Grace Presbyterian Church
December 18, 2022, SHW
Nothing Can Separate Us
Today is the thirty-third anniversary of my mother’s death. I say this not to provoke some outpouring of pity, and I can’t say I was even thinking of that fact when this service was scheduled for today. I simply mention this as a marker of the fact that I wasn’t that old (old enough to be out of the house, as I was, but not so old as to be beyond seeking the occasional portion of parental guidance).
This was my introduction to the concept of grieving whether or not you wanted to be grieving. I was between semesters of my master’s degree in church music (a lifetime ago) and my soul didn’t seem to care that a few weeks later I was back in classes and trying to do piano things and learn about what church musicians were supposed to do and all that. It was hurting and it didn’t care that a page on the calendar had turned. I was going to grieve as long as my soul decided it needed to grieve, and all that other stuff was going to have to work around that fact.
We may choose to mourn, say, at a Service of Witness to the Resurrection or a graveside committal or some other formalized fashion, or we may choose to observe acts of mourning in specific times and ways. Grief takes us and doesn’t care what else we are doing or what we think we need to do.
This becomes a challenge, living as we do in an age that doesn’t have time for the pain. Sadly, the church as a whole isn’t all that much better, particularly in this season of the year. You mustcelebrate. You must be part of the hope/peace/joy/love. You know, “Joy to the world” and “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant” and all those carol texts that don’t do any favors to the grieving and the hurting.
Even our Presbyterian use of the phrase “Service of Witness to the Resurrection” may seem to suggest there is no room for grief.
I am not here to participate in that falseness. Our Lamentations lamenter piles up quite a perceived list of ways in which he has been aggrieved, and yet he cannot in the end dismiss the fact that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” Paul concludes a section on the struggles of the faith with this breathtaking declaration in verses 38-39; boiled down to its essence, it reminds us that “nothing can separate us from God’s love.” Not even the grief that others are sometimes wont to dismiss.
Elsewhere – actually, earlier in this chapter Paul writes that in our times of struggle, “the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Far from chastising us or trying to pull us out, the Spirit grieves with us.
The Spirit grieves with us.
If we can make like the writer of Lamentations and hold on to that steadfast love that never changes, hold on to that bit of hope, then grieve away.
God’s not going anywhere.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Hymns (from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal unless otherwise noted): #819, Be Still, My Soul; #—, Nothing in life; #834, Precious Lord, Take My Hand