Timing is everything. Recently, the timing of people’s deaths have not been good. Stealing a title from an old 1934 classic, “I wish that death would take a holiday.” We have had too many and some too soon. The old saying, “it is what it is” just does not bring comfort. Loss hurts and I do not want to ignore it, consider it a weakness, or think that time will heal it all. I need and want more. The more for me is experienced in the Body of Christ.
That might sound a little too exoteric. It is not meant to be; quite the contrary. The Body of Christ is the living presence of God. It is found in the sacrament of Holy Communion. It is experienced among the communion of saints. It is learned about in the Holy Scriptures. It is felt in prayer. It is an assurance in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a holy promise tied to a holy covenant.
When I fall into a dark place and am a floating ship without bearings or direction, all I can do is cry out to God. I hate to say it but I will try several other solutions before giving up the “trying”. I will listen to music, clean the house (a sense of order to my universe), pull away from people, eat comfort food, dress more casually, and whatever I can do to forget. But none of them ever work.
The “funny” Hallmark birthday card with the angel of death on the cover reads, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” That statement is true and when I realize that none of my little tricks of ignoring the obvious is going to work, I cry from the pit and the Psalmist once wrote. I cry out in desperation. I cry from the bottom of my soul. I understand the writer of scripture when he writes, “Lord do not turn your face from me.” There could be nothing darker than the thought that God had abandoned me.
BUT! God doesn’t abandon me. God comes to me as I toss and turn in the bed. God comes to me when I am trying to erase it from my mind using every trick that I can conjure up. God comes to me and makes me weep, because I need his healing touch. God’s helps me let go. God helps me release my grip on trying to control my life.
When God does come, I find Him living among the people of God. The people that I have pulled away from are the people where God abides. I see God as I see them weep too. I see God as we cling to each other. I see God as I see people allow me to be weak and vulnerable. I see God as I hear other’s cry out to Him. God is in the Body of Christ.I ponder God’s word looking for words. I am drawn to Psalm 23. I think about Jesus’ final discourse in the final chapters of John. I think about parable like the lost coin and lost sheep. I think about God abiding with the Exodus people in the tabernacle. I think about the prophet Isaiah announcing to the people in bondage that God would bring them home again. The Body of Christ, the great cloud of witnesses of the past, the communion of saints, the stories of ancient scripture is my comfort.
I find comfort in the Body of Christ, the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion. God set up a meal for us. It is a meal of God’s presence. It is a mystery understood only in participation. As we eat and drink of His body and blood, we are reminded of his time when he walked the earth and are assured that He is still with us. I pray for God to be among us and to give us what we need. I need His assurance, His direction, His forgiveness, and His comfort, His everything.
He is God with us….! Death will not take a holiday, but neither will God. He walks with me and talks with me. He is literally my breath of life. He pulls me out of the pit. He allows me to grieve at the same time announce that God has Risen. He helps me be a message of hope to another just as they speak words of hope to me. He feeds with his own body and blood and even prays for me as expressed in the Gospel of John. He seeks me out when I try to hide like a lost sheep. He loves me, this I know.
I don’t know how God comforts you but I hope and pray in your grief my words might speak to your grief. We will hurt. We will hold on to each other. We will carry on much like those who have died. The joy they gave us is the same joy we share with each other as we live. And when we die, others can find solace in the same God in whom we all find our hope and being. May God be praised, above all, who gives us life and the promise of eternal life.
In His Service, Pastor MItchell