Eulogy, Part One

Silence fills the space between us.

We are paralyzed, stunned. Grief has shoveled every bit of life from within and we are empty, hollowed. We have nothing.

Our lives were newly defined by his words. Our every-day was only what he spoke, what he did, where he went.

Everything from before him, it was left behind. Everything after him – he was the middle of it all, the reason for it all.

And now he is gone.

Right before our eyes – the hands that gently blessed children, the hands that broke bread for us, the hands that tenderly washed the dirt from our feet – those hands were torn by their nails. We couldn’t stop them. Our words meant nothing to them. He meant nothing to them.

We couldn’t help him. We, who have been rescued by his words, could not save him.

And maybe it is worse that he didn’t save himself.

We watched these men – these power-grubbing, self-righteous men– accuse him of blasphemy, of treason – and he didn’t do anything to prove them wrong. After what we saw – after the sea and the winds yielding to his voice, after Lazarus walking out of his grave – how could he let those weaker men, men he had outsmarted and outshone so many times before – slap him, insult him, lay a whip across his back?

We thought we would see him deliver this city into our hands. We thought the priests and the people, the soldiers and the kings – we thought they would all bow to his wisdom. We thought we would see him reign.

But we watched him die.

It was not supposed to be like this.

And this is what we are all thinking, this is the question stifling us in silence – what if everything we believed was wrong?

It is suffocating, this thought of him lying dead. It is the end of us.

But we sit here, we sit here together, because who else can understand what we feel? Who else knows the sound of his voice, the mysterious and marvelous wonder of all he was?

One other is missing from this group, one we called brother. It is too much to think about, how he kissed that cheek in the moonlight and ripped us to pieces. Despair and anger, they are weights on our shoulders. Where did it go so wrong?

What will we do now?

It is too late to go backwards, isn’t it, into the lives we used to lead?

We have hands full of these memories, of these visions – we are changed – but how do we go on without him? What does any of it mean without him?

Our teacher, our friend – no one ever listened like he listened. He heard every word that came from our mouths – but at the same time, he heard the language of our souls, all those words underneath what we spoke. He knew what we wanted to hide and those secret hopes of what we might become. He knew what would bring a smile to our faces – and, oh, he loved a from-the-heart smile. Even more, he loved laughter that bubbled up from good and true joys.

He knew our lives, he knew this place – the fishing boats, the seeds and the harvest, the weddings, the temple, the feasts. He knew the sick. It didn’t matter if they were sick in body, heart, or mind – he knew them and he never drew away from their needs. No, he reached out and pulled them close. He healed them, somehow and some way. He changed them.

That was the thing about him – he didn’t shy away from the hard things. When we would want to avoid the hungry, get away from the pleading for one more touch, one more word, one more please – he would have such compassion – and he would give, and give again. He left nothing the way he found it.

We didn’t always understand him. We didn’t always trust him, not enough. But then the demons would flee, the storms would cease, the bread would multiply until we had enough – more than enough.

And he didn’t give up on us, even then. He forgave, again and again, our sin that we could suddenly see so clearly. He forgave, over and over again, the dark places in people who came to him. Never did he reject or shame, never did he turn away those who sought him out in faith. He was patient and passionate, stronger than anyone we have ever known.

In his name, we found power. In his call, we heard a vision for a kingdom entirely different than the one we live in: a kingdom of peace, of the last becoming first, of loving each other more than we love ourselves. This was not a kingdom of our traditions, not a kingdom of those who thought they could make themselves holy – it was a kingdom of the Law fulfilled, the prophets’ voices ringing true, the Most High God dwelling with His people again.

He said he came to show us the God of our fathers. He said he was the Son of our God, the Son who had come to set us free. He said we would reach the Father through him. He said he would prepare a place for us, he said he would never leave us alone.

And yet – he is bound in grave-clothes, imprisoned in a tomb.

While we are here, still, and this darkness makes it hard to see anything but our pain.

*********

You weep, yes, you weep – because what you loved has been lost. You weep because you cannot see, you cannot yet see, that this ending is not The End.

But My children, My children – have you not learned by now?

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

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Wearing Wildflowers

This is a day…(maybe you’ve had a day like this before?)…when I wake up feeling sad. No particular reason, no specific thing wrong…in fact, everything is normal. Everything is fine. But my heart is heavy and my eyes quick to fill with tears at the slightest little thing gone wrong. Emotions are at flood-level, apparently, and any rain causes overflow on a day like today.

In the early-morning gloom of the living room, I bend to knees and fumble through words to God. Finally, I admit – I feel at a loss right now. I feel empty.

Why should I be discouraged? I have only blessings in my hands. I have only gratitude to give.

Please help, I pray. Because this day is Yours that You have given. I don’t want to spend it feeling like this.

Words surface. “He has sent Me to bestow…a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” 

And I read  “Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there. If you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time.” 

Every time.

Then a plea in David’s words: “But let me run loose and free, celebrating God’s great work, every bone in my body laughing, singing – ‘God, there’s no one like you! You put the down-and-out on their feet!'” 

I do not feel like there are laughing bones, veins of joy, heart-beats of celebration within me…and I cannot run free with my round-and-round worry-thoughts, my shoulders draped in dark clouds.

But my eyes take notice – David says, “I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with His praise.”

Every chance, every breath – he lives thankful. Pursued, tormented, adored, empowered, alone, mocked, envied, prosperous, mourning, rejoicing…in all things, he lives to praise.

Worship, he says, opens door to all His goodness.

Deep breath, mind made up to lift this shadowed mind up to Him in the middle of the sadness, in the middle of the heaviness.

Because even when I feel like I am in the center of despair, He is still God. 

His Word is still solid to the core; everything He makes is sound inside and out.

So I say thank you, to the Lord who sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord enthroned as King forever. For He gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.

I say thank you to the giver of mercy, the light of the world, the One who says – ‘Let it be’ and it is.

Can thank you be enough for the Savior?  For He already carried this kind of day for me, this spirit of despair, for He “took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we are healed”. He bore it so that He can lift me up, take this burden from me when it falls into my hands. 

I remember this and the way He loves, how He says “I’ll never forget you. I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings. There’s nothing left of your sins. Come back to me, come back. I’ve redeemed you.”

I feel Isaiah’s joy as he says, “High heavens, sing! God has done it! Deep earth, shout! And you mountains, sing! A forest choir of oaks and pines and cedars! God has redeemed Jacob. God’s glory is on display in Israel!”

And don’t I have the same praise? God has redeemed me! God’s glory is on display in this very room…in my front yard…in the sky stretching out its cloudy arms of praise…everywhere I look, His grace and beauty are on display.

Lifting my eyes, I know where my help comes from — this God, who made heaven and earth.  His strength begins to hold my heart and it is lighter within me. I choose to open up this day to Him, knowing His goodness unchanged, and He begins to shine His light into the dusty corners. The emptiness begins to fill with peace that I couldn’t find for myself.

He is greater than these feelings that change with the day, with the circumstance, with the tide of emotion. He is sure and steady, constant in all His ways.

When I wake on days like today, I cannot trust in my own frail emotions. I will not put trust in the power of darkness to lead me. Instead, I will say of Him – He is my rock and my fortress, in whom I trust. I will say that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever…yet (even while this is hard, even while fear fills me, even while night goes on) yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior!

Trusting in His unfailing love, I will not be shaken.

Every promise here, every redeeming hope – it is mine and it is yours. I don’t know if you ever feel despair on your heels, your heart growing heavy – but, if you do, choose praise. Choose trust. Maybe change won’t feel instantaneous, but trust anyway. Because He promised to take the spirit of despair and replace it with a garment of praise. He promised that His joy will be our strength. Sometimes we have to stop clinging to the familiar garments of darkness, letting go and lifting our hands to Him, letting Him take the sorrow and wrapping us instead in His light. Sometimes He lets us walk in the heaviness, knowing how our faith is strengthened when we can understand that He is sovereign in the good and the bad. But the night will not last forever. He always brings morning, in His time, and with it – joy.

Let me say again, this time with David…

I bless God every chance I get! My lungs expand with His praise! 

I live and breathe God; if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy: Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out. God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears…when I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot. God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray.

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see – how good God is. 

For every one of us who trust in Him,  this is how He writes our hearts – hope and a future of running free, heart and bones and breath singing to Him —

You did it: You changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about You. God, my God, I can’t thank You enough!

Will you lift your heart to Him, no matter the day you’re in? Will you stop what you’re doing and offer Him praise?

How great is our God, sing with me-
how great is our God, and all will see
how great, how great is our God!

 

*Scripture references are from Psalms, Isaiah, and Habakkuk*