Two years ago today, January 10, 2013, is a date many of us who are now founding members of Cities Church will never forget.
It was the funeral of Henryk Otto Thiel, son of pastor Michael and Emily Thiel. Henryk was born July 27, 2012, and died January 6, 2013, due to complications resulting from brain damage in utero. He was with us 164 days.
Even in his tragically short life of five months and ten days, Henryk left a great effect on us. Our community is what it is today, in large measure, due to Henryk. Here’s a glimpse of that influence from the funeral message:
For many of us, especially us younger adults around Michael’s and Emily’s age, this was our first (or one of our first) awakenings to how messed up things really are in this world. This was one of our first up-close encounters with what it means that the creation is cursed and subjected to futility because of sin, and that the place we live is not yet the home we long for.
For many of us who love the Thiels, the problem of pain has gone from being theoretical to being intensely personal. We’ve caught glimpses of God’s goodness in the midst of wave after wave of disappointment and pain, but we are learning the tough lesson that in this world, God’s goodness toward us rarely means ease, and often means great hardship. If this world and this life were all there is, we would be on the brink of despair. The tensions God is lovingly creating in our hearts in this fallen age are meant to be resolved in an age to come.
We’ve learned that saying God is good doesn’t mean that he makes our lives easy, but often that he makes them hard, but not joyless.
If we were to try to capture the heart of Henryk’s indelible stamp on our community, perhaps it would go something like this:
For those who have eyes to see, the main thing we’ll remember is the unexpected and surprising way the greatness of God was so clearly on display in Henryk’s life, and through his parents. It was not the greatness for which the world typically looks. It was a gospel greatness. It was the greatness of another world, one that’s not here yet, but is coming so quickly. It was the greatness of power in weakness (like 2 Corinthians 12:9). It was the greatness we sense when we catch a glimpse of divine strength in the very midst of human frailty.
If you walked with the Thiels during those these precious and painful days, perhaps here on the anniversary you’d be helped to read or listen again to the 18-minute message.
Or if you are newer to the community, or an outsider, and would like to learn a little bit about how Henryk has impacted us so greatly, you could browse the message, or explore “the works of God” in his life at the blog where Michael and Emily so beautifully kept a record of the ups and downs of his brief life and their walk of faith in the midst of such difficulty and pain.
Here on the second anniversary of his funeral, we thank God for Henryk Otto Thiel.