An automated transcript of this conversation can be found below.

Todd Billings,
author of  The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live

February 10, 11a (ET) 2022

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Automated Transcripts:

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Welcome everyone. I'm Larry Doornbos, I'm director of Vibrant Congregations, and we help churches take fresh steps in ministry and mission. And, uh, church now conversations are a joint work of, uh, a number of different groups, uh, center for church renewal, healthy church discernment process, uh, classes, how of the CRC pillar church, uh, Luminex resonate, global mission women's leadership in the CRC and women's transformation and leadership in the RCA. And so we all come together to do this. And, uh, one of the things that we have coming up, uh, in June is our church now cafe and, uh, church. Now cafe is an opportunity to see people face to face, uh, that you right now see on the screen and we can have these amazing conversations, uh, around important issues around the table. And this year we're doing dancing in the mind fields of identity disruption. 

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We just got confirmation today that Scott McNight,  will be doing the presentation. We are gonna be talking about pastoral identity and the strengthening of identity. We're gonna talk about pastoral authority and how that's changed, uh, you know, in the last decade, but especially in the last couple years, how, what that looks like.  We're gonna talk about church models and how, how we've imagined true, how that's changing and so you can actually go to, churchnowcafe.org and register and learn more. And, I think Daniel's gonna pop into the chat, just a brief video from last year, if you wanna know what it was like and what people are saying about it, but we'd love to have you participate with that. 

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It's gonna be at pillar church in Holland, Michigan, again on June five, six and seven. So as we step into our, conversation today, just to shout out, to our Dorbt University class, that's joining us today, very excited to have you guys here and, good to see you around the table. So thanks for being here. They had a wonderful conversation using part of,  Todd's book and so they thought this would be a good place for them to be during our conversation today.

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Todd billings, who,  is at Western theological seminary, has written multiple books,  in including,  Calvin participation of the gift, which is celebrating 14 years yesterday. And I said to Todd, it is the most expensive book I've ever bought in my life. But anyway, it's a marvelous book. You just have to make a true investment. It's one, you pay enough money for you actually say, I'm gonna read this thing. Todd, we are so excited to have you here talking about the end of the Christian life. And, with that, I'm gonna pass it off to you. 

(00:03:09):

Thank you so much, Larry. It's really an honor to be with you. Um, and it's a book that, um, doesn't take a hundred dollars into. I'm like my first book then by university press. But, um, it's, I know that in my life, at least we're often I'm often caught up by what seems most urgent or, you know, useful for the moment. And I really appreciate people taking to time to reflect and ask questions, um, about the end of the Christian life. And the subtitle is how embracing our mortality frees us to truly live. If I was to put at least part of this into, you know, a grabbing newspaper headline, it might be something like, um, a disappointing expectations, human mortality steady at 100%. Um, the, um, there can be things that are not as urgent to us in the moment that are actually right in front of our nose that we're missing. 

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Some of the reality of, um, particularly with our life before God and our life,  in Jesus, the word made flesh. And so I've pulled together some comments to give you a sense of some of the big picture of what I was exploring in the book. And I had a lot of surprises along the way and, um, researching, and, and it also applies in some ways to, um, discoveries that I've had in my own life as a cancer patient. Um, since 2012 as a seminary professor, um, for the pastors present, I was really taken aback when I started teaching seminary and then asking our graduates, what were some of the biggest questions and conundrums as they entered into ministry and being a theology professor, I often said, you know, especially the ones that relate in some ways to theology, just like, you know, ones that leave you with your hands up, just not knowing what to say or do. 

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And again, and again, the answer was dying and death. And I realized that many of my seminary students had never been to a funeral or had been to maybe one or two funerals in their lives before seminary and then were presiding at funerals. And, and, uh, in, in ministry we're giving advice to families facing death and dying. And so that's actually how some of it started, um, an interest into how can a congregation cultivate resurrection hope in a context where dying has become a medical experience where instead of having the pastor by the bedside, it's the doctor by the bedside families in, instead of having an opportunity so often to share with one another to confess sins, to pray, to pray together. Um, it's, you know, one question after another about, do you want this extreme measure or do you want this done? And as I dove into that with a series of colloquies that I led through the Louisville Institute, I worked with a group of pastors and theologians and, um, medical, um, team. 

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And I found that ultimately what the church needed, wasn't just something to think about the very end of the Christian life. Um, but how mortality is tied into the whole approach to discipleship. You, you can't coherently tell a person one story about what it means to be a follower of Jesus when they are six and then when are 20 and in college, and then when they are 50 and then totally change it up when they move into, when the doctor says you're in your last six months. Um, and so I realized that, um, there's an need for starting over again. Um, how do we, how do we think in relation to children and mortality college students welcome, um, their college students and how do we think through our futures in relation to, and another dynamic that was a motivator as well, was with my own cancer. 

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I'm thankfully able to work now again, I had a stem cell transplant and I'm have ongoing chemo therapy, but I found myself immersed in a community, a cancer community, where there was a lot of death death happening of my six year old neighbor of cancer death happening of people, my age, death, happening with people in their seventies and eighties. And I realized how so much of the culture that I had been trained up in my first 39 years before my diagnosis was actually a set of strategies to keep death at the sidelines. And to assume that death is something that happens to other people, but I'm the star of my own story in a sense. And I realize how deeply different this is from the Christian story and how deeply different it is from Christians historically, how they have approached their own lives, whether it's Benedict of NERSA, who developed the Benedictine rule, that many, um, Rome and Catholics, um, and some Anglicans to this day use in monasteries. 

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You know, one of the, one of the rules is to think daily of your own death and to, um, hope as you do this more fervently for eternal life, or were Jonathan Edwards, who also made it a practice to think daily of his own death. It's a whole Puritan tradition along this line. And I found that in modern faith context, not only is that not cultivated, it is seen as counter to following Jesus in, in some ways it's not focusing on the changing the world, the, the positive, the potential, um, in, in that sense. And so in some ways, a key starting point of the book and the process is just to ask a question that comes from reading the Psalms. And that question is what does it mean to live as a small mortal creature before the everlasting Lords? So in the words of Psalm 1 0 3, as for mortals, their days are like grass. They flourish like a flower in the field where the wind passes over it and it is gone and it's place knows it no more, but the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting everlasting on those who fear him. 

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And in passage, after passage, reflecting both the Torah and the J the theology of creation there, which is always connected to being dust and returning to dust, and also the prophets who contrast the eternal word and life of the living Lord to our small short lives. The Psalm must bring it before God. And as in Psalm 39, Lord, let me know my end. And what is the measure of my days? Let me know how fleeting my life is. You've made my days a few hand breaths in my lifetime as nothing in your site. Now, sometimes we might use this in a way to motivate us to be more efficient with our time. Um, and that's kind of the opposite of what I'm saying, because as you dig deeper into those passages, the key aspect is the contrast with the everlasting Lord, um, from Psalm 1 0 2, speaking about how the creatures of the earth will perish, but you endure, they all wear out like a garment. You change them like clothing, they pass away, but you are the same, your years have no end. 

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And so what I've been exploring in this book then is the reality that only those who know that they are dying, who know that they are mortal creatures can properly tr trust in God's promise for eternal life. Now that may sound morbid, but it's actually not morbid at all. And that is something that I've had many readers tell me, this is not a morbid book. Um, but it does relate. It does involve looking openly and with awareness at a wound, um, perhaps it's a wound of someone who has died, who's been close to you or of a terminal diagnosis, or perhaps of living through the ache and ambiguity of a pandemic. And the life that we thought we had has been puncture. 

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It's our instinct, I think, to want to cover over that wound and to try to live like things were before to sort of sanitize our reflections. And so that death is something that happens only to other people, but for Christians, there's something strange and beautiful. And that is that coming to turn with this wound is actually a pathway to take, to teach us how to live in hope as creatures longing for the deliverance that Jesus and the tri God will breed one way to say it would be only the captives seek deliverance, only the wounded long for their cuts to be men. 

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And only those who opened their eyes in the place of darkness can see well enough to crave the resurrection life. That last image is an image that was one of discovery for me in the process, because as I wrote the book, I didn't want to start with heaven. And the idea that many Christians have of heaven, which is, you know, all the things that I think are cool. And I get to do that all the time. You know, whether it's golf or hunting deer, um, when one pastor in Weist, or again told me that he, he never knew there was so much, so many deer and so much deer hunting in heaven until he came to west Michigan, and he would hear how people would talk, um, about heaven. 

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And unfortunately that starts with us in a way that's, I think not really been, I actually start the book in shallow. Um, shallow is something is a Hebrew word, often translated the pit or the Myrie pit. And it's a frequent motif in the Psalms and also shows up in the book of Jonah and, um, elsewhere. And on the one hand at times, shadow is something that just means the place of the dead. And that's something that a Syrians and other ancient cultures would've recognized. It's kind of like the underworld, but there's something really peculiar about the Psalms and also John Jonah. And that is at times when they speak of shallow with the image of this dark pit of darkness, the person is a alive. They're crying out from she or in other Psalm. It says you delivered me from she, and now I am in your presence and Jewish scholar who has been really influential on my thought John Levinson at, at Harvard, um, talks about how, again and again, in the old Testament, the opposite of at all is the temple. 

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So when someone is in the pit, what the soul must cries out for, they just, they don't just cry out for deliverance. They say my soul longs and fate for the temple of the Lord, when Jonah is stuck in the belly of a fish, he doesn't just say, spit me out. He describes this place of being in darkness as Shaoul. And then he says, I long for one thing, the whole holy temple. Well, what is the holy temple? The temple is the dwelling place of the Lord of the universe creation itself. As we know, from Genesis was created to be a dwelling place for the Lord. Um, a temple in that sense, there's temple imagery throughout the opening few chapters of Genesis. And then when, um, the Lord gives commands for the tabernacle and the temple at Sinai, it's this gracious way of being, giving a place of presence of dwelling, even amidst the sinfulness of his people. 

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But the thing about this is, is that if you are in she, and you're crying out to go to the temple, you're not just to get out and be free so that you can live your own life and do your own thing with the temple comes, the law comes the, um, the, the, the Kings, the, the need for sacrifice and, and, uh, of, of, um, priests and, and so forth. Um, and so when Jonah is crying out to go to the temple, that's a dangerous place to cry out, to go. And yet, as we join the Psalmist in prayer and admit that we are stuck, we can't deliver ourselves. Whether this Shaoul this place of abandonment from God, whether it is an illness, whether it is the wound of a lost one, whether it is an addiction there's oh, and abandonment can take many, many forms. And, um, the key aspect of it is just this sense that the Psalmist has that the light is far away. 

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Lord deliver me, do not hide your face from me, bring me into your light, into your presence. And so, as the book goes on, I explore how in the person of Jesus, the temple personified, the word Tabernacles among us, John says in his flesh, it's dying flesh that he takes up, it's preach mortal flesh, that he takes up and lives in obedience. He goes as a pioneer and meets us in shallow. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And the Berg catechism has an extra ordinary loss on that, that it assures us that when we experience anguish and even hellish dread that we are not alone, that Jesus has gone before us in our humanity. And yet this same one is our deliverer. The one who provides a sacrifice that we could not make on our own and provides the new life that we could not make on our own. 

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And that in his person and in his resurrection, he is the first fruits of the new creation, the new creation that will be a perfect dwelling place in fullness for the Lord to dwell with creation. After Jesus comes again, judges creation to set things, right. And then there's this fulfillment and, and dwelling where creation will be like a temple. So it's a drama where the tri God's work is at the center. And does it speak to our deepest longings? Yes, but often not in ways that we would think that it does. If we're looking for a path that makes us sort of the, the central hero, where we are, the ones who go out and change the world, or I spend a, a section of the book talking about near death experiences and, um, which have become popular through books and film and many Christian circles. And when I was researching this with the pastors found that often people's hope for the age to come, came from these much more so than the Bible. What are we to think about heaven as a family reunion or the new creation? Um, is it all about meeting grandpa and grandma again? Well, um, that might be on the very borders of what it would involve, but to focus on that is kind of like focusing on the very edge of the grand canyon, missing the canyon itself, missing the central glory and reality. 

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And so, um, I think that in some ways, when we move from, to the temple and the temple in Jesus, and we start to locate our hope there, it changes all sorts of things. And it unveils a lot of our eye dollar trees. So when we pray for someone for healing, a I've come to pray to really think in terms of the temple and that the presence of the Lord pray that the holy spirit through the holy spirit, Jesus will be present with them because in, in God is life, but it's not just biological life. When we pray for someone for healing, it shouldn't just be about, okay, you know, fix this particular wound so they can go off and live their own way. No, we pray for them and seek to both receive the gifts they have for us and give to them in such a way that they can follow more deeply and bear witness to the crucified and risen Lord. And, um, one of the chapters, and I'll conclude with this just by noting. One of the, one of the idols that came up as I was, um, exploring this was, is the notion of the prosperity gospel. I didn't plan to have a chapter on that when I started researching and, and writing and hearing from churches and congregations and so forth. 

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But I found that it is much, much more what I spread than I had realized. I grew up in a context where there was Jimmy Jimmy Bakker, who was always on television and was asking for money and, you know, God wants you to be rich. And then there was a handle about how he was using the money for himself and so forth, and was very cynical about the prosperity gospel and thought, uh, that's, you know, that's something over there. Something that could never apply to me, but in my case, receiving a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment for an incurable cancer, I found myself coming to the Lord, assuming that God owed me a long life, that God owed me a chance to live long enough to see my, my kids graduate from high school to meet my grandparents, to, to meet my grandchildren, if I would have grand grandchildren. 

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And yet the Lord never promises that abundant life, that the Lord promises is not measured in years. And the Psalms that say our life are like a, a breath applies just as much to the child who lived only one day as to someone who lives to be a hundred. It is so short in relation to the everlasting God, it is, is a gift every breath. And so I realized that in a sense I had started to use, and many of us started to use the Christian faith as something useful for our, our own purposes to, you know, help us lead a long middle class life that we think we deserve, but that is different than the astonishing and much better promises that we receive through scripture. And so the book seeks to get at the way, in which the end, the purpose of the Christian life and of discipleship involves embracing our smallness, embracing the fact that we are not central in the story. 

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We are not the center of the story. We have a place as ones who are, have been United to Jesus by the spirit and have been baptized into him. And in our living, we share in his dying and rising. Again, we anticipate that we feast together at the table. We long for him to come again and set things, right. But this involves being called into a life that is quite different from the life that we often want to speak about. Even in the church, um, a life where we have economic security and we live a long life. And, um, and, um, we don't have these pesky wounds that we want to make go away. So I know I've thrown quite a bit at you. Um, I'm very eager to enter into discussion, ask questions wherever you would like to go. I'm um, but thank you for your attention. And hopefully you were able to get a, so some of the different threads that I'm pulling together in the book, 

(00:31:52):

Hey, thanks a lot, Todd. Um, my daughter, Gail and I were talking about the book last night and saying, uh, that it's really a devotional reader. Uh, at least that's the way we both experienced it, right? I mean, lots of ideas, lots of thoughts, but for us, it really, uh, we took it on as, as devotional reading. Um, and in, in that context, um, I'm wondering how do, um, individuals and pastors as leaders, uh, in a context where really death is considered to be almost countered a following Jesus, right? Everything is celebrative, everything's exciting. Um, churches, you know, have to have that kind of flavor to them. Uh, what kind of practices or what kind of wisdom do you have, uh, for please say, we're gonna help you decenter, we're gonna take you out of the center of the store. We're gonna put Christ there. Um, and, uh, and yeah. What would you say to pastors or other people who are saying, I need to decenter, but it's so hard in this culture. 

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Yeah. Yeah. That's a good question. I think I would start by looking at your congregation in context and seeing what resources are there. One of the gifts of the congregation where I worship is that it's multi-generational and I had not realized the extent it to which that is an incredible gift for the young and the old in teaching us how to live as mortal creatures before God. So it was after my cancer diagnosis that I became really intentional about both meeting together with older members of the congregation. And at times those who were ill or sick and bringing my kids along, my kids were young. And I wanted them to know people who were facing death. And it was so beautiful because on the one hand, the, those members of our congregation loved it. And I mean, from my site, it was actually pretty easy. 

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If you've ever brought a little kid into a nursing home, you know, they are much more interesting than any of the adults for the, the members there, but it was also powerful for my kids and one member of our congregation, my daughter and I were with him in his last words. And he didn't have any relatives in, in town. There was, you know, one on the way from another part of the country, but, um, to actually expose children, not just to death and dying, but to, um, people at different stages and receive gifts from them, be blessed by them because as we don't just minister to the dying or to those who are ill, they have such tremendous gifts to give to us. I think that biblically speaking, if we have eyes to see this theme is all over the place. And that's one of the reasons why I wrote the book that I did. 

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It's a ton of biblical exploration and, um, a lot in the old Testament actually. And I think you have anticipations of resurrection hope in all sorts of surprising places like when, um, women experience barrenness in the old Testament. Well, what about God's promise and, and, and so forth. And so I think that biblically, there are a lot of opportunities, um, because death was part of everyday life in both old new Testament context. But then in terms of our union with Christ and our identity through baptism and the Lord's supper, those are also key opportunities where, um, if we live into those and teach those rightly then the Christian life is not about pretending that death doesn't exist or that it applies to someone else. Um, death and new life are part of the very process. And part of the aching that Paul says is the work of the spirit. I mean, I, I, that should be like one of the primary signs of the holy spirit, I think as think through, do you ache for the new creation? And so often it doesn't get, get, get, get framed that way we kind of avoid those passages. We avoid the Psalms often that are negative, we think, um, or, or, um, even the passages that maybe seem more negative, but we were, we were created with mortal limits to know them. 

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So I wanna follow that up just a second. And by the way, if you have questions popped into the chat, uh, otherwise I'm just gonna keep the dialogue here. Uh, but the, the idea of aching, um, and as she said it earlier, um, and in your book, you talk about George Bush and so on, uh, about the, the political cartoon of his seeing his daughter and all those kind of things. Um, in a sense, we're also asking people to shift their aching, right? Um, we're, we're saying whether it's deer hunting or seeing somebody who's gone before us, that has been the ache of our hearts, and now we're saying, or, you know, we're exploring, we're saying you need to change the ache. And, and, and, and how do you kind of envision, uh, that new creation ache in a way that's different from the way that a lot of, uh, evangelical north America and Christians, uh, envision that? 

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Yeah, that's a great question. I think in The book is about moving where we ache, um, from one place to another to, so that it's an aching that participates in, um, the Spirit's work. Um, Yeah. Let me think for just a second. 

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I think that on the one hand, I really tried to treat stories like the George W. Bush story where the first thing he wants after death is to embrace his daughter who, who died in childhood. I, I, I want to have a certain honor right? To that. And to those stories, it's not that I think it's like divine revelation or something, but we're, we're created for connections with others. And there are death is a wound. It doesn't make sense to us. And there's a sense in which, even though he was president and had all of these accomplishments through it, all, he had an ape that was never, ever touched. And that was of losing his young daughter to a cancer. And he just about broke down at one point in, in tears when he met, when he was president and met other children who, who had that cancer. So God can use that ache. There's something, there's something there to be, um, valued. But there's also a sense in which 

00:40:46):

The grand canyon is so much bigger. The grand canyon is that we have no way of getting out of the pit apart from God, the deliverer apart from Jesus, who comes into the pit with us and is present with us in sh and delivers us. The grand canyon is great cosmic glory, that every knee shall bow and, and honor Jesus as Lord. And so when we enter into worship or witness, I think that grand canyon vision re makes us act differently. And one of the ways it makes us act differently is it makes us less utilitarian. It makes us less like, okay, I've got to solve the problem of, of poverty or things like that. Like Larry, I'm thinking of an example where I was talking to a chaplain of a HIL children's hospital and a nurse was so discouraged coming to him. And she said to him, I, I came here cause I wanted to like, do something good in the world, but I go, I change the bandages every day. 

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EV you know, just about every one of these kids dies right here in the hospital. I'm not making a difference. I'm not changing the world. Why am I doing this? And he said to her, you're doing this as an act of, of protest and of witness that this is this world in which a six year old dies of cancer is not the way things are supposed to be and witness that this is not the final word that it's worth it to love and care for someone, even if it doesn't solve anything from a utilitarian standpoint. And I think that we often think of evangelism and social issues and things like that in terms of, okay, what can be most efficient and what can be most effective. And there's a place for that kind of thinking. But I think that actually a bigger, wider hope leads us to just be present in witness and in prayer with those in the shadows who it, you know, it's not gonna get on Instagram, not gonna get on Twitter. Um, um, but this is the expansiveness of the hope that we have. 

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Thanks, Todd, somebody is asking here, which is great. Uh, couple, of course, I come to my mind from your book immediately, but, uh, how would you counsel a family doesn't want a funeral for the loved one, but just wants, or just wants a celebration. Uh, I've also often encouraged families to include supplement in the service. How can we teach about death in the context of a funeral? 

(00:44:24):

Yeah. Yeah. It's a really hard, it's a really good question and a really hard one. Um, it's one that came up a lot in my pastoral group when we were exploring this. And in a particular moment, you, as a pastor, need to discern where, where people are at, what they can hear at, at times they may be quite open, um, to, okay, this is a structure of what a funeral service would be, but at times I understand pastors are treated like religious customer service agents. And so you may not have much choice in that particular moment. I would say that maybe from a big picture perspective, some healthy things to be moving toward that may make it into those discussions. But just thinking as a congregation is, um, gaining a sense of what like a funeral is or Memorial service is that it's, and, and I would say the central part of it should be bearing witness to, um, our, both bringing our grief, but bearing witness to the hope of the resurrection that's grounded in Jesus Christ. And so, um, in what way can this larger drama be involved as we commend this person, this and her present with this person, body ideally, um, and commend it to the Lord because, um, when it's a service like that, it's not just a special interest group. You might say where, oh, only people super close to the person should go like funeral services. I think we need to recover since that there are congregational service, their intended should be intended to mirror back to us. This is who I will be. 

(00:46:53):

I am also dying. And yet as covered as the promise of God of forgiveness and new life was signified in baptism, this, this promise of God that we received baptism as a sign in co it's a it's enough to bring us through to this, this short mortal life and into the next it's, it's enough, in some ways it's a baptismal remembrance service. Um, so I have other ideas on that too, but I also wanna open up to, to other, um, other other questions, but I think the question itself shows was a lot of, a lot of insight about the challenge in this cultural moment. 

00:47:56):

Thank you. Uh, mark, did you wanna just on mute for a second and, and join the conversation? You said you wanted to say, thank you, but you also wanted to say something else. So we'll give you a second to do that. 

(00:48:05):

Well, I really, the main main thing was yes, I wanted to thank Todd for writing this. And, uh, and, uh, what brought me to this book. I can't remember exactly how I found it, but, uh, it was very early on in the pandemic. And, uh, I started looking at the way some of our members in our, in our small church, um, were acting and, and it just really didn't set, right? There's something wrong. It just, and give you one example. We, our, our head deacon, he and his wife cut off any physical contact with their grandchildren for about a year and a half. And their grandchildren live locally. And they are their older than me. They're they're in their late sixties, I guess that's where I'm kind of anyway. Um, this something's not right. So I kind of went off and started looking for things that, uh, like, uh, Becker's denial death, which reference multiple times in your book, but boy, your, your book really hit home on actually expressing some of the things I was feeling to where was, okay, come on. You, you shouldn't be acting this way if, and, and some tools. And I wish I could say this had deacon and his wife, and it's only, there were maybe a dozen people in our church of a little over a high hundred that were just acting so afraid. 

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And ultimately this couple I'm referencing that is in my mind actually ended up leaving the church just about six months ago cuz we weren't being cautious enough. That's my words. Hmm. So anyway, my, I just wanna thank you for writing it because it really unpacks this a lot. Uh, very, very well. I, frankly, your intro could be turned into I think, a really effective sermon. So again, thanks. Um, I really appreciate it. It really, it really hit a sweet spot and it's so, you know, it's applicable as you say in the way you live your life, not in the way you look at, uh, heaven. Um, but it was a, it's a useful thing, especially, uh, and, and I like the way you characterize it, unpacking idols and fr I, you know, I, I can understand how a secular person would be this afraid. And unfortunately I think some of them have turned to the government to protect them. So it it's, it's powerful. Anyway. Thanks again. That's really all I wanted to say. 

 

(00:51:03):

Gil asks, can I pray for accepting heart of a member in and healing of the sick at the same time? Uh, if I do pray for healing, what am I really doing really pleading with God to do it, or just conveying, voicing the hope of the member. Am I praying? Am I praying such more for the member pastorally or should I need to be praying for healing as I guess, you know, Gill, if I got the, kind of the sense question here, it's, it's kind of like when we're praying, uh, what are we praying for? Are we praying for acceptance? Are we praying for healing? Um, yeah. How, how do you it's that whole balance right? Of here's the individual here's God's big plan. Um, how, how do we work with our congregation through this? People are struggling with this. 

(00:51:58):

One thing that has interested me a lot since my cancer diagnosis is thinking through prayers for healing and actually looking at old ones, especially once before the 19th century. Because, um, especially in those, you tend to see prayers for healing that certainly include the physical disease or ailment or whatever is happening, but you're praying for the whole person and also praying with an awareness that things may go a number of different directions with this person, but wherever it goes, you are praying that they are able to move, be moved into the presence of the Lord. And that presence alone is what would provide the physical healing, you know, whether it comes now or in the age of come. And so I think that especially starting in the 19th century, you start to get a two things happening. One is doctors start to have a less holistic role where they're just, um, addressing a very, you know, particular need where we are, you know, bio psychosocial beings. 

(00:53:35):

We are wholes. And as I see the ministry of Jesus and the healings there, he touched whole people. It wasn't just a biochemical level when a woman who had been bleeding touches him. Yeah, there's the bio level biochemical level. But if you're focusing on that, you're kind of missing the central point where, you know, Jesus, the temple in him per, in his person is life and has a kind of contagious holiness. And as she is healed, she's actually welcomed back into the temple courts and back into the community and you know, all sorts of things are, are happening at once. So a, um, um, I think pray, yeah, pray for healing, but as a, a mortal, um, and as someone who knows that you are gonna die and they're gonna die, it's not about us being the Lord of the universe as we, I pray for healing. I, I think, um, um, you know, some of the Psalms even we think are cases of healing and they bring petitions and lament. Um, but they're also not about us being the central here on. 

(00:55:11):

Thanks. We got a couple minutes left, so I'm gonna do one more question. Uh, and that is, um, Mike says, uh, I have been impacted in the past year by a teen suicide by significant mental health challenges in my community. Uh, how do I bring a balanced perspective that life is precious in the here and now, and yet this life is not worth our citizenship resides. 

(00:55:36):

I think that, and in some ways that's what the whole book, the end of the Christian life is about is that life is precious, but we find ourselves in stuck places in the Myre pit in much of the time. And I wanted to follow up, um, just briefly too, with Mark's good comment. And maybe I'll tie that in. Um, one thing I'm pretty clear about in the book is that I think it's okay for Christian to have some fear of death. It's part of being a creature, but really key for me is the passage Hebrews where after this astonishing section about how Jesus became like us as a high priest, having flesh and blood, um, it talks about how we through the cross of Christ have been delivered from slavery to the fear of death. So the question is who is king? 

(00:57:01):

And, if the fear of death and one's own survival is, is king, then that's something other than the kingdom of Christ that we're leaning into. And yet I, well, I have no theological explanation for a suicide, like how this could fit into, you know, what is God's reasons? I don't know. We, the book of job tells us, we don't know these things. I do know that God can use even our, our desolation as we live in the wake of that and mental health challenges and so forth. He can use that desolation to at least open our eyes to the fact that we're in a stuck pit and that we need the light of the temple. We need the light of Jesus. We need a deliverer. And it, it, wasn't just when we had a conversion that we need a deliverer, we need every moment, a deliverer, we need forgiveness and new life that Jesus alone can provide. 

(00:58:32):

And so it's, it can be a way of reorienting us. I talk quite a bit about, at one point about chronic pain that I experience because of my cancer patient, my cancer treatment, it's just a daily, daily thing. I don't like chronic pain. I, if you're, if you are deciding you filling out, you know, chronic pain, do you want chronic pain? Yes or no, please. Mark. No, there's, there's nothing romantic about it, but sometimes God uses it. When I start to act like, oh, I'm the center. My life is one that is the center of the movie, the center of the universe. What is most important happening? Sometimes the ache that slows me down can remind me no, every breath, every breath is a gift. And the most important things that happen often happen in and through our weakness, not through our accomplishments and our resume and our strength. 

(00:59:50):

Well, Hey Todd, thanks for being with us today. Uh, I just got a text from our students in dot, uh, wanted to express their thanks for, uh, being with us, even though they had to leave a little bit earlier. And, uh, so yeah, wonderful time with you, uh, for all of you here, just a reminder that, uh, next month we'll be back and Jamie Smith will be with us. And so we're looking for that conversation as well, but everyone have a great day. And thanks for being here.