Death, where is thy sting? Here.

Note: I wrote this for my church blog, but thought it might resonate outside of those circles as well.

Mom. Dad. Grandma. Poppa. Sister. Brother. Wife. Husband. Aunt. Uncle. Daughter. Son. Friend.

These are some of the names given those who died recently. It has been a difficult week in the life of our church and I find that my heart is heavy. Yes, of course, people die all the time everywhere. There is nothing unique about our week. That doesn’t make this week any less rough.

Further, I know – know – we grieve in light of the resurrection; that death does not have the final word. And yet…

Loss hurts. Grief is real. Pain lingers.

So we turn again to the words that our ancestors in the faith have used for millennia to voice their lament. Today, I’m especially drawn to Psalm 88. The incomparable scholar and author Walter Brueggemann writes regarding this Psalm, “It is an embarrassment to conventional faith… There are situations in which easy, cheap talk of resolution must be avoided…when words must be honest and not claim too much.”

Here is a taste of those honest words, taken from the version of the bible called The Voice:

My soul is deeply troubled, and my heart can’t bear the weight of this sorrow. I feel so close to death. I’m like the poor and helpless who die alone, left for dead, as good as the unknowable sea of souls lying under our feet.

Will your great love be proclaimed in the grave or your faithfulness be remembered in whispers like mists throughout the place of ruin? Are your wonders known in the dominion of darkness, or is your righteousness recognized in a land where all is forgotten?

But I am calling out to you, Eternal One. My prayers rise before you with every new sun!

You have taken from me the one I love and my friend; even the light of my acquaintances are darkness.

I know we grieve in the light of the resurrection. Death does not have the final word. “Nothing – not even death – can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” I know this. But I still find comfort in the honest of the psalter. During weeks like this we need to cry out to God like the author of this psalm did. Brueggemann again: [Psalm 88] is painful, unresolved speech. But it is still speech. Faith faces life as it is, not just the good parts.”

I say thank God for that.

I offer one more prayer; this one adapted from Worship Feast: 100 Readings, Rituals, Prayers, and Guided Meditations.

‘We don’t really understand, Lord.’ That is what we are feeling right now. You don’t seem to be giving any answers. Sometimes we can wait. But our friend, who lost a loved one, cannot. We pray that healing, comfort and peace will be experienced even when in the midst of tragedy.

Let us together keep faithfully facing life as it is, continually praying and working with God’s Holy Spirit to bring about life as God intends it.

 

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