Friday, 16 January 2015

On the Death of a Toddler

A friend’s toddler son has died, unexpectedly. It’s not my place to make any further comment about this on what is, after all, a public blog. My friend, his wife, and their families must grieve without intrusion. But I am reminded of a sermon Colin Gunton published more than a decade ago, a sermon he delivered on the death of (I presume) his young grandson, Benjamin. Here are some quotations from Gunton’s sermon, with a few minor alterations:

When anyone we know dies, we experience a whole range of thoughts and emotions. Sharpest among them is the feeling of loss, and the grief, sometimes guilt and sometimes the anger at we know not what, that goes with it. It is simply part of the process of coming to terms with loss that we shall feel all kinds of things that will for a while tear us apart, rearrange us in a bad way. . . .

We must grieve . . . , and come to terms with what this loss will mean. But we remember that . . . all our deaths are encompassed in, bracketed by, the love of the one whose death has rearranged things for us all. Here is the depth of the love of God made known to us all, that Jesus Christ our Lord took to himself our condition, and bore its ill at the cost of his death. . . .

The promise . . . is that God will in his own way transform [our bodies] in the glory of the resurrection life, and enable [us] to be that which [we were] made to be. That is why over all our grief must sound a note of thanksgiving. . .

Colin E. Gunton, Theology Through Preaching: Sermons for Brentwood (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2001), pp. 210-11

Gunton also reflects on the value of a short life in another sermon:

Wisdom lies in knowing the measure of things, and it is very hard to achieve. The even greater wisdom lies in trusting the outcome of whatever we do to God. Whether our lives be long or short, we are given something to do with them. . . . God’s creation is very various. In his mysterious goodness, he gives to some of us brief, some long lives, and some something in between.

Colin E. Gunton, The Theologian as Preacher: Further Sermons from Colin E. Gunton, edited by Sarah J. Gunton and John E. Colwell, with an introduction by Stephen R. Holmes (London: T&T Clark, 2007), pp. 119-20

Gunton shows us that the quality of one’s life does not depend on its length but on the relationships that shape it. And all our lives are, in the end, shaped by the life of the risen Jesus, who possesses life in all its fullness.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful reflections. Thank you for posting them Terry.