Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” - Matthew 5
When I took a break from ministry to stay home to raise my small children, I met my friend Maris.
She was a transplant to the area like I was, born and raised in Birmingham, AL.
and quickly became like a sister to me.
We had playdates several times a week and watched each others’ children.
We got together on Friday night, put all the kids to sleep in a big bed upstairs,
and told stories or laughed long into the night with our husbands.
We cooked meals for each other and shared truck loads of mulch and volunteered at school together.
We sang together in a local choir, and hosted block parties together.
The year Maris adopted two more children from Russia, however, things began to change.
The adoption had gone much faster than expected, and the children were a bit older as well,
so when all was said and done Maris suddenly had four children between the ages of 3 and 5.
Parenting became more demanding.
They had no relatives nearby.
It was harder and harder to hold the family together.
I guess I should have seen the hand writing on the wall, but I was shocked when Maris told me
they would be moving back to Alabama.
here were so many things about her that I come to associate as a fixture in my life;
it was hard to imagine life at school or in the neighborhood without her.
I wondered if maybe it was a sign that I should leave, too.
I felt sad and abandoned , as if she preferred her family to me, even though I knew she loved me
and that it wasn’t that kind of choice.
I didn’t say any of these things to Maris because I didn’t want to hurt her or make it harder for her to go.
I silently mourned her departure and all that she had meant to me.
But on her last day, we sat outside on my backyard patio and it all came out:
How hard it was for her to leave, how much she loved me and her life there
but that she needed the stability of her family and the pull that she felt toward home.
We cried as we shared about how God gave us to each other
and our sadness at the end of this special time in our lives.
We laughed through our tears as we remembered all the gifts of our friendship,
the birthday parties and crazy cakes and walks through the snow and conversations during swim lessons.
It was hard to say goodbye, but it was good to talk about all the things were grateful for
and sharing our sadness with one another lifted the load and brought an unexpected lightness to our hearts.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” Jesus said.
Blessed can also be translated as “happy.”
We don’t usually think of mourning as a happy state;
it is something we’d like to avoid if possible.
If we could hold onto those we love forever, we would!
And sometimes we just want to know when the pain of grief will end.
But when I think of that last day with Maris, I think I understand something about what Jesus was getting at
in this famous statement from the sermon on the mount.
It was a hard day—saying goodbye to Maris and all she represented to me
but it was also a good day because we acknowledged openly the gifts that God had given us in one another.
We were happy to remember all those gifts and to give thanks for them, one by one.
We were indeed ‘blessed.’
It’s been over 50th years since the ground breaking book, Good Grief by Granger Westberg was published.
In it he outlined 10 stages in the grieving process, a first in understanding the dynamics of loss.
Later Elizabeth Kubler Ross summarized the experience in five:
denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
Whatever analytics you choose, grief is a journey that you move through at your own pace
cycling through different emotions, revisiting others.
Throughout, however, there are moments of grace.
Mourning loss causes one to reflect on things we might otherwise take for granted.
It gives us an opportunity to say the things that most important: I love you, I forgive you, and Thank you.
And so in the end, grief can be good.
Like Maris and I remembering our times together, grieving can be a time of support and a litany of blessings.
Today is All Saints’ Day, the day in the church year where we remember our dead,
give thanks for their lives, and return again to the promise of the resurrection.
We lift up names today of people we love who have died in the past year
As well as those who we continue to love and miss, though they died longer ago.
It is indeed a time of mourning as we feel the loss of our loved ones.
But it is also a day of blessing.
As Christians, we do not believe that death is the end –
not of our relationship with our loved ones, nor in our relationship with God.
We believe that we are still connected to those we love in the communion of saints,
That community of believers from every time and every place.
We confess it every week in the Creed.
And when we gather for Holy Communion, as we will today,
we join the song of the faithful in heaven, singing, Holy Holy Holy!
We have a foretaste of the feast of Christ, that great reunion with all the beloved,
right here as we share the bread and the wine.
I once met a hospice worker in a hospital elevator who confessed she did not grow weary in her work
But rather was strengthened.
Folks expected that being with dying people would be sad, but she felt that working with the dying brought such meaning into life—hers and theirs.
Blessing and mourning, two sides of the same coin.
Blessed are those who mourn, Jesus said, for they shall be comforted.
Not only comfort someday in the great by and by,
But comfort now. Fortitude now. Consolation now.
Blessing and happiness are not some far off state that’s hard to attain
But right here, in the midst of the pain and confusion of our lives.
Right here, in the promises of Jesus.
Right here, at the Table of our Lord.
All Saint's Day