The Tabled Table

Five People - One Life

I don't know when I last sat down to read a novel, but I did so today at a church member's insistence and I am glad I did.

It was an easy sell because I loved Mitch Alboms "Tuesdays with Morrie." So, I started reading "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" in earnest today. I read a few pages earlier in the week and I knew it would grab me when I had time.

I have to say that when I see something with the word "Heaven" in it, I am preconditioned to want to weed out misconceptions and leave a residue of sound theology and unknowable mystery. "Five People" is not a theological monograph; nor is it a New Age cloud of feel-goodisms. It is, as Albom says, a story about life and its meaning.

If you want to place it in a theological context, it is something like the judgment seat where the wood, hay, and stubble are separated from the gold, silver, and precious stones.

But it is not that either.

It is a celebration of life in an atmosphere of grace that embraces all of life, scars and stains, regrets and nightmares, disappointments and guilt as well as those moments that we cherish however fleeting.

It touched me.

Read it with a tissue handy - unless you didn't need one for Forest Gump, Field of Dreams, or the Passion of the Christ - unless you have no unresolved and nagging sense that maybe your life is something less than you'd hoped it would be - unless you need to fit this into your systematic theology.

It is not an allegory; it is not sentimental; it is not preachy. It is honest, affirming, and gutsy. Mitch Albom reflects on simple things and common hurts and enters into the experience of a character inspired by his uncle to bring us to the conclusion that our lives, interconnected and imperfect, have meaning and that the most mundane task is purposeful in the greater scheme of things.
Without even mentioning scripture, he illustrates scriptural principles such as forgiveness, love, providence, and peace with compelling sensitivity. We can learn these lessons in the hear and now. We can embrace life now. We can live on and in purpose.

What the character, Eddie learns in Heaven, we can learn in the gospel.

I will be reflecting on my own life over the next few days. Tomorrow, I will preach the good news of Jesus Christ. I will finally arrive, in the book of Romans, after a long indictment, to that place where we can proclaim that while we are all "mark-missers" (ie ... "sinners), there is a righteousness that is not arrived at through legality or ritual, available through grace. I will also be preaching from Luke on the healing grace of Jesus Christ.

If only I could communicate these timeless truths with as much grace and sensitivity as Mitch Albom communicated this story.

I read a great deal of non-fiction. Maybe I'll start reading an ocassional novel.


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