Friday, January 30, 2009

Same Kind of Different

I attended two very different memorial services today.

One was held in the beautiful and majestic sanctuary of St. Martins the other in the beautiful and intimate Founders’ Chapel here at Grace.

One was attended by more than 1,500 Houstonians, the other by less than 100 family and close friends.

One was officiated by four different pastors from three denominations, the other just by one.

One was accompanied by choir and orchestra and even a bagpipe and followed by a large reception in the church's hall, the other much simpler and afterwards the family stood in the courtyard to greet friends.

They were very different services… and yet they were exactly the same.

Both began with the hymn Joyful, Joyful. Both celebrated lives well lived, lives that had made a difference to their families and their communities. Both sought, and received God’s comfort. And most importantly, and what really made them identical, is that both focused on the conviction that death isn’t the end of our stories. Both were a celebration of the resurrection.

Two very different memorial services – that were exactly the same.

It was another reminder that we are all the same.

Last night at the annual Star of Hope banquet (which I always look forward to – the testimonies are amazing) the keynotes speakers were, Ron Hall and Denver Moore, authors of Same Kind of Different As Me. I read the book last summer while visiting mission partners in Eastern Europe – if you haven’t read it – you really should. It is perhaps one of the best books I’ve ever read and I will never forget sitting on a bed at a WYAM school in Romania weeping as I read Ron and Denver’s story.

They were as inspiring in person as they are in print – the entire evening was.

As different as we all are we really are the same and we really are made to be in relationship with one another.

But relationships are hard work.

Some of our staff are reading N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian together and each week meeting to discuss a chapter. Last week’s chapter was about being created for relationship and how living together (in community) is more difficult that we imagined. Wright puts it this way:

We all know that we belong together in some sense or other, but it’s not at all clear how that can or should work.

And so we stumble, clumsily along.

Last week I came across a Facebook posting that reads:

It hurts me deeply that my college friends and I have not remained as close as I thought we would. It hurts me even more when I see how close they've remained with each other despite being located all over the country.

That’s a pretty honest confession and one that at least in part I could make.

Making relationships work, even though we are all the same kind of different, is remarkably difficult.

Wright concludes the chapter with this observation:

Our failures in human relationship are thereby woven into our failures in the other large projects of which we know in our bones that we are part: our failure to put the world to rights in systems of justice, and our failure to maintain and develop that spirituality which, at its heart, involves a relationship of trust and love with the Creator.

Perhaps relationships would be easier if we understood that whether our lives are celebrated in majestic cathedrals or among small gatherings of friends we really are all the same kind of different.

We are all deeply loved.

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