Journeying Through Grief

by admin on July 2, 2012

The Well at Springfield 32206Here is the message from yesterday’s worship gathering.  Feel free to share your thoughts/reactions/questions…

Journeying Through Grief
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. 17David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. 18(He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said: 19Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen! 20Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.21You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor bounteous fields! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more. 22From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, nor the sword of Saul return empty. 23Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 24O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. 25How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. 26I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. 27How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

After spending a little over a year with one another, I don’t have to tell you that we are a group that is constantly on the move.  I am not just talking about our level of activity as a new church, but about the way our individual journeys have taken us here and there and well, everywhere.  Just in this last year there have been trips taken to California, New York, Miami, Atlanta, the MidWest and even overseas!  There have been new journeys into marriage, recovery, employment, caring for aging parents and home ownership.

As a faith community, we are not only on a spiritual journey together, but we are also with one another on the physical comings and goings that fill our lives.  Lucky for us, there is evidence in scripture that God actually has a preference for nomads.  Just think about some of the central characters in God’ story – Abraham and Sarah were sent from their homeland to a destination unknown; the Israelites, God’s chosen people, followed God (and Moses) on a pilgrimage into the desert, waiting to reach the promised land; and, Jesus himself left home to teach and heal as he fulfilled the mission of God.

Our scripture reading for today introduces us to another biblical character who was also familiar with life on the move.  He was on his way to becoming king, but the journey had not been an easy one.  Before he would become King, David’s life would take many twists and turns, and would involve much loss.  As a matter of fact, he would continue to face loss even as he became Israel’s next leader.
We meet David today on a bitter leg of his journey, and in the passage that was read we are immediately able to sense the intense sorrow he felt over losing two people that had taken on significant roles in his life.

This is just a snapshot in a much bigger story that spans the 2 volume narrative of 1st and 2nd Samuel.  If we were to read the entire portion preceding today’s passage, it would come as no surprise that David lamented over Jonathan’s death.  After all, despite the strain between Jonathan’s father (King Saul) and David, Jonathan and David had become instant friends.  Jonathan defended David and warned him of upcoming trouble.  The two were best of friends, making a covenant together on several occasions to protect one another, and even risking their lives to save the other.

It is no surprise that David would grieve over Jonathan’s death, that he would express sorrow and sadness and deep pain.

The other source of David’s lament though,  does come as a surprise.  Despite all that Saul had done to make David’s life miserable, including trying to kill him on several occasions, David weeps over Saul’s death.  He sings a song of lament over Jonathan AND Saul and gave orders that all of Israel learn to sing this song, too.

Now, let’s be clear about the relationship between Saul and David.  Saul was the King, a man worthy of David’s respect because of his title, but Saul was David’s enemy and as long as he was alive, David was in danger.

It would have been so easy for David to grieve for Jonathan, but to be silent about Saul’s death.  It would have been understandable if he had breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed his sudden freedom from Saul’s persecution.  But, no.  David would not do that. He would grieve, mourn, and weep and he would make it mandatory for the citizens of Israel to join him.

David was certainly not perfect, and made several mistakes that would bring he and his family great harm; yet, it does seem that in this instance David knew something that many of us have forgotten.  There is a time and a place to mourn, not just for those who love us, not only over those who are like us, and not just for those with whom we have an intimate connection, but for those who suffer, for situations that have caused great pain, for people we don’t even know that live in ways we can’t even imagine.  David knew that there was a time and a place to grieve and that there is value in giving voice to grief over loss of life, over violence, over human failure, over greed and over death itself.

The words David speaks move from personal sadness to cries over injustice – the mighty have fallen – the consequences of war are too much – those who are beloved and lovely have died.

Our life’s journey will no doubt take us to places where the pain seems too much to bear. We will lose loved ones.  We will personally face heartache and injustice.   Those times deserve to be acknowledged and mourned.  We need to make space to listen to and comfort one another.

But, can we do something more?

As people of faith, can we give space and attention to grieve over those things that may not have impacted us personally?

Can we mourn for those who might on another side of a conflict from us or for those whom we may have never even known?

What would it look like for us to begin to acknowledge and cry out over the pain in our community, in our city, in our nation, and in our world?

Would it look like hosting a prayer vigil when there is another victim of violence in this neighborhood?  Would it look like writing a letter acknowledging the pain and hurt that has been inflicted on a particular group of people in our city or country?   Would it look like showing up at a stranger’s door to offer a meal because you don’t know them, but you know that they have lost a loved one?

Because we are Christ-followers on a journey, we know there is more is needed from us than grief over our own suffering.  We know that we are to enter into our neighbors’ suffering and to believe the words of Jesus to be true: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”.  We believe that it is in our willingness to be poor that we discover the riches of God.  We believe that God is present in suffering and that renewed hope comes as we offer our sorrow to God and as we share the journey, even the journey into grief together.


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