life is to be treasured, because it is becoming more and more rare. Too many people live in isolation, leaning on the Internet or the TV for solace. Or the pursuit of other forms of abundance precludes loving relationships. Or, perhaps they were not lucky enough to be born into love, and so they have to struggle to figure it out as they grow. And some never do.
So maybe, when we see people who are not living in such abundance, we can become part of their growing web. We can add to their riches by entering into loving relationship with them, and helping them to see the love around them, and tend and nurture it, so it can grow. Then they too might have life, and have it abundantly.