For the next eight weeks University Hill Congregation is hosting a conversation called "The Good News About Life and Death". We are meeting in two groups - one on Thursday nights after dinner together at one of our member's homes and the other on Sunday mornings over coffee and dough-nuts in my study prior to worship. Each week I am going to post a brief report of the conversations shared so that others in the congregation who are unable to attend either session but who are interested in the subject can have a sense of what we are learning together.
Our first session gave both groups an opportunity to share the reasons for participating in the conversation. In weeks to come our discussions will be focused on particular passages from scripture which speak of life and death and life beyond death. But our first time together provided room for us to talk about what it is that we would like to learn and to discuss. A number of people shared that their participation is primarily grounded in their desire to be in Christian community, reading scripture and sharing life together. This is one of the primary reasons for such small group study - the building up of the koinonia (the communal life) of the church. Having said that, our conversations were rich with wonder about the gospel about life and death. It was evident that a number of us come with grief and ache which longs to be heard and to know healing. Beyond this, included in our conversations was discussion about:
* Being born again assumes dying to this life. In what way?
* What are we to believe about life after death? What difference does it make to how we live? Why is it important that we believe in life after death? We don't seem to talk about it much. Why?
* We live in a culture which often seems to want to avoid facing death. What is our witness in the face of the trend to replace the funeral with a "Celebration of Life" or to abandon any social ritual that marks death?
* How do the scriptures help us recognize and pass through the trauma of grief and loss?
* In a multi-cultural context what is unique about a Christian understanding of death?
* When we speak of a gospelled life are we speaking of mainly of life up until now or of life from now on? How do we live faithfully in the moment, rooted in the middle between the past and the future, between memory and hope?
* What about the raising of Lazarus in John 11? What are we to make of that story?
* How do we see God - as judge? saviour? both/and? What about heaven and @#!*% ?
* What is it that we ought to think about life and death as followers of Jesus?
* With memories of using eternal life as the bait/hook in evangelism what would it look like to offer the new life of the gospel today and not just when this life ends?
* Would like to understand the Resurrection and the emphasis on it being bodily. This seems in tension with a spiritual resurrection. Is it?
* It seems the most difficult issues come at the beginning and end of life. What does the gospel look like at these moments of hardest choices?
It is clear that we have much that we hope to discuss and to learn. As we move forward we will seek to host a variety of biblical texts that speak of God's saving purposes for life in the face of the reality of death. More next week.