Thursday, 27 August 2015

Death and the Big Story

The young woman on the radio was almost beside herself. Her best friend had just visited her, and then had left, to drive down the A27.
Her car had been in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time as the Hawker Hunter from the Shoreham Airshow came down on the road. In a moment, utterly unexpected and which no driving skill could avoid, she was gone. 

A few hours earlier, my delightful, daft and lovely uncle David died at his home.
He was well into his 80s, had been going downhill for a long time and there was nothing that medics, including the trained nurses in the family, could really do about it. Death came to an elderly man, a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, who had seen enough days. 

The two sets of circumstances could hardly be more different, and any comparison of the reactions could be terribly unfair. Nevertheless, one difference did hit me hard. The young lady who had lost her friend in the crash clearly had absolutely no sense whatsoever of any deeper, wider, larger or more eternal narrative than the immediate loss. Like so many people today, the present is all there is; take that away and there is absolutely nothing. 

It also happens that recently we have been reading Peter's letters. Specifically, over the fatal weekend, 2 Peter.

There is no other section of the NT which so speaks into a world where the eternal meta narrative has been abandoned. Specifically, this section gives us the argument that the apparent inertia of God in stepping into history is actually the demonstration of his gracious patience. He appears to do nothing not because he doesn't care, but because he is kind. His visible action, when it comes, will not be pleasant (witness the flood!), and he delays it in order to give us room and time to bear fruit. 

That is his visible action, of course. Throughout the age he is active invisibly, calling men and women, girls and boys, into his Kingdom by Word and Spirit. He is not willing that any should perish, and he summons his church to be active with him in reaching the perishing. 

The view of history we have in 2 Peter is so needed. Who am I? Where are we? Where are we going? I am a creature, an image of God, in a world that has been judged and will be judged again. But in between those two judgements, this world has been visited, by a Saviour. It is this Jesus who is the Judge-to-come, and who, by his cross, saves me from that judgement. And beyond that judgement is an eternal Kingdom, an eternal home, and an eternal joy. And whether I die in my bed or in a flaming plane crash, or don't die at all because the Judge arrives first, that big picture holds true and will secure me and mine. 

It is tragic that 2 Peter has been sidelined in our reading, preaching and thinking. In part that is due to theories of pseudepigraphy. I suspect that the gagging of this letter and of Jude also has to do with their outspokenness against false teachers - teachers who, amongst other things, seem to have wanted to make sexual immorality acceptable in the church. We have also, as ever, mirrored the society around us; the leaching out of the eternal meta-narrative has affected us too, and we are now almost as "me/now" as everyone else. We need these books, we need a sense of where we stand on the line between Creation, Fall, Flood at one end and Final Judgement and New Creation at the other. Only then will we see ourselves for what we are, and see Jesus for all he is! 

My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who died, out of the blue, at Shoreham. I pray for them in their grief and (in that lady's case, anyway) their total lostness. And pray that someone, somewhere, someday, helps them get the bigger picture.  

As for those I know and love best: next Friday we will weep at Uncle David's funeral, but we will share immense joy too. Cos the present may have gone, but the big story isn't over. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Andrew. Thank you Peter. Thank you Sovereign Lord, Eternal Creator, Merciful Sustainer, Righteous Judge and Glorious Gracious Saviour, author and finisher of the big story.