In life and in death we belong to God. So we are reminded in our Confessions.
Yesterday morning FPCOKC received the shocking and awful news that Matt Trei had died in his sleep. A long time teacher for SPARK and our School – a child of the church – a child of God – a friend and colleague in ministry for many, many years, transforming the lives of many – from our youth at Triennium this last summer to greeting our preschool children nearly every day since. From staff to visitors Matt was a beacon of welcome and hospitality. He was also a cancer survivor and a tough cookie. Words cannot capture what he meant to so many of our children and youth at the church. Or to me. He was my friend.
He will forever remain in my heart as the heartbeat for our school – a glorious reflection of the soul of First Pres, and a true saint who poured his heart and soul into the Church – always, everywhere.
Matt loved our children, and loved the Lord. It was obvious to anyone he met.
Today in scripture we see the complex and difficult book of Job coming to an end. Job is humbled. He prays for his friends. His fortune and health is restored. By book’s end, we end up back at the beginning, which only affirms Job’s view of God and condemns that of his friends.
My first reaction in reading was anger that Matt’s health was not restored – that this unjust story of Job’s suffering was replaying. And as I reflect back on the defiant speeches Job proclaims to God and how he was mad at God, honest with God, denied divine justice – I too cry out to God, upset and angry that one so dear to us was taken at such a young age. 39? Where is the justice, O God?
In many ways the Book of Job is this very struggle – a wrestling with God about the conundrum of life’s unanswered questions. The whole book has been a Wisdom Literature’s way of exploring the inadequacies of operating in a universe that uses the principles of reward and punishment.
There are no good answers to why. Ultimately we are reminded in Matt’s death of the fragility of life, and amidst the shock and broken hearts, invited to look at our own fragility, remembering that in life and in death we belong to God. I cherish the time I had with Matt and reflect on a life so full of hope and exuberant faith – with me, with our children, with all.
Our new pastor, John McKinnon, shared a touching devotion yesterday to a shocked staff, reminding us of many of these ancient truths, and that ultimately Matt Trei did not belong to us, and who sadly had returned to God. And that, in God’s world, he wasn’t ever ours to keep. John ministered to me on a day when I really needed it, and a day many of us were faced with a long day of caring for children with our broken hearts and picking up where Matt left off.
Our challenge is to see through the conundrums of life to the everlasting hope that God provides us, and the reality that the heartbeat of the school or our church has not stopped – that Matt’s lifeblood was the same as many of us: building up the Body of Christ. We live in the shadow of his ministry, picking up the pieces, and learning once again to be the Church.
So God, amidst the tears and the discombobulation that many of us are experiencing, we know that ultimately all these children are yours, O God, held in your everlasting arms. And we pitch in for a little while, and pray we can do the best we can.
Even if just for today.
Grant us strength, O God, to carry on, reflecting your love like Matt Trei always did.
A Memorial Service celebrating Matt’s life will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City at 11am this Saturday.