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A friend of mine, who is somewhat bitter and cynical about the church, recently remarked: "What the institutional church today is trying to do is to put the best face on the fact that it's dying. Basically, it's trying to manage a death!"
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Some years ago, CBC TV aired a drama that ran something like this:
Three middle-aged couples from Ontario decided to take a summer camping holiday together. The holiday was meant to be a middle-aged fling of sorts, a reunion of old college friends who had spent the last 25 years raising children and paying mortgages and doing the kinds of civic and church things that come with the turf.
In October 1993, Robert Latimer, a Saskatchewan farmer, looked at his severely handicapped daughter, Tracy, and decided she should no longer have to live with her constant pain. He gently carried her to the family truck, hooked a hose from the exhaust to the cab, and watched as his daughter died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
In this life there is no such thing as a clear-cut, pure joy. Everything comes mixed. As Henri Nouwen once put it: Every bit of life is touched by a bit of death. In every satisfaction there is limitation; in every embrace, there is distance; in every success, there is the fear of jealousy; behind every smile, there is a tear; and in all forms of light there is knowledge of the surrounding darkness.