I went to two funerals this week, each a lovely and poignant blessing. I went as a bystander, a friend, a comforter, for I did not know either of the faithfully departed well. But I was honored to enter that sacred time, a place of pain and joy.
I am leaky vessel. Joy pours in, and tears flow out. What joy, you may ask. The joy of thankfulness I see on the faces of the family as they recognize their friends in the pews. Their haggard expressions melt and mellow, resting in the strength of those around them. They are surrounded by their friends, the cloud of witnesses who willing walk the road with them. The joy of a favorite hymn. The words so lovely, they do not permit me to continue. I just stop and let them wash over me. Ancient truths so powerful, I have to swallow back my emotion. The joy of the bread and wine lifted up, sacraments of hope and promise and life in the midst of suffering, pain and death. We can’t go to the altar without a reminder of our torn flesh, and yet we are comforted there. What is so beautiful about a funeral that brings me to tears?
I read somewhere this week that real joy cannot be fully experienced without some knowledge of pain. What is this strange relationship between suffering and glory? How much will we endure the one to achieve the other? I don’t know. I don’t know that my willingness to endure pain has ever been a conscious decision. Perhaps only a response to a power that enveloped me and buoyed me -that power called Love. A Force, a Presence so influential that it carries one like a wave onto the shores of a land unlike another. Shores of lightness and light. Shores of well-being and strange gladness. A place absolutely perfect… and always just out of our reach, until pain opens that door and Love pushes you through.
This week we will attend another funeral service, and we will hear another story of one older than time, but also a life ended too young. We will enter that story of a man, a mere man,
who for the glory set before him, willingly endured the pain. We will hear accounts of thorns and blood, of spit and dirt, of
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