Message from June 28, 2009

Sermon – June 28, 2009 
Scripture: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17 - 27 ; Mark 5:  21 – 24;  35 - 43

    A friend of my sisters- I’ll call her Mary – in her late sixties – told me a story that is becoming more common.  She had not heard from a dear, dear friend who was living in another part of the province...she had left messages at her apartment...and after 2 weeks of no response, she called the friend’s daughter.  She was told that her friend had died, that no one had been in the apartment much since, and was thanked for reminding her to disconnect the telephone.  In her shock, Mary asked meekly – when was the funeral.  “Oh, we didn’t have a funeral, we scattered her ashes up at the cottage where mom liked to be...she would have liked that”.  Mary hung up in terrible sorrow...her friend was gone, and she never got a chance to say goodbye.  That was years ago, and she still gets tears in her eyes when she tells the story.
    Reading the story of David’s reaction to the news that Saul and Jonathan are dead points us in the same direction:  we need to lament our losses.  As human beings we need to demonstrate in some way our grief and sorrow over losing someone we love.
    David was a ruthless man...even his days as a shepherd were filled with violence...killing the foxes and wild animals that attacked his heard...prepared him to kill the great giant, Goliath, as we heard last week.  He has grown now into a great warrior, his sword drips with blood, he knows no mercy upon the person who brings him the news of Saul’s death...read the rest of the story in the first and second books of Samuel...this man David is a leader, yes, but he is also a man of conflict...sometimes violent, sometimes loving.
    In today’s reading, David writes a lament for the loss of Saul and Jonathan. Now, remember that Saul had tried to kill him several times...there was a great rift between people who followed Saul and people who had allegiance with David.  It was important at this time...when Saul has just been killed...for David to make the right decision.  He could have taken up arms against the followers of Saul to his advantage, and asserted himself as the king by violence.  Instead he writes a poem of lament...extolling the virtues of his King and his love for the King’s son, Jonathan.  And he gave instructions that the lament not be sung in Philistia – for he doesn’t want the Philistines to be aware of the sorrow of the people.  Rather, he instructs that all of the people of Israel are to sing this song.  They are to lament this loss publicly. 
    In doing this, David lays his grief before the people.  He is vulnerable to being seen as weak.  He rents his clothes in sorrow....he makes public his suffering over the loss.
    In our culture, the western culture, we have lost our hold on ways to grieve.  Tearing our clothes never made it into European culture.  Nor did covering our bodies with ashes from the fire, or uulating as the people of Africa and the Holy Land continue to do...there is no keening in white societies...no people we can hire, as they do in India and Sri Lanka...to mourn loudly and incessantly in the funeral parade.
    In Canada...white people keep a facade of stillness...we apologize if we cry in front of others...we put on our faces...we avoid contact with people...we keep our grief hidden, masked, internal, and quiet.
    And we pay the price.  Internalized grief...unexpressed feelings of guilt...fear...anxiety...shame...anger...all of the feelings of grief turned inside for our souls to deal with..Our Church is a living Church and we want to share with you some of our activities.

Youth group has begun again, usually meeting every other Sunday at 4 p.m.  Watch for announcements about events and gatherings. All youth from grade 7 and up are welcome.  This is a group open to all - whether Church members or not.  Meet your friends, or bring your friends with you.  Contact Michelle Bull at michelle.bull@ns.sympatico.ca or Linda Winton at lindawinton@gmail.com.

The first Sunday of every month is Food Bank Sunday - we accept all non-perishable goods for the Berwick Food Bank, particularly canned fruit, canned milk, cereal, peanut butter and servings of fruit, puddings, or cheese that can be put into lunch bags for children.  Thank you for your continued support of this much-needed service.

 

.creates deep and lasting results.  Guilt and anger unexpressed and directed inward turn into self-loathing and self-defeating actions.  Anxiety and fear turn into depression and changes in our attitudes toward life...we lose our lustre, we become insecure and hesitant, we can turn into automatons...living but not feeling.
    And, remember my sister’s friend, Mary?  Her grief will remain unresolved until she can find a way to say a real goodbye to her dear friend.  She needs a lament...she needs to express how rotten she feels about the situation...she needs someone to listen to her anger and feelings of loss and betrayal...she needs something to remember in her soul that her friend has died, and that she has grieved that loss. 
    We meet at her home.  Around Mary on the sofa are pictures and cards...mostly Christmas cards with the letters that people send giving the annual news of the family. There is a postcard from Israel, another from China, and a funny one from the CN Tower in Toronto.  There’s a scarf that comes from Damascus, and a candle from Mary’s cupboard – it is purple like the scarf.  Earlier in the day, Mary and I had been to the beach in Oshawa where there are millions of large, smooth grey stones – they fit in your hand and you can feel the silkiness of the rock when they are wet. 
    We light the candle, and Mary puts the stones into a bowl...and as she does so, with each stone Mary tells me a story about her friend and their relationship.  Mostly its high school things, and then stories about them raising their first two children as neighbours, and then their battles with illness and each of them spending time on the telephone with support through the chemo and the surgeries.  And when she has completed that time of remembering, we have a time of silence and prayer together.  And then we take the stones out to Mary’s garden – it is a wonderful vibrant living place in the middle of June...and we place the stones between Mary’s favourite plants, and she weeps for her friend and lets go of that burden of anger and rage at having been forgotten by the family.  Mary pats the rocks and says her friend’s name as we turn to go back into the house and have a cup of tea.
    Mary has written to me recently – an email reminding me of that ritual of lament that we did together.  Her burden has lifted.  She is thinking of contacting her friend’s daughter soon to invite them out to tea and the garden – Mary’s strength of forgiveness and compassion is returning.  She has a new foundling cat that she has named Mugs – a codeword for her friend.  Mary’s life continues now with that phase over, but not forgotten.
    David’s story tells us a great deal about grieving and the human soul.  Deep within us we need to recognize that we are intimately connected with others – with people and with our animals and birds that become our companions on this journey. Within us, we have this yearning to make meaning from our every day experiences, and to remember the connections that keep us whole and alive.  And, I believe, we need to grieve...we need to express our losses...so that we can begin to heal – even to sing in the face of great loss.  Because we don’t deny ourselves that time in the desert, we can embrace the flowers of the gardens in June with greater delight and appreciation.
   
Let’s turn now to Hymn #278 in VU and read together the words...and then we can sing it together quietly.