The new year is beginning with particular challenges for our community, as we mourn the loss and celebrate the lives of two people who each played an active part in our life together.
This Saturday, we will remember [KG], one of our most active professional singers and a friend to many, who died in her sleep just before Christmas.
On Saturday, January 27th, we will remember [HK], a long-time member who served the church with tremendous dedication and love in a list of roles almost to numerous to mention, not only on the Church Council, but as the Parliamentarian of our Annual Meeting, the Assistant Treasurer in charge of counting the collection on Monday mornings, the Maitre D’ of the Valentine’s Dinner, and the bookkeeper of Act II. For starters.
These wonderful people have been part of our worship and ongoing life as a family of faith, and there is no way that we can speak of them as being “replaced,” even as other committed and talented folks take over the duties they now gently lay down.
So I find myself hoping that, even as our community comes together to offer love and support on these occasions, we’ll find the courage to grieve together, too.
That can be harder for us than we might easily admit.
The emotions of grief are simultaneously powerful and utterly vulnerable, and many of us have learned to keep them locked away. Some people would more readily show you their bank statement than tell you how it feels to go through the bureau of someone they’ve lost.
The world, with its anxiety around grief, can be quick to leave a casserole at the back door and slow to sit over a cup of coffee in the kitchen, just listening.
Many seem to have a sense that we’re entitled to a certain amount of time — a month? a season? maybe a year? — but not one day more, forgetting that each loss takes its own shape, and its own time.
I can’t tell you the number of conversations pastors have with people who say, “I know I should be over this by now, but…,” apologizing for what seems like their self-indulgence around their feelings.
How quickly we forget the shortest verse in all of Scripture: “Jesus wept.”
Maybe it’s the shortest one because there is no more to say — there are no qualifications that need introducing by way of justification or explanation or embarrassed apology.
Even Jesus knew grief. Fully.
What does that mean for the Church?
To me, it means that we are called to be people who know grief, too — who aren’t afraid to let it in, and to dwell among those who feel it, whether it be the sharp edge of first grief or the dull ache and wistful memory of a later stage.
We’re challenged to find the courage to remain in the places that so many in the world are far too afraid to go, affirming that love does not ask us to “move on” or “get over it,” but rather, asks us to find a way to keep on loving, to keep on feeling, even as a new chapter begins.
Let’s be those people.
Let’s be the ones who sit and listen, who aren’t afraid to feel the pull of our own old griefs and our own fear of loss, in order to be in this moment. Fully.
As Jesus was.
Let’s remember that as we do, He comes in the midst of us, teaching us always how to love and live and heal, until we are reunited with Him and all those we love in a place where tears no longer fall.
See you in church,