Monday, March 01, 2010

Mortality and Microwaves

The photo is of our broken microwave oven waiting by the front door, ready to be taken to the dump to be unceremoniously er,... dumped. This is the only microwave we've ever owned, and was given to us as a wedding present almost fourteen years ago. I'm actually slightly shocked just writing that down, fourteen years!

That microwave worked faithfully in our first little flat in Dundee, heating our dodgy student-food in a tiny kitchen high above the Lochee Road. It survived the move to Perth to a run-down (but scandalously-cheap) flat owned by my wife's then employer. It came with us, when we upgraded to a two-bedroomed flat (same owner, same condition) after 'Boris' was born in 1999. It moved with us on again to the first little house we bought - and then with far too many children in tow, to the place we are now in. It has warmed hundreds of bottles of baby formula, heated a thousand plates before meals, grilled many a slice of cheese-on-toast, warmed the milk for countless cups of coffee - and generally been with us as long as we have been, 'us'. In fact, I would only be exaggerating slightly if I were to say that I can't imagine our kitchen without it - and had always unthinkingly sort of assumed that it would always be there.

If the strange passing of our microwave oven (with grill) is provoking a ludicrously sentimental response - the real reason behind it, actually lies in none of the above. The microwave that conked out this week was actually a wedding present from my late-grandparents. Much as the microwave has been a fixed and unchanging fixture in our kitchen, so my little Grandma had been a fixed and unchanging point of reference throughout the first three-and-a-half decades of my life. It's still odd not having a microwave - and I sometimes forget that its not there and go to use it. Absence is unusual, odd, peculiar, awkward and not right.

I had recently mused upon the irony that the Sharp "950W Microwave Oven and Quartz dual-Grill" they bought in 1996 lasted so much longer than they did. Yet, also thought how nice it was to still have a functioning reminder of them in daily use. The death of the oven was then an odd but nevertheless stark reminder of mortality; as not only have they gone, but the footprints they left in this world have already begun to be kicked over. A philosopher many thousands of years ago, known only to us as Quoheleth mourned that the final tragedy of death is that no-one remembers them.(1) Indeed, it won't be long until no-one here does: them or me, or us, or you.

In reality of course, two things temper my morbid mood as I take this redundant tool to its final resting place. The first is that it is only a part of the physical world that Jesus warned his followers, would always be subject to rot, rust, decay or theft.(2) The second (and more important) factor though is that, the people who I miss were not people who had dedicated their lives to the temporary, passing and material concerns of life; but were people with faith in Christ who had spent a lifetime accumulating treasure in heaven(3). A time will come when no-one living remembers my Grandparents - nor anything about their lives. Yet nothing, not one detail, escapes the infinite capacity of the mind of God (4). The assurance though is that they are not merely remembered by God distantly, but treasured by Him in His immediate presence. (5)

This is the crunch: things need to be replaced, but people need to be resurrected! Resurrection for us is possible because of the resurrection of Christ, his conquest of sin and death, and our reconciliation with God. What Christ achieved in the tomb on the first Easter Sunday, smashes through the categories of life and death, mortality and immortality; creating a doorway into everlasting communion with God; which we can enter by faith in him.

Memory and association can tie the most important things to the most mundane of objects.

1. Ecclesiastes 9:5
2. Matthew 6:19
3. Matthew 6:20
4. Luke 12:7
5. 1 Cor 13:12

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