Connected – that is a word that best describes my experience of family illness and death during the pandemic. Yes, I did say connected, even in the midst of physical distancing guidelines and the inability to travel safely to be with my family before or after my father died. While I certainly do not want to denigrate or underrepresent the power of physical presence, there are connections that are even deeper than what our bodies can experience.
I believe that my mother was connected with my father, even though dad had ceased to be cognizant and interactive with his surroundings. In ministry, I certainly have experienced the power of connection between individuals that shared a deep love, even when physiological processes made conversation impossible. Somehow, there is a linkage of the heart that transcends biology. So, while my mom was in the room, my parents renewed a communion of love that had been a hallmark of their life together for over 60 years. I hope and pray that a similar intimacy was engendered through the video call that allowed the NC Frese family to be present in the room.
As it was with my biological family, so it was (and is) with my family of faith. Cards, calls, texts, flowers, memorial donations and the many prayers that accompanied the tangible acts reminded me of a connection that links me with others who care about me. In the many contacts that followed dad’s death, some names were very familiar, while others were not. In some cases, there were people whom I had never met. Yet, we were connected – connected through the shared human experiences of grief, compassion, empathy and love. In ways too deep to describe, my spirit was lifted, as if somehow I was physically embraced and held high.
I share these reflections not to highlight my own experience, but to let that experience point to a fundamental truth of our faith. We are a connectional people. Throughout Advent, we are linked with individuals and communities in desperate situations who have waited for “God’s mighty acts of salvation.” We are not alone in our yearning for Emmanuel. We are part of a communion of saints who faithfully anticipated God’s presence, power and activity in the world and in their lives. Moreover, through the scriptural witness, we know that God heard and responded to the cries of God’s people. Thus, we are not only connected to the hope of a waiting people, but we also are connected to the joy of fruition of that hope and to the faithfulness of God.
At the end of Advent, we will celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation. In this case, we proclaim a God who did not remain aloof from the world or even from human experience. Rather, God chose to be intimately connected with the human situation by becoming flesh, even as we are flesh. In doing so, God elects to bring the totality of the human experience into the divine life. This leads the author of Hebrews to boldly proclaim, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
I thank you for connecting with me and offering me through your prayers and acts of compassion. I pray that you also experience the power of connection with the biblical community, peers, people of faith and the presence of God.
If you would like to view past editions of Moments with Mike, follow this link: https://corridordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/