We all face the end of life, though it’s not something we think much about in our youth, yet as the clock ticks on, it gets a little louder as the years pass on, and we’re a bit more mindful of our mortality.
Death comes in so many ways … and for some, it comes by their own decision, their own desire, their own hand. And we’re all left bereft, wondering if might have done something differently … and our tears reflect the gaps that exist in every relationship and in every moment of time.
It’s a hard story … but no need to make it harder than it is.
The Church has not dealt kindly with those who take their own life. They were condemned and refused burial in sacred ground. Their sin, mortal to the core, forever barred them from the gates of Paradise.
Or so it has been said.
For me, the moment of decision came in 1973, Altoona, PA … on a Sunday afternoon, when Thelma called in tears, “Can you please come to the house; George just shot himself.”
Just around the corner from the manse next to the church, I hurried over … and in the upstairs bedroom, lying on their bed … where it ended for George.
That day, and then for the funeral, I had to decide … and I decided with what I have known all the days of my life: the kindness of God, the wideness of God’s mercy … the welcome and the love of God … for all of God’s creatures … no matter the manner of death …
That day, in distress, a distress the living cannot fathom, when life has no more meaning, and death becomes the best choice, God is there with infinite love and understanding … on that Sunday afternoon, God said to George, “Come on in. I see that you’ve had a hard time of it. Here, let me get you something to eat.” When God is the perfect Jewish mother.
I celebrate William Ralph Vogel’s life … and I assure you, for those in distress, whatever it is, there is special kindness in God’s heart. Let there be no doubt that God would turn away in the last moment of our sorrow and despair.
In this matter:
The Church was wrong … truly and profoundly wrong.
Can I right the wrong?
Dare I stand against Tradition?
The Church is changing on this question, and a whole lot more than me push for a better understanding …
And I know - your heart yearns for the mercy of God in such things …
We all know that life can be very hard … and for some, life becomes unbearable, and by their own hand, death is invited in.
How this comes to be, I do not know … but I know that it does … and I stand firm on this note: that in the end, however it is, the End is God … and God is light, God is love … God is mercy … God is kind … eternally and powerfully kind.
XXX is safe with God.
That’s how it ends … where it begins … in the heart of God …
That’s the gospel, dear friends … that’s the message … that’s our hope.
Safe at last, safe at last, thank God Almighty, safe at last.
We take leave of our brother, our friend, our companion and fellow-traveler with hearts broken … as it should be … but we leave also with some degree of courage, to live as best we can, with all the love and skill and music we can muster …
And in the end, all is good, all is God.
Amen and Amen!