The musical The Lion King has been playing in Chicago this fall. It tells the story of Simba, the young lion cub, son of king Mufasa and heir to the throne. Throughout the story, we watch Simba grow up and grow into himself as he suffers the untimely death of his father and struggles with his identity as heir to the throne.
The story is rich with life passages. The first thing that the audience sees when the curtain goes up is a community celebrating and ritualizing the birth of a baby. Later, we watch as the lionesses mourn Mufasa's death. The turning point of the story is a healing moment, where Simba forgives himself, reclaims his deep connections to his father, family, and homeland, and chooses to go back and claim his throne. The last thing that the audience sees before the curtain drops is a community celebrating Simba's marriage and the birth of his son.
Our story here at St. Timothy this fall has also been rich with life passages. We have rejoiced with new parents, celebrating five straight weeks of baptisms. We have mourned the passing of congregation members and family members, celebrating the lives of those who have died and taking comfort in God's promises of life. We have celebrated marriage, asking God's joy and blessing on our human relationships.
The church is a special place, because it is deeply connected to every movement of life, from birth to death. It is in those moments of life passage - birth, marriage, death - that the deepest and most fundamental ministries of the church take place. This is because the deepest and most fundamental meetings of faith and human life take place in these moments where we watch life blossom, grow, and change.
When we hold babies in our arms and come face-to-face with new life, we remember that we, too, have been given new life in Christ. Gathered at the font, new human life is given the gift of new spiritual life. We give thanks for the gift of water that sustains life, and we give thanks for Jesus Christ, the one who gives us living water from heaven, which brings us into eternal life.
When we celebrate a marriage, we give thanks for God's gifts of love, companionship, and nurture. In the marriage bond, we reflect upon God's love for us that is reflected in the love between the bride and groom. Marriages also remind us of how we, people of faith in the church, are married to Christ, our light and salvation.
When we gather together to mourn the loss of loved ones, we stand at the threshold of life and new life. It is here that we can most keenly understand the source and end of our faith. At funerals, when we recite "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the dead," we are not just going through the motions. At funerals we cling to those words and repeat them to ourselves to remind us that death does not have the final word.
Life passages open our eyes to see God in ways that are often clouded by the demands and routines of our everyday lives. Life passages slow us down and give us space to come face-to-face with our faith in the triune God, to whom we are eternally joined in faith.
God of all grace, we give you thanks because by his death our Savior Jesus Christ destroyed the power of death and by his resurrection he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Make us certain that because he lives we shall live also, and that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, will be able to separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (ELW Leader's Edition p. 670)