This morning, as I drove to a cemetery to officiate a graveside service, my mind drifted to loss: Those we have lost in the past few years. Those graves at which I've stood and prayed. The people that I miss: Jerry, Charlotte, Jim, Bill, Mary, Agnes, Peg, Cab... so many church folks I've buried over the years! The grief piles up. And then there is my first dog, Nellie. My grandmother, Ruth. My friend, Liza. My father: still alive, and yet no longer really with us. The covid deaths. The overdose deaths. A s I drove, layers of grief seemed to be excavating, pushing up against my heart.
And then - my phone had been randomly playing songs - the chords of Timshel by Mumford and Sons began. And suddenly, as if all the windows were flung open and light burst in, my grief was buoyed by joy. Because the song spoke to me of church:
And death is at your doorstep,
and it will steal your innocence.
But it will not steal your substance.
But you are not alone in this.
You are not alone in this.
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand,
Hold your hand.
Death is always at our doorstep. Grief is always upon us. But we are never alone in it. We do stand together, holding the hands of our neighbors, the sheer force of connection bringing sustenance and strength.
These past two Sundays there has been a palpable joy among us. And yet some of us are in pain, or grieving, or struggling. But the joy remains, and lives alongside the grief. Our losses sharpen our joy, and our joy brightens our grief. We can hold both, and praise God at the same time for so many miracles.
Good People: You are not alone in this; we will hold your hand.