By Rev. Dr. Brian Gigee
“TO THE PAIN (and Grief)”
“At least I can take comfort in this: Despite the pain, I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” – Job 6:10
I’m not always right. But I got it right this past Sunday when I suggested the churches in our community and around the globe would look a lot more like the very first Easter than the Easters we’ve known recently. Like the empty tomb that initial Easter morning so were our churches. Empty. Except for a handful of preachers and musicians and technical staff who assisted in the live streaming of those worship services. Bittersweet. The churches may have been next to empty but the reaching out to others with the story of Jesus was welcomed by more than most of our churches can hold. Painful. Hopeful.
And as was said around the globe this past Sunday… “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” It’s the brand of the Christian faith… for everything we believe in and everything we do is based on that simple proclamation. The world (the Roman government and the religious leaders of the day) tried to get rid of Jesus and in failing to do so, the world has been talking about Jesus ever since! Can I get a “Hallelujah?”
And when it comes to ‘whirled’… my new name for the planet we inhabit, we are still living with a stay-at-home order until further notice. It’s been a month now for some and for others even longer. The pain and the grief of our lives lost to a new one we can’t predict is taking hold of many. When I asked one of the police officers in my congregation how things on the street were going, he said, “it’s kind of quiet. It’s humbling. People are taking more time thinking about their own lives (and their mortality) and are not engaged in behavior that requires the presence of the police.”
‘Humbling’ is a good word. As big and bold as we believe ourselves to be, the human race has been paused for an intermission. We want to battle ‘to the death’ but it feels more like Sweet Wesley’s pronouncement to Prince Humperdink in the movie, “The Princess Bride.” When the not so good prince challenged Wesley to a duel to the death the response was… “No, to the pain.” Pain seemed worse than death. We’re feeling it, too!
The pain is real. It leads to grief. And grief is an ugly monkey that jumps on our backs making us say things we never say and do things we abhor. But, yet, there it is. People are furloughed from work. Parents are learning how much they appreciate their children’s schoolteachers. Families cannot gather en masse to celebrate baptisms, weddings or funerals…unless you have less than 10 friends… Many of the everyday tasks people involve themselves in have been placed ‘on hold’ worse than waiting for your Kroger or HEB pick up order to be filled. We’ve not seen the likes of this kind of life in all our life! The pain and grief is real and still life goes on. It must.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it this way… “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship.” Wow!
There is always life amid our pain and grief. It’s blurry to see at its worst but as we hold on to our living, the pain and grief subsides, finding ourselves being made new… rising above the dying around us and in us. Jesus is there in death as in life sharing our collective pain and grief… to make all things… new! Faith matters!
Brian Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland and the lead pastor at New Life Lutheran Church located at 3521 E. Orange St. in Olde Pearland. Your comments and/or questions are always welcomed to [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Friend2theRabbi.