This Child of Ours, this Miracle

This is a sad story.  It is a sad story because it is true, and the truth is often hard to understand at the best of times.  It is a sad story because it challenges our hopes, dreams and expectations.  Some of you may already have heard via social media that two year old Emiliya died yesterday.

I think I can address the community by saying that we are all shocked and deeply saddened.  In what seemed a tiny life full of health struggles, the community was encouraged by how God provided the necessary money for the specialized operation.  God seemed to have cleared a path as donors opened more than just their wallets – they opened their hearts to assist a family.  When so much was seeming to go right – when we felt God was listening to our prayers – we had so much hope.

Now we are left with a huge hole as Emiliya quietly passed away surrounded and held by her parents and close friends.

Questions certainly arise.  Pain and suffering are perennial issues in the life of a Christian. Anger and grief are also valid forms of expressing our surprise, and the Bible is full of personal struggles in the Psalms, Lamentations and the book of Job.

But why? Why, O Lord does it have to happen this way?  In our intercessions and personal prayers I have found it useful to reflect on what Bishop John Pritchard has written knowing that we live out our lives in faith.

“One person lived; the other died.  Why?  The short answer is of course that we do not know.  And that is not unreasonable.  After all, we are Macbeth, not Shakespeare, the creature, not the Creator, and it is not surprising that the characters in the play cannot understand the mind of the author except by ‘best guesses’….

…When a couple experience the massive privilege and responsibility of producing a child they find they have created another human being which has its own radical independence. They can care for the child, love, encourage, persuade, and eventually reason, discuss, even argue with the child, but they can never start again and  make this into a different child.  She has her own way of being herself, and the parents have to recognize that they have limited their absolute power in the very act of creating her.  Now we the have this child and not that child.

We can pray to [God] with confidence, knowing that he will use our prayer in ways which are good, just and kind.  We may not know precisely what will happen, but if God is unequivocally with us, then in some significant respect the situation we pray for will be changed.”  pg 14 The Intercessions Handbook, Pritchard.

Emiliya was a very strong and courageous child having struggled with her health.  Her parents are equally strong and courageous as they cared, advocated and persisted in hope.  Emiliya brought together a lot of people.  Friendships have formed because of this little girl.  As well the church gathered together for prayer and support.  We have, in faith, recognized that Emiliya is in God’s care and comfort.  That all of us, despite our strong desire to be independent, are ultimately God’s.  At the moment it is difficult to make some conclusions of how our prayers are to be worked out.  Looking deeply and knowing assuredly that God has heard our prayers and that we have all been changed by this action.

Do we fall into guilt? We need to tread carefully here as prayer that doesn’t seem to go the way we had prayed it to often ends up with a dreadful feeling of guilt.  We should take care not to pass blame upon ourselves.

The entire Sunday morning worshiping community surrounded Emiliya and her parents with prayers for healing.  I believe that we have been gifted by God with having Emiliya in our community, and God has gifted her parents with Emiliya in their lives.  She has helped us to draw closer to each other in prayer, and closer to God in faith.  In Baptism, where we symbolically die and are raised anew in Jesus Christ through the waters of baptism I have often used a song called, “This Child of Ours, this Miracle” by David Haas. Notice the way the parents, the community, and God are woven through the lyrics singing ‘this child of ours, this child of Yours’.

1. This child of ours, this miracle –
You have a dream and plan for it. You wash it clean.
You cradle it. You bless it and You call it Yours:
this child of ours, this child of Yours.

2. This child of Yours, this miracle –
reborn of Water and the Word.
The Book of Life records its name. You smile and angels celebrate:
this child of Yours, this child of ours.

3. This child of ours, this miracle –
whom Christ would die for, we may love and train and raise,
and teach and praise, and watch the Spirit mold a life: this child or ours,
this child of Yours.

In the coming days, weeks and months, we keep Ilgar and Nigar in our prayers.  Some of us who are close to the family are able to offer support.  And for those who have put so much effort and worked so closely with the family in raising awareness we will also pray for during these difficult days.

God, this child of Yours, we commend into Your care, and her family into the arms of Your gracious comfort.  May she rest in peace, and rise in glory.


A Death in the Family – also interpreted from One came Two

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were splendid occasions.  As a family we were able to go to our first village Weihnachtsmarkt in Bad Krozingen to sample some of the local Gluwein and cast our eyes on the three story high Christmas Pyramide (usually a small wooden windmill-like structure that is turned by the heat of candles).  We had family visitors stay with us for four days.  Anke’s parents, Helmut and Eva brought with them a couple of tins of homemade Christmas cookies which we are still able to enjoy.  They also brought with them gifts, and a bird named Hansel.  Hansel, a yellow canary, made the journey down from Stuttgart and sang for us through Christmas. Hansel was the bird of Anke’s Aunt Gretel, who sadly died several years ago.  You see the theme already with the names of the owner and the small bird. The day that Helmut and Eva left to return to Stuttgart, our new house mate sung his final song.  While changing water and food and giving his cage a tidy Hansel died.  We were upset to say the least.  It was difficult to see that Hansel had large tumours under his wings and had managed to service with cancer for a few years.

A few days since, we have had an empty and well-scrubbed bird cage sitting in the corner of the room.  An empty tomb in Christmas made things feel more like Good Friday.  I have always enjoyed birds, both wild and as pets, so it did not take long to find some new house mates.  Out of the death of one elderly and ill canary has come two Zebra Finches named…yes, you guessed it – Hansel and Gretel.  Now with each new day we are pleasantly woken with tiny trumpet like chirps from this lovely pair of small birds. (We have been informed that as long as nothing nest-like is available to them, it will stay as two birds chirping, rather than a flock squawking).20151228_132213

For some of us it seems like death should play no part in our Christmas celebrations, but in my past ministry it often seemed that as the cold wind blew and the days were dark and icy that it was then that some of the more fragile community members did die.  As we approach Epiphany the gifts that were given to the infant Christ were significant and symbolic of the Messiah’s birth, life and death.  Within this season we also remember in the church the Holy Innocents’ killed because of Herod’s fears that one would usurp him in his power and reign.  Christmas is the birth of Jesus, but it is also a reminder of God incarnate being with us, suffering for us, and rising to save us.