3 Pentecost 6/10/18 Epiphany, Norfolk

In yesterday’s newspaper there was a beautifully written editorial on the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I was not familiar with Kate Spade. I’ve learned that she was a very successful fashion designer. But I don’t follow fashion enough to have been familiar with her. I did know who Anthony Bourdain was, although I rarely watched his show. Not being into cooking, I occasionally watched him if he was on location in a place where I had been, or which I found interesting. But, as I think we all know, both of these very well known and successful people took their own lives; Kate Spade at 55, and Anthony Bourdain at 61. These two deaths seemed to really rattle the media  and the public who followed them.

I think most of us have experienced a friend, or relative, or co-worker taking his or her life. And so often, it just doesn’t make sense to us. Sometimes there’s a note, or a medical history, or an addiction problem, or mental problems of which we are aware, but my experience is that in most cases, we didn’t see it coming, and we don’t understand “why.” And it can be a very difficult thing with which to deal.

Well, yesterday’s editorial, speaking of Bourdain said: “And, as with Spade, his death is a tragic reminder that no amount of celebrity, fame, or fortune can protect against the vulnerability and fragility of the human experience.”

Let me say that again: No amount of celebrity, fame, or fortune can protect against the vulnerability and fragility of the human experience.” I went back and read that a couple of times. I’d never thought of “the human experience” as fragile. Vulnerable, yes. I’ve somehow known and accepted that. But “fragile” had not occurred to me. I’ve always thought of us as pretty tough and resilient. But there IS a fragileness to our “human experience.”

Thursday afternoon I got a call that my younger sister was in Sentara Leigh’s emergency room. She had been standing at her kitchen sink making her morning coffee. She turned around, but her foot did not turn with her. She broke her ankle, and it was a bad break. They had set it and were evaluating what to do about some surgery that she apparently needed. But then yesterday, some of her vitals got shaky and they admitted her.

I went by to see her last night, and suddenly she looked so “fragile”, as the editorial says. She was in much better spirits. They had the pain under control. She was glad to be out of the emergency room after 2 days and 2 nights. She was comfortable. She’ll receive wonderful care. And she’ll probably do quite well, with time.

All of us, if we live long enough, experience these “life events.” There is “a fragility of the human experience.” It’s just part of living. And some of us seem to deal with it better than others. But I think the church can be a big help with this. Sometimes, even a little bit of faith, or a little bit of community, or a little bit of caring, or a little sense that we are walking hand I hand with God as our creator / friend is just enough to get us through one of those frail times. We can’t do it all by ourselves. We need something else in our lives to help us get through stuff. And as we’ve seen, fame, fortune, celebrity status just doesn’t do it. But I think the church can.

Quite a few years ago I shared a “church experience” in a homily. I’m going to tell the story again. Many, many years ago I was asked to supply one Sunday at one of our churches. It was very run down, very neglected, and very poorly attended. As I was leaving the church, I noticed a guest book over in a corner. Someone had written: “Surely God lives in this place.” My first thought was: “Oh, poor God.” And then I watched the warden close the door with a bang and lock God in with a monster key. If they could find another supply next week, the door might be opened, and God would breathe again. And it occurred to me, right there, that in our minds we trap God into our buildings, and hold God there for Sunday mornings. And I thought, it doesn’t work that way. God is out in the world with us, and we bring God to church with us on Sunday Mornings, or whenever we come.

I’m the one who has opened the doors of this place and turned on the heat and lights for 25 years now. And when I come into this empty space at 6ish am, like I did this morning, it is very much “a holy space”, but it is also an empty space. I have no sense of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit being alive in here – until the first person walks in the door. And then the room comes alive. And the more people that come in, the more spirit and life there is. We bring the divine in here with us. The divine is in us, and we bring it and share it.

And that’s why I think the church is such an important tool as we try to live with our vulnerability and our fragility. I’m not saying that it’s a “cure all.” Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain may have been devout churchmen. I don’t know. But I can tell you that I find the church – the worshipping community – to be a source of “grounding” for me – sort of “home base” – that I can always come back to when I need to make sense out of what’s going on around me when my vulnerability and my fragility are getting the best of me.

No amount of celebrity, fame, or fortune can protect against the vulnerability and fragility of the human experience.” But the community of the church, and the faith of the church, CAN help us live out the human experience.


Posted June 13, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

%d bloggers like this: