Celebrate Life

Elul Day 24

There is a church I visit from time to time that describes itself as intentionally radically inclusive. They are warm and welcoming to anyone and everyone who walks, rolls or crawls through the door. I especially love going there for the music. As a Jewish person, I have always felt truly welcomed and respected by this community. Today I was there and they were having a celebration of life for one of the youngest members of the church who recently died. And I mean a celebration of life

They sang and danced, rejoiced and prayed. They rejoiced in his "homecoming" and in the loving wisdom he had imparted to the community before he died. They offered prayers of healing and gratitude. Like the Mourners' Kaddish from my own tradition, this memorial service was a prayer of praise. They don't just recite the prayer; they breathe it, sing it, dance it, embody it. 

The pastor also sang parts of Psalm 27, the Psalm of Elul, and various members of the pastoral team talked about forgiveness, healing, missing the mark, and several other themes that resonated strongly with the Jewish High Holy Days.  I felt like I'd had the entire Yom Kippur service in an afternoon. 

In this week's Torah reading, (Nitzavim) it says:  "I call heaven and earth to witness you today: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse–therefore choose life!" 

Today I understood this teaching in a new way for the first time–what it means to choose life even under the most difficult circumstances, especially while grieving losses that seem insurmountable.