Spending the last 38 years in funeral service, I have met countless clergy and heard more “funeral messages” than I can even begin to count. For Christians, the funeral message is the part of a funeral that reinforces our belief in God, even if we feel abandoned by Him because of someone’s death. It is also a reminder of our belief in the Resurrection of the body and that someday, because of God’s mercy, we will have a new life, different from what we are accustomed to and hope that we will be in the loving presence of God. Pastors often use stories to help make the point easier to understand and remember.
I thought that I had heard them all, . . . until yesterday.
One of our two funerals held yesterday was at our Historic, Mt. Healthy Funeral Home and since I’ve only been here three weeks, almost every pastor I meet is for the first time. Yesterday I got to meet Pastor Jonathan Kollman of Mt. Healthy United Methodist Church and we exchanged brief, cordial introductions prior to the beginning of the service.
I like to sit and listen to a new pastor whenever possible, to get more familiar with him/her. During the service, Jonathan told a version of the story found below. Afterwards, I mentioned to him that I had never heard it before and that I thought it was a great metaphor for believing in God. He shared that it was attributed to the late Fr. Henry Nouwen, a well-known theologian. Consequently, I was able to look it up. There are a few variations online, but this is how I remember him telling it, most of the text is courtesy of PreachingToday.com :
The story is about two twins, still in their mother’s womb.
The sister said to the brother, “I believe there is life after birth.”
Her brother protested vehemently, “No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us.”
The little girl insisted, “There must be something more than this dark place. There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move.” Still, she could not convince her twin brother.
After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, “I have something else to say, and I’m afraid you won’t believe that, either, but I think there is a mother.”
Her brother became furious. “A mother!” he shouted. “What are you talking about? I have never seen a mother, and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have. Why do you always want more? This is not such a bad place, after all. We have all we need, so let’s be content.”
The sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother’s response and for a while didn’t dare say anything more. But she couldn’t let go of her thoughts, and since she had only her twin brother to speak to, she finally said, “Don’t you feel these squeezes every once in a while? They’re quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful.”
“Yes,” he answered. “What’s special about that?”
“Well,” the sister said, “I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face-to-face. Don’t you think that’s exciting?”
The brother didn’t answer. He was fed up with the foolish talk of his sister and felt that the best thing would be simply to ignore her and hope that she would leave him alone.
The squeezes grew stronger and soon they both found themselves in their new reality, complete with bright lights and new voices. A few minutes later, wrapped in warm blankets, they were snuggled on their mother’s chest with their heads near each other and the sister looked over at her brother and whispered, “I told you so.”
Thanks, for the great metaphor Jonathan.