Faithlife Sermons

How do we Grieve?

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04/26/2009 How do we Grieve? Knox 16 PC

249/78/482 Psalm 22:22-31 2 Samuel 12:15-23 John 20:11-18

OOPS! The three brothers were on there way home from school as usual. As usual they were walking barefoot. The older brothers wanted to use a short cut. This short cut was a field filled with a large quantity of thistles. The youngest wanted no part of this. However, he had no choice. His two brothers each took him by the hand and they ran through the thistles as fast as they could.  
  UGH! Mary has succeeded in bringing Peter and one of the other disciples to the tomb of Jesus. The stone is rolled away. The body is missing. Now, Mary peeks in to the tomb to see for herself. She is beside herself in grief at the time when she sees two angels in white sitting at the place were Jesus' body had been.
Her cry is like a wailing, a loud shout of great grief. It is indicative of the tremendous amount by which she valued Jesus her Lord and her teacher. Wailing was used very much in the middle east to express deep grief and sorrow. But, Mary is locked up in her sorrow.  
  First, she was fully ready to go to the tomb and find a way to roll aside the great stone which would have taken five or six Roman army officials to roll aside. She says to Jesus, whom she does not recognise, where have you taken him so that I can go and bring him back. She was overlooking the fact that Jesus was probably a typical male of 150 to 175 pounds and that his body was packed with about 100 pounds of spices for the embalming. She is so deep in her sorrow that she doesn't even recognise Jesus initially.
The focus of the model of this world in which we live is one of death and destruction. You can find a ton of stories of people who are weeping and mourning for great losses through death and destruction. This is a world which is passing away and we need to allow it to pass away.  
  During his ministry on earth Jesus said that I shall cause those who mourn and weep to laugh. I will cause those who mourn and weep to come to laughter and wholeness and joy. Because that is what he has prepared us for.
There is no doubt that we need to grieve and mourn. It is a healthy process. Unless, we continue in it forever and ever. Living in a state of denial is not good. It denies the reality of that person we love so much. Anger is a not a good place to rest in forever and ever because it can become destructive of the person who is angry. The purpose of grieving is to move beyond denial and anger and to move into acceptance of God who is sovereign Lord over all and desires for us what is best for us.  
It is probably relatively easy to deal with our own mortality. It is harder to deal with the mortality of someone we love and have been close to in life, be it a parent, a sibling, or a spouse. Or it could be any other kind of close relationship. Jesus does not want us to remain at the tomb. The tomb is empty and he has gone.  
  AHA! He calls us onward and upward. Mary, said Jesus. And she recognised him and her sorrow turned into joy. God is calling us to a new world, a world where there are no tears and suffering and pain. He is calling us into eternal life, a life of quality and wonder and beauty.
WHEE! What are a few years here on earth, even if they amount to a hundred years, compared to all eternity living for ever and ever in the presence of the Lord God revealed in Jesus Christ? And as a bonus we come to a reunion of all the saints who have gone on this faith before us to celebrate the glory of God and his kingdom. For the kingdom is God and God is the kingdom.  
  Grieving and mourning was concern for the early church. We take note of what the apostle writes to the church at Thessalonika concerning the death of your loved ones. 13Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (TNIV)
And in the book of Revelation 21:4 (TNIV) 4‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” We are a people who live in hope. And we celebrate that hope in community.  
  Over the past while I have seen some of the various ways in which various cultures mourn and grieve for their loved ones. In our Judaic roots, we come to a point where there is a mourning period of some seven to 30 days depending on the situation. It is a process which involves all of the immediate and close family, most profoundly.
In Ghana in Africa they have a celebration period of 72 hours. They move from wearing ceremonial dress of black or dark grey to red in the second day and to white in the final day, the Sunday celebration. The priest exhorts the congregation to allow your pain to bring others to God. Out of grieving and morning we are called in to celebration and witnessing to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  
  In Trinidad the whole family gather for a special service 40 days after the initial service. It is a celebration. They gather together as a family on each anniversary of the loved one’s death. There are visits from time to time at the grave side. There is need as a community to remember.
It is most profoundly in community that Jesus Christ meets his people. Grieving and mourning are not to last forever. Grieving and mourning are to act as launching pads to move us off into joy and completeness. We are a people who live in hope. And we celebrate that hope in community.  
  The story is told of a mother who was trying to calm her fretful little daughter who had climbed up on her lap. Soon her loving embrace an tender caresses quieted the 4-year-old's uneasiness. But the mother herself was grieving and feeling very said, for she had just laid to rest her own dear mother, who in days past had been such a spiritual help to her. Looking up, the little girl saw her moist eyes and asked sweetly, "Mama, do you want to be holded too?" Then the mother's tears began to flow freely, and the child hugged her and whispered, "Mama, God will hold you, won't He?"
What I really liked about the grief and mourning celebration of the people in Ghana is that they moved basically from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. In our grieving and in our mourning we are called to move to the cross of Jesus Christ and to the reality of the risen Christ. There we will find completion, wholeness, and peace.  
  Good Friday is perhaps the worst attended service of the whole year for the church of God. Ironically, this year, there were nearly as many people here on Good Friday as there were on Easter Sunday. That is the balance we should be achieving. Nobody can appreciate the resurrection without experiencing across. The reality is that when we pick up our cross we find that Jesus is helping us to carry it. He wants us to carry it beyond death and the grave to the resurrection where he will meet us.
An elderly Chinese philosopher was once approached by a young woman who was grief stricken because of the loss of her only son. "I will be able to help you," he assured her, "if you will bring me some mustard seed; but it must be obtained at a home where there has never been any sorrow." Eagerly the woman started her search. In every place she visited, however, there had been trials and loss of loved ones. Returning, she exclaimed, "Sorrow is common to all." "Ah," said the elderly sage, "you have now learned a valuable lesson and acquired a wealth of wisdom which not only has eased your grief, but also has prepared you to sympathize with others."  
  We take note in the story about David when he lost his son through some form of illness, the following. As long as there was still life, there was prayer and fasting. Perhaps God would change his mind and allow this child to live. When the child died and David was apprised of the situation, he rose up and cleaned himself and made himself ready to eat once again. He was asked why are you doing this. The short answer is as follows. He cannot come back to me, but I will go to him.
We all have a destination to meet the living God when our time on earth is finished. The thing that is difficult is the fact that when you get married, for instance, you know that one or the other of you is going to die before the other, unless you're in a tragic accident together. The promise of Jesus is once again, I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you.  
  Another good thing to practice in mourning and grieving is participation within mourning and grieving. That is why the rose here this morning is so important. As Wanda sings the favourite hymn Rock of ages, we will be invited to bring our rose to the front and place it on the communion table. At the end of the service you will be invited to pick up your rose and take it home with you as a reminder of your loved one and a reminder of the one who came to defeat Sin and death, namely, Jesus Christ.
At the grave side, one of the most meaningful things for me was carrying my mother's ashes to the grave and placing them there in the grave with the help of my stepfather. We need to be involved together in community challenging each other to live a life in hope, that what we see before us now is not the end. Like Mary, we need to hear Jesus calling our name. Before you were conceived in the womb God has counted up all of your parts and knows you intimately. He has come to us in Jesus Christ to claim us as his own. The call today is to surrender the sorrow to Jesus Christ and to ask him to fill us with his overflowing joy.  
  YEAH! H. K. Downie tells about a large newspaper that offered a substantial amount of cash for the best answer to the question, “What is the shortest way to London?” The entry which won the prize has: “The shortest way to London is good company!”
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