It was days until the funeral of a loved one. I sat talking with the son of the deceased—a non-believer who wanted nothing to do with "religion," but only to honor his mother's wishes to have the service at a church. He wept. He wept bitterly. He allowed me to sit with him as he asked the painful questions of lament: "What will I do now that she's gone? If there is a God, how could this happen? What if I had done things differently...would she be gone?"
I did my best not to explain the faith as much to be a witness of it. After all, we are called to point to what God has done in Jesus rather than to explain the mysteries. God never says that life will be easy or free from pain. Loss and hardship are part of the experience of all of us. Our best moments are when we join others in their own struggles not as explainers but as those who walk with them, or, as in this case, just sit.
The primary symbol of the Christian faith was an implement of torture used to cause pain and suffering for those subjected to its punishment, and to terrorize all who had to watch. But we believe that God used the cross to meet us in Jesus' suffering, torture, and pain as he hung there beside us. We also believe that when God speaks things change. God can even raise the dead with a simple word. We need not explain it, but only bear witness to this truth. God speaks as we sit beside all who mourn and lament. God promises that one day "death will be no more...mourning and crying and pain will be no more." Yet until that day our call is to sit beside those who are still crying as we live the resurrection promise. We have good news to bring in the meantime, especially to those who are having a hard time in their waiting. Easter comes. But we first must meet one another on Good Friday.
Help us, O God, to see those who are mourning, crying, and in pain. Grant us courage to befriend them, and bear witness to the gift of new life you give in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Revelation 21:1-6a (NRSV)
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."
6 Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end."