I have a song stuck in my head……..don’t you hate when that happens? It’s the wrong song. It feels inappropriate. Irritatingly upbeat. Toe-tapping music. Dang…..
Every time I feel the spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.
Yes, every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray.
The problem with this song is that right now my world is in dirge rhythm…..slow, heavy, sad, dismal. Isaac Benjamin Baker died……all of 3 years old. His birthday was April 2. Thursday he was here in the office with his mom to pick up his big brother. Home to nap as he was recovering from pneumonia. Then breathing difficulties, a trip to Baylor Waxahachie, on to Children’s Hospital, heart stopped, CPR, heart stopped again – crash cart – room full of medical people – every possible intervention and then the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the unbelievable………death. Smiley Isaac…..stringing words together……laughing at his brother, Dawson. Laying his head in his mom’s lap and saying, “I wanna go night night.” Isaac standing in my office doorway babbling about his day. Isaac is gone and we are in shock and disbelief.
I’m the pastor. I’m supposed to say something. Instead of profound words of comfort and inspiration I have that song in my head. If Isaac were here we could laugh while I sang it. But he’s not. And he won’t be ever again.
I don’t have answers to why. I don’t have clever sound bites to make you feel better. But I can dig down into the bedrock of my faith and tell you what I believe. And I believe absolutely that God was right there present with the family, the medical people, and Isaac when Isaac slipped away. God’s heart breaks with every hurt and every grief of every parent who loses a child. God neither chooses nor causes tragedy. But God is with us in tragedy. Emmanuel, God With Us, was completely present then and is still right in the midst of our lives when we are suffering and when we are celebrating. And God is wooing us to our next best thought, our next best choice, our next best action even now.
There is no way to know yet what Isaac’s short life has brought us. But we can be sure his life was precious to God and to us. It is a truth of this broken world in which we live that trouble abounds. But we stand in faith that God’s grace abounds even more. It is also true that if we dwell in our pain and pray into and through our pain, we can be transformed by our pain. Richard Rohr says if we are not transformed by our pain we will transmit it.
Let’s work for affordable, inclusive, and life-transforming health care. Let’s work for miraculous research into childhood illnesses. Let’s work for healthy and hope-filled groups and places for parents who have lost children to form community support together. Let’s work for a healthy world for all God’s children. And let’s work for both justice and compassion.
My song continues:
I have heartache, I have woe, I have trouble here below.
While God leads me I’ll not fear, I am sheltered by God’s care.
We North Americans seem to be set on doing our own thing. Religion becomes all about personal salvation and the focus is on me and Jesus. Heaven and Hell are the final destinations available based on our individual choices and we are entirely responsible for the one in which we land. Church becomes a choice based on getting my needs met.
For a pastor, this is a nightmare because we become responsible for making (and keeping) everybody happy. Church becomes a place where our church family is pleased with everything and folks come tofeel good. The goal seems to be a Hallmark moment rather than an encounter with the Holy.
Recently I heard William Willimon say that a person can make a difference but transformation takes a community. How exciting for church to move past individual experience to become a place of community transformation! A place where our personal tastes and inclinations aren’t the most important things. A place where generosity and hospitality are lived and justice becomes more important that personal political leanings. A place where the risky, disruptive things Jesus said can be heard, processed, and lived out!
First Christian Church of Transformed and Transforming Community – I’m in! Come on and let’s make it happen!
Rev. Marcia Hagee
She graduated from Duke University and the University of Missouri-Columbia studying Psychology and Religion. She earned her M. Div at Phillips Theological Seminary and was ordained by the Oklahoma Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).