Saturday, July 23, 2005

Words seem inadequate....

On Monday I will conduct the funeral of a man just 2 years older than myself, who took his own life after a long struggle with depression.
His family are quite simply amazing, and working with them has been an unbelievable privilege. Together we have trodden holy ground.
A friend is giving a tribute, leaving the "God slot" for me. Time will be of the essence, as we're restricted to a brief half-hour at the Crematorium, but I realise that this might be the only safe space in which some of the mourners can really confront their feelings. So I would value prayers that all that needs to be said and heard is indeed said and heard, so that the pieces fit together in a way that makes sense for everyone.
Aside from the prayers, this will be my contribution, based on Romans 8 31ff

Those words of St Paul’s - brimming over with confidence as they are -might seem a little unrealistic for us today.
I never met [ ], but I’ve learned enough in the past week to realise that his felt experience was that God’s love too often appeared to be interrupted, or inaccessible, even when it was presented to him through the devoted care of his family and friends.
So…what makes these anything more than empty words in a situation of great sadness?
The Christian church makes a claim for the objective reality of God’s love, even when it is impossible to discern it…for a faith that exists independent of the emotional highs and lows we all experience. Even the greatest of saints endured long periods when God appeared absent, and struggled with the restless longings of a dark night of the soul, and Jesus on the cross felt himself cut off from his heavenly Father.
But feelings are rarely the best index of reality.
We take on trust so much in the scientific world,- things which are beyond our comprehension, things which we cannot possibly prove for ourselves. Perhaps we need to extend this same acceptance to belief in the love of God. This is the message of a well-worn saying, which gained respect when it was scrawled on a cell wall by a WW2 p.o.w.

“I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love
even when I do not feel it. I believe in God even when He is silent”

Perhaps on a good day, this might be enough for us…- but a silent God is of no use to us here and now…
We need someone who is involved, who has been through this sort of pain, and who can do something to transform it.
Paul seems very sure that God is for us…and his evidence is based not on feel-good factors but on the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is ultimate proof of God’s love – for he made a gift of himself to each one of us, choosing to enter our world and to go through the very worst that life could throw at him.
Dying the death of a common criminal, mocked by the crowd and deserted by those who’d been his friends…It looked as if everything had gone terribly, disastrously wrong, as if there was no hope left anywhere. Nothing to do but despair. Rock bottom.
But then, just three days later, the perspective changed…and it’s with that new perspective that we can now look at life, death and eternity. The sort of nothingness that was death came up against the unconquerable love that is God, and was itself defeated. Nothing could stand in the way of that love. It forced its way through death so that Jesus was truly and fully alive again. His Resurrection, his rising to new and eternal life, means that there is nothing so awful or hopeless that it cannot be transformed and made new.
It is this love which Paul celebrates…this love that meets us where we are and carries us through the darkness, if we’re only willing to let it.
We may prefer to turn our faces to the wall, but this won’t affect the final outcome. NOTHING can separate us from God’s love.
Another great saint, Augustine, who knew more than most about the ups and downs of life, wrote
“Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you”.
Sometimes, that search for rest isn’t successful in this life. But if neither death nor life, nor anything in it can separate us from God’s love, then we can rejoice that [ ] has at last found what he was looking for and commit him with confidence to the God who made him, who loves him and who died so that we, with him, might live forever in his love.


Songbird said...

Kathryn, that's beautiful. It's just right, a comfort both to those who grieve him and also to anyone who has felt the silence of God and needs to be reminded of God's presence in the very human life, trials and death of Jesus. In this situation, naming the Resurrection without lifting up Christ's humanity would be an unkindness. You have done very well.

Barnabas said...

It's always worse when the person is the same or nearly the same age as you.May God bless your ministry.

jo(e) said...

Wow. Talk about tough writing assignments.

I admire how you handled it.

Mary said...

That's stunning Kathryn.... inspired, literally. Will pray for you on Monday. What time is the funeral?

Friday Mom said...

Well said, Kathryn. Such a tough situation in which to conduct a funeral. I can't imagine a better approach. As Songbird said, keeping Christ's humanity in tension with the resurrection provides a great deal of comfort I think.

Thoughts and prayers for you on Monday.

Caroline said...

But if neither death nor life, nor anything in it can separate us from God’s love, then we can rejoice that [ ] has at last found what he was looking for and commit him with confidence to the God who made him>

...thank you for this, K..I wish tho that I could share your faith that in death we will find what we (who don't find peace in life) were looking for, and share your confidence in a commital to God. Sorry that's not helpful, but from my place on the edge of where [] was, I struggle with your last paragraph

Kathryn said...

Caroline...I'm emailing you...just hope this didnt read like ploughing on with empty words, though.

Sally said...

Does everyone find the peace in death that thye cannot find in life? I am still struggling with that for my mum and dad. I am feeling so much better, and more peaceful, but last Sunday I went to church for the first time in months and as soon as I tried to sing the first happy hymn, I cracked and cried and couldn't sing. It's too soon. I still don't know where they are. And the reading didn;t help..about the wheat and the chaff asnd the chaff (unbelievers) being blown away.... cast into eternal fire? It's too painful....

Lorna said...

sally, tears are ok. In fact better than ok. I cried for months after my dad died. Sunday after Sunday. I think our church debt was due in part to all the Kleenex I used.

Scripture does say He will wipe every tear from our eye - but it doesn't happen instantly. This is your time to grieve - and even if it feels that it's taking a long time, it's still ok.

Sorry hope this doesn't sound patronising.

Kathryn beautiful words that will ease people's hearts on Monday. You speak with His heart for His people. Not condemnation but love, and that brings life and hope.

Songbird said...

On the wheat and the chaff~I think the point of the parable is that we don't know how the harvest will sort out--that's in God's hands--each of us is both wheat and chaff...

Kathryn said...

You are all lovely, and I'm so grateful for your encouragement...please don't forget to pray tomorrow.
and I hope it didn't look as if I was posting my words in search of congratulations...but this service is huge in my heart and mind right now, so I couldn't in honesty blog about anything else.
The brother made it to the Eucharist this morning...they are a wonderful and remarkable family.

Gordon said...

Kathryn - my turn to thank you for being where you are! Tomorrow we'll pray.