A Multi-Faith Memorial Homily
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven, a time to laugh and a time to weep, a time to dance and a time to mourn, a time to speak and a time to be silent. May we patiently await his voice, calling us out of the wilderness of grief to a land of joy, mercy and peace. And until such time may we not forget that he is with us, protecting us in the valley, our rock and our refuge.
The Lord is our refuge and strength. An ever-present help in times of struggle, and pain, and heartache, and grief, and loss. He is our rock in whom we hide. The one to whom we run when the storms of life assail us. When the things into which we have placed our trust begin to fail or abandon us, including our hopes and dreams, we turn to him for comfort and solace. When something inside us is broken, we must take it back to the creator to mend, for he alone knows our in-most parts, having formed us in our mother’s womb. He knit us together. And he is grieved to his core when one of his beloved suffers.
One need look no further than the first book in scripture to begin to understand the depth and complexities of loss. It is clear from the image of the garden into which Adam and Eve were placed, that the Lord’s inmost desire was uninterrupted fellowship with humanity in a place void of pain and heartache. When we attempt to understand grief, it must be in the context of the conviction that this world is not as He intended. Death was not a part of the original plan, which is why it feels so foreign to us. We are created in His image, and somewhere inside we bear the likeness of the Almighty. That likeness was built for eternity, and there will always be a lingering desire for eternity within us. And though after we breathe our final breath, we may enjoy eternity with Him, Death is such a painful interruption that it arrests all forward motion and sits us down in a place of pain.
The Psalmist describes such a place: “I cried out to the Lord for help when I was in distress. I sought the Lord at night and I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted...my spirit grew faint and I was too tired to speak.” I asked, “will the Lord never show his favor again? Has the Lord forgotten to be merciful?”
This is grief. To doubt all that one once knew and to curse the risk which we once took to trust and become vulnerable, when we opened ourselves up to the possibility of hope and gladness, only to experience it snatched away. If this feeling goes unaddressed and these questions unanswered, it would truly be a place of anguish.
But the Psalmist continues, “but I thought, to this I will appeal, the years of the right hand of the most high.” In the midst of emotional turmoil, this one in grief takes hold of their mind and fixes on what they know to be true. The power of the one Lord. “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds, where he displays His power among all people, the ones whom he redeemed with his mighty arm.”
In the powerlessness of our grief, we run to our Lord. We ask for Him to fight the enemies of hopelessness and fear. We beseech Him to come to our aid, and He comes running, and does what only he can do.
Only He can command the skies to resound with thunder and cause the depths of water to convulse and writhe. He alone has separated the east from the west and causes the sun to rise and set, and hangs the stars in their appointed places. And he has caused us to breathe life, and in his unfathomable wisdom he has appointed each of us a time to die. In Him alone do we live, move and have our being. For He is the the Lord who continually provides a way where there was not one before.
The Psalmist is intimately aware that it was the Lord who led his people through the parted waters of their Exodus from slavery, they did not bring it about by themselves, or with their power. They stood on the shore, at an impasse, fearing that the Lord had abandoned them in a sick twist of fate, when in reality He allowed them to be in a place where only he could deliver them. And this is the truth of grief and loss, that is, only the one who willing walk alongside us in the valley of the shadow of death that can speak peace to our restless heart and calm to our anxious mind. For He made you, and He knows you, and he grieves with you.
For the Lord is good. He has always been, and will always be, good. When he first called to Moses and introduced himself as “he who causes to be,” he revealed himself as the One through whom all things come into being. As Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, he saw that these were “good.” He is one who is intimately involved in making things “good.” And he remains intimately involved. When his people were in slavery and exile, he heard their cries of distress, he was concerned with their suffering, and he responded because he is not content to remain distant. The Lord, in due time, rescued them from oppression and affliction, and all that kept them in fear. The Lord is a deliverer.
So he sent Moses to be the voice of his love and goodness. Called to stand against an oppressor, free those enslaved and bring hope to hearts gripped with fear. Much the same way that we send out soldiers into foreign lands to fight alongside those who cannot free themselves. The very mission that our soldiers undertook as a leader of men. Although our grief is convoluted with many emotions concerning the manner in which he was taken from us, we know that he left this world believing that he could make a difference, he could bring wisdom and hope to those who most needed it.
It is inspiring that the unity of two faiths in the marriage is reflected in our service today. We share a common history and a common faith that the Lord is good, he hears our cry and desires to end our suffering. Your husband respected your faith and traditions, and would want you to lean on them as you walk through your loss. There may be times when you feel as the Psalmist did, and may only be comforted in the fact that you are not alone in your grief. But may you be reminded that in the midst of doubt and unbelief, the Lord told Moses, “I will be with you.” C.S. Lewis was correct that where fear and pain exist, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the presence of the Lord more than anything.
The Lord has always had plans to prosper his people, to give them a hope and a future, especially when delivering them from suffering to a land overflowing with abundance. There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven, a time to laugh and a time to weep, a time to dance and a time to mourn, a time to speak and a time to be silent. May we patiently await his voice, calling us out of the wilderness of grief to a land of joy, mercy and peace. And until such time may we not forget that he is with us, protecting us in the valley, our rock and our refuge.