Last night our Faith Study looked at the words, “Blessed are those who mourn” as we dig deeper into the Beatitudes. Author Erik Kolbell talks a lot about the context of the Beatitudes, “Jesus had no visible means of income and did not know from night to night where he would lay his head to sleep. In response to their following him, he offered his disciples little in the way of security but much in the way of risk.” Kolbell tells his reader that “our lives are lived in a series of lives and deaths, comings and goings, gains and losses…Experience will be gained, and innocence lost. S/he will for a time be convinced – as most people are – of her/his own invincibility. The one day someone young will die, and s/he won’t believe in that anymore.” The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that nothing lasts forever. “Our salvation lies not in denying the inevitability of loss but in learning how to fold it into our lives, learning how to mourn, and, perhaps more importantly, how to use mourning.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel says that the opposite of life is not death but indifference.” Life is affirmed in grief because grieve means something has stirred our passions. Indifference is tragic because it risks nothing. “Finally, mourning is theological. God’s covenant with Jacob didn’t insulate Jacob from the loss of his youngest son to slavery, nor David his son to war, nor Mary her son to execution. Faith doesn’t preclude loss but neither does loss preclude faith.”
Many find in death the opening of a cause, an opening, an injustice, a need for healing, that those who mourn can dedicate themselves to mending.
Theologian Paul Tillich said shortly before his death, “I do not fear death, only dying alone; a death of no consequence.” A death that means something is one that brings life to another, comforts another with the salve of its own wounds, as Jesus’ wounded side did for doubting Thomas. If mourning is Good Friday from God’s point of view, comfort is Good Friday from Christ’s.
“We may or may not have taken the world by storm, but each in his or her own way has weathered her or his share of storms, and I really think that deepened and strengthened our love for one another.” Small wonder that the word comfort is derived from the Latin fortiere, “to fortify”.
We ended on one of my all-time favorite quotes, “In the depths of my despair when people came to visit, I appreciated the ones with the good casseroles far more than the ones with the bad theologies.”