In the past few months I’ve been in two hospital rooms. In the first room, less than a day after he was born, I held baby Simeon in my arms. We prayed a blessing on the gift of life, the miracle of birth. There were tears. And then in another hospital room, less than a day before Rhea died, I held her hand. We prayed a blessing on her long life, and asked for the gift of death for this woman who was suffering. There were tears.
Yesterday we had a funeral for our sister Rhea, who died at 86 years of age. People who loved her gathered. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends, neighbours, church members. We came to say good-bye in the context of worship. It is in God’s house that we frame the final farewells, close the casket, say the blessings. We walk together to the cemetery and lay Rhea’s body in its final resting place with prayers. We walk back to the church. We eat, we talk, we remember. We are still sad.
As much as we believe in the resurrection, as much as we believe in God’s care across the boundaries of life and death, we are still sad. There is one person less at the quilting frame on Mondays. There’s an empty chair on a certain side of the church. A household is missing someone on Martin Road. Many hearts feel hollow because of this death. And so we carry that grief, and we will carry that grief, right back to worship on Sunday.
It’s in worship that we welcomed baby Simeon. We gave thanks for a new person in a house on Dufferin St. Thanks for a new voice in our church meetings. Many hearts are filled with love because of this birth. We get to take turns carrying Simeon, and our joy, and we carry that right back to worship.
We are a community together, in the beginning and in the end. In worship we stand before God with these full hearts, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying.
A prayer for these times: God of this world, here we are. We come to worship not because we understand all mysteries and all knowledge and have all faith so as to move mountains. We come for love, for your love, for your love which surrounds us and sustains us. Hold us close.