©1996 C. David Hess
We were deeply saddened by the death of 17 year old Blaine Waas in a car accident this past week. Blaine was the grandson of Glenn and Evelyn Waas of Hamilton. He lived near Rochester with his parents, Peter and Jo Waas. Death is never easy to take. It’s particularly harsh when it takes a 17 year old from us. Rev. William Sloan Coffin, in writing of the death of his teenage son, writes that when a parent dies you lose your past. When you lose a child, you lose your future as well. I have long since given up any attempt at fully explaining life or death. As the Bible says, "We look through a glass darkly." I am convinced that not all things that happen in this world are God’s will. When the car in which Blaine was riding crashed, I am sure that the first heart that broke was God’s. One thing the family said over and over through this experience was that they didn’t want Blaine’s death to be for nothing. They wanted something good to come from it. For this reason they donated his organs so that others might live. They expressed the hope that the accident might cause other other young people to always buckle their seat belts (Blaine’s belt was unbuckled) and that they should not drive when they are sleepy or tired. I believe Blaine’s family’s sentiments are exactly right. At the heart of the Christian message is the proclamation that God can bring good out of even the worst evil. If the cross of Jesus says anything, it says that.
©1996 C. David Hess
Our campers in the Adirondacks last week were awestruck by the starry skies. We delighted in spotting shooting stars. We were humbled by our smallness as we contemplated the fact that the light from many of the stars we saw left those stars billions of years ago. We were awed by the fact that God is "mindful" of us.
We saw light from a few planes high above. Of course, some argued that they were not really planes but alien space ships (Independence Day has been a popular summer movie). This led to a discussion of whether there is life out there or not. Many expressed the opinion that there is. I agreed; this universe is an awfully big place just for us.
Interestingly, news came this week from scientists who had discovered microscopic evidence of life on Mars. The evidence was found in a shooting star (a meteorite) which fell in Antarctica thousands of years ago.
On CBS`s Sunday Morning, Charles Osgood named this discovery the "Milestone of the Week." He pointed out our fascination with the possibility that we are not alone in the universe and the recurring theme in science fiction movies of our seeking salvation from visitors beyond. The salvation sometimes comes as a result of a threat from outer space, as in Independence Day, which causes us earthlings to put aside our differences and unite against a common foe. Sometimes the salvation comes because the visitors from beyond bring us wisdom or healing power, as in ET and Cocoon. Osgood pointed out that the evidence for life in space is still inconclusive and that there is still no evidence of intelligent life. He expressed the view that we should stop looking for salvation to come from "out there" and find it within oursevles.
I don’t know. After all, isn't the Christian message that salvation comes not from within us but from a Visitor from beyond.
©1996 C. David Hess
During my vacation I missed church one Sunday. The last time I did so was 26 years ago when I missed because of a case of food poisoning. I’ll spare you the details, but I had a much less worthy excuse for missing worship this time.
I really missed it. The subsequent week was just not the same. I don’t know how it’s possible for some to go months or even years without worship. For me, missing worship meant a more mundane week, less of a sense of the holy, a sense of living in the presence of God.
An article in Leadership Journal pointed to a story in the news not long ago about three whales stranded near Point Barrow, Alaska. They were separated from the open ocean by miles of ice. They had only a small hole in the ice through which to breath. There they floated battered and bloody.
Rescuers started cutting a string of holes in the ice. For eight days they coaxed the whales to go from one hole to the next toward the open ocean. One whale disappeared and was presumed to have died. Finally, with the help of Russian icebreakers, the whales Putu and Siku, made it to freedom.
The writer pointed out: "In a way, worship is a string of breathing holes the Lord provides his people. Battered and bruised in a world frozen over with greed, selfishness, and hatred, we rise for air in church, a place to breathe again, to be loved and encouraged, until that day when the Lord forever shatters the ice cap."
See you in church this Sunday!
©1996 C. David Hess
I received a letter the other day from Sheree and Tim Hall (Tim taught at Colgate a few years ago. They and Alethea and Ian are doing fine. Knowing my off beat sense of humor, they included the following publication. I include it here fully believing that God also has a sense of humor):
Why God Never Received Tenure at Any University
This column kind of falls under the heading of "The Rest of the Story..." In a previous article I wrote about one of the final scenes in the movie, Shadowlands. C. S. Lewis and his young stepson, Douglas, were sitting together in the attic reflecting upon the death of their wife and mother, Joy.
The boy asks Lewis "Do you believe in Heaven?"
Lewis answers, "Yes."
Douglas responds, "I don’t believe in Heaven."
Lewis answers, "That’s okay."
Douglas continues, "But I sure would like to see my mother again."
Lewis replies, "Me too," and, weeping, they fall into each other arms.
In my column I observed that Lewis’s own faith shone through and also his conviction that Douglas had the responsibility and should be allowed the freedom to work out his own faith himself.
"The rest of the story" was in this past week’s issue of People magazine. Douglas Gresham now lives in Ireland and is executor of Lewis’s literary estate. The article describes Gresham as an ardent Christian, but this became so only recently. He "submitted to Christ" three years ago at the age of 45.
We sometime fall victim to the thinking that becoming a Christian should happen at a particular age (12 or 13 seems to be commonly cited). We thus try to channel human beings and the Spirit into acting in a particular way at a particular time. We thus deny human freedom and the freedom of the Spirit. We forget Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus about being “born again” and his observation that the Spirit of God, like the wind, “blows where it wills.” There is no one right time to become a Christian. That’s up to the Spirit and the individual.
©C. David Hess