Friday, October 2, 2015

Pastoralia: Mourning

Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who mourn’. How odd. It’s as if Jesus is encouraging mourning. But who mourns these days? Or at least, who wants to? Isn’t the point to avoid the sadness and all of that? Isn’t that the goal of living, to be happy? And yet, Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who mourn’.

And it’s not just that He said this. He followed it up with how He lived. Twice we read about Jesus shedding tears because of the sadness of what was happening. One time it was when a friend had died. The other time was when He was condemning Jerusalem to be slaughtered by the Roman armies. There were other times when He mourned. Like the time when those people in the synagogue were ready to pounce if Jesus healed the man with a useless hand. It was, after all, a Sabbath! He was ‘grieved at their hardness of heart’. Jesus mourned.

But is it necessary to mourn? Can’t we just respond to what we’re seeing by reminding ourselves that God is at work and that it will all work out? After all, God wants us happy, no? We should rejoice at that. Where is there space for mourning?

Well, that time when Jesus mourned because of the death of His friend He knew that Lazarus was going to be raised to life again in just a few minutes. Couldn’t He have rejoiced in that? Lazarus was going to be happy - not to mention Mary and Martha. And yet, Jesus - knowing all of this - still shed those tears. He still mourned. So, I guess, even though we know that God is at work and that He will bring good out whatever it is that’s happening, we still need to mourn. I think it’s a matter of being honest. Whatever will happen later, what’s happening in the moment is awful. And mourning simply acknowledges that. We acknowledge what we are thinking but also - and maybe more important? - we acknowledge what we are feeling. There are times when life just feels wrong. So, it’s good and right for us to mourn. And our doing that is important to Jesus.

It helps to remember that Jesus said more than, ‘Blessed are those who mourn’. He ended that sentence with, ‘for they shall be comforted’. There is comfort to be enjoyed. Some of that comfort will happen at that time as we remember the larger context. Jesus uses the evil that we see around us, evil that, at times, touches us far too deeply. He uses even that evil for a much greater good. The Spirit, seeing our faith respond like this, makes that comfort real, tangible. There is comfort now.

And then, there is what happens later. After the resurrection of the dead, when everything in creation will be renewed, there will be no evil so there will be no reason to mourn. That’s when there will be only happiness.

But for the time being there will be times to mourn and then to get a taste of the comfort that awaits.

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