Joy & Loss
Yesterday I officiated at the memorial service of a church member, who died suddenly and tragically. Her family and friends gathered to celebrate her life, and to bear witness to her singular character, zeal for life, and her love of Jesus.
I was moved by the sweetness of the moment--and how there was so much joy in the midst of all of the sadness. It was a moment that was bathed in the grace of God.
I got to thinking about how familiar that realization has become for me over the years, and how often I have been moved by the bittersweet joy that so often permeates the memorial services where I have been privileged to serve as the officiate.
I did some rough calculations on the number of funerals/memorial services I've officiated since I was ordained in 2005. I'm pretty sure it's close to 150--give or take a few. And each time, I find myself full of wonder and awe at the way God's grace pours out over the grieving, how joy can spring up in the middle of loss.
The Apostle Paul wrote extensively about the grace-filled nature of Christian hope because of the Resurrection of Jesus. He declared that because of the Resurrection
"[Christians] do not mourn as those who have no hope."
In other words, Jesus took on the worst that the world could offer--violence, oppression, suffering, loneliness, abandonment, the loss of faith, and was executed and buried. But the worst the world could offer was defeated when Jesus was raised to new life. This is the hope that Christians embrace in the midst of our suffering.
In fact, our belief in the Resurrection enables us to face even the worst moments of tragedy and death with unwavering peace and even defiant joy. And it's such grace to feel that in our worst moments---grace that can only come from God, who enables us to experience God's divinely-originated, beyond-our-comprehension peace.
May you experience a real sense of the grace of God in your low moments, your seasons of grief, your losses and suffering. May you know the joy that comes from knowing that none of it gets the last word. May you live into this with defiant hope.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.