A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dave's Deep Thoughts - A Pool of Tears

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

Saying goodbye is never easy,
but I am betting it is tougher on the one who stays behind.

My mom, while she was living as a widow,
once asked me how my father could be so happy in heaven,
while she was grieving him so severely here on earth.

It was a reasonable question.
They had a marriage of 39 years and they would have told you
that they were even happier and more in love in the 39th year than the 1st year.

I told her that I believe heaven to be a place beyond time,
that those in the heavenly realm do not experience time as we know it,
When it came time for her to cross over,
which proved to be 24 years later,
her absence from my father would have been for him,
like a blink of an eye.

It was Mom that had to endure 24 years of loss.
I believe that was something that Dad did not and would not have to bear.

Such it is for the one left behind.
I believe it to be the more difficult path.

A few weeks ago,
I said goodbye to an old friend.
She has been part of my life for over twenty years.
We have spent much time together during those twenty-some years,
so many days filled with laughter and celebration.
I always wondered what my life would have been like without her,
and I can't begin to imagine it.

That's one reason saying goodbye is so hard.

The day was a warm fall day,
one of those Indian summer days when winter still felt far away.
It was sunny,
and the leaves were changing into their brilliant color schemes.
It would have been a great day for a picnic,
a far better way to spend the day, than doing what needed to be done.

She was very popular,
but oddly enough, 
not many came that day to say goodbye.
She loved to entertain
and it wasn't uncommon for many people to show up at her parties.
I never met anyone who wasn't glad that they had spent the day with her.
That's just who she was.

But today was different.
The laughter and celebration were swallowed up by the quiet.
There is something to be said for silence.
It is that womb that allows one to think,
think about different seasons,
and how quickly they seem to pass in our busy lives.

But when it is time to say goodbye,
everything seems to come to a halt.
All that is left is the preparations and the rituals and the pondering,
pondering what life would feel like with such loss.
That is until late spring.

That's right, late spring.
That's when I re-open the pool.

Oh………… you thought I was talking about a funeral.

No, I was talking about closing my pool for the winter.
Sorry for the confusion.

Now I realize that closing a pool in no way 
compares to saying goodbye to a loved one,
but there are similarities.....

When  the winter cover is placed on the pool,
how similar it is to the shroud used to drape a coffin,
symbolizing our death to sin and our covering by Christ.

It is hard to be patient in the cold of January,
 and wait for new life that will come in the warmth of spring.
It is sometimes just as hard to grasp at the gravesite,
that it is a portal and not a dead end.

When the pool cover is removed in the spring, 
the ice has melted and fresh water begins to circulate.
In our rising from the baptismal waters and our dipping the bread from the Eucharist cup,
we say "Death doesn't have the final answer! God does!"

This Sunday the earthly expression of the church remembers and celebrates the church triumphant.
We will remember all those who have passed on to the Kingdom eternal during the last year.

Those are difficult moments for those who grieve.
It's a challenge when sitting at a funeral to hear the words:
"O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"

All one needs to do is point to the coffin and say,
There! There is the victory!
There is the sting!
for it is what we are experiencing on this side of the river.

And yet, the Scripture is proclaimed,
because it is on the other side of the river where the song of victory plays on and on,
and where there is no more death, no more sickness, no more sorrow.

No more need for shrouds.
No more need for saying goodbye until the spring.
No more tears needed to be shed.

Sting removed.
Death vanquished.

This All Saints Day,
if you are grieving the loss of a loved one,
let it hurt.
The Lord understands. 
After all, He wept in front of Lazarus' tomb
even while knowing a happy ending was coming.

He knows what it feels like to be left with a goodbye that wounds,
but He also knows the healing in offering the first eternal hello.

After all, spring always follows winter.

"But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
through our Lord, Jesus Christ."
                                                       1 Corinthians 15: 57

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