Sunday, January 6, 2013
Special Note: This post comes from a piece I prepared and shared recently at the funeral of Marc Goodman, the son of friends Vern and Pat. This is to honor the Goodmans (Marcia and Victoria included) as well as other families who know what it is to lose one you love during the Holliday Season.
Being an artist, Marc could have told you something about the two faces, the two masks - one with a smile, the other a frown; one expressing joy, the other grief, sorrow, disappointment. They go back to the ancient Greeks, who loved the theater, and are iconic yet today for the performing arts. They are comedy and tragedy and they seem to bracket the human experience.
These two opposite extremes are often explored and experimented with in a relatively safe environment – the stage. But art imitates life and life is tragedy, comedy and everything between. To be fully human, to fully inhabit our humanness, to be fully alive and to fully engage the time and space given for life is to be acquainted with both tragedy and comedy.
I am not talking about a narcissistic pursuit of pleasure or a masochistic ploy for pain. No thrill seeking and no giveness to despair, but by taking life down the middle of the road, both masks will finally find us by natural course.
It would seem that one mask tempers the other. If we never knew sorrow, our laughter might become cheap and shallow, a naive laughter that relies on ignorance for its bliss - an insincere, untested joy, lacking credentials. Without the mask of tragedy the mask of comedy may be nothing more than a staged performance -cheap laughs gotten by the idiocy of a court jester yielding no residue of meaningful, enduring joy. And tragedy without meaningful enduring joy eventually leads to hapless despair and heartsick hopelessness.
For those who struggle with the unexpected loss of a loved one today, appropriate grieving will eventually bring healing. The unhealthiest thing we could do is to remain denial about what has happen and try to live above the sorrow. I don’t understand how the Spirit of God can use grief to heal, but it is a wonderful and marvelous truth…It is grace.
But not everyone is quick to embrace this. Isaiah prophesied of one “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa 53).
So I wonder if he was despised and rejected because he was a man of sorrow and suffering? And it might be said Jesus acknowledges the issue when he says,
"To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.' For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." 'But wisdom is proved right by all her children."
John’s gospel says the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. That in him was life and that life was the light of men. We could say he fully embraced the human experience and played his role in life neglecting neither mask. Still, he came to his own and his own did not receive him, so we just have to ask, was he not received because he was not recognized and did he go unrecognized because we did not expect our God to fully inhabit the human experience?
He embraced the sorrow and the joy, so we have a High Priest that is touched and moved with the feelings of our infirmities. Because he fully embraced the human experience, he is able to fully redeem it. That is to say, though we grieve our grieving is not without hope. Sorrow has an appointed end.
My grandfather was a minister with the Church of God in Illinois for many years. After his death it was not uncommon for someone to stop me to say how he had blessed their life or to share some funny story about him – he loved life and living.
One such person told me this story; “I was a young man, fresh home from Bible College and I was discouraged, disillusioned and, quite honestly, ready to throw in the towel. I confided in your Grandfather who suggested we go for a walk. As we walked he said nothing most of the way. We walked in silence. Then, approaching the end of our walk he stopped, turned to me, looked me in the eye and called me son. ‘Son, one day…it will all be worth it.’ That was all he said. And that was all I needed to hear.”
A reprisal of my grandfather’s words may be timely just now; “One day…it will all be worth it.”
We will have what we have been waiting for and hold what we have been hoping for, and as the songwriter says, “My faith shall be sight.”
>The dream becomes reality.
>Sowing becomes reaping.
>Pain will wane to pleasure.
>The famine becomes a feast.
>Fasting will cease for the banquet.
>Sacrifice becomes sweetness.
>What was out of reach will be embraced.
>The lost found, the stolen returned.
>The destroyed will be redeemed.
> The unholy become sanctified.
>The sullied becomes saints.
>The deformed will be reformed.
The heavens will open up and a white horse mounted by the King will charge in upon time, depleting the world of its faulty perception of reality.
>Finally, his kingdom will come in fullness with every knee bowing, every tongue confessing.
>The sea will give up its dead while cemeteries rupture with resurrection and the grave becomes a womb.
>The earth filled with his glory.
>We will need no preacher, teacher or prophet,
>No steeples, spires, or crosses,
>No church building, board meeting or budget.
>Angelic choirs will be displaced by the song and singing of the redeemed.
>We will be guests at the perfect feast, hosted by the Prince of Peace.
>We will hear him say, “Well done.”
> What was invested will pay off.
> What was endured will recompense.
>What was counted loss will produce a prize.
>Him that we cannot see - we will see.
>We shall behold him.
>“We shall see him as he is and we shall be made like him.”
One day…But until that day:
“I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, toward the goal, the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. (Phil 3:8-14)
Until that day we stand. Having done all we stand and remain valiant, ready for the fight, counting all loss for Christ, believing, enduring, suffering and celebrating.
Until that day:
> Every song sung is down payment on eternal singing.
>Every laugh is in lieu of forever laughter.
>Every present celebration is in anticipation of the gala event of the ages.
Until that day:
> Every wedding hints at the coming of our Bridegroom.
>Every vow speaks of his covenant with us.
>Every reception held down here on earth reminds us of the great banquet he has prepared.
Until that day:
>Every saint’s funeral anticipates resurrection.
>Every baby born speaks of eternal youth.
>Every sermon preached calls to mind the Word/Spirit made flesh.
Until that day:
>We live in anticipation of that day,
>The already/not yet,
>Abiding incomplete understanding, healing, and prosperity…until that day.
One day - and it will be exactly that: one day.
>One day with no night,
>One eternal morning,
>An eternal day without end - One day…