... but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. — Isaiah 40:31
When I got to the cemetery, the sexton was waiting at the closed gate. She asked if I was there for the funeral, and I told her yes, so she let me in. This was my first funeral in the context of this COVID-19 world.
No, my church member did not die of COVID-19, but she died in the middle of its wake, so not only in life, but also in death, she was impacted.
I met the fewer than 10 members of her family who were struck, not only with the grief of her loss, but the grief that comes with not being able to mourn properly. Her nephew announced, “I just can’t believe we are here without all the cousins.”
But still, we carried on; the funeral director pressed play, and “Amazing Grace” by Alan Jackson came out of a small speaker. Right about the time he pressed play, I noticed the sun peek out from behind the clouds. I felt the perfection of a cool spring breeze, and I listened as 1pm bells started to toll and birds sang.
Ok, God, I thought, we can do this.
I know that every funeral at this time will not look like this. But this was my first, and I’m choosing to believe that it contained a special kind of blessing from God.
Before all this started, I had been talking to my congregation about hope as not just a feeling, but gritty hope, as something we cling to for dear life. This is not the kind of hope that is captured in cliche sayings like, “Let Go and Let God!”
No, this is the kind of hope that stands in the face of death, with fewer than 10 people, and demands that the sun, the bells and the birds are God’s love revealed.
So as we stood in the wet grass, our feet sinking into the mud, I told them, “Maybe this is God’s blessing for us today. I know this isn’t how you wanted to say goodbye, but you have done well. You have done enough.”
Friends, few things are as we want them as we watch this worldwide pandemic grow, but if our hope doesn’t have grit, is it really hope at all?
So may we be resilient hope seekers because God will continue to show up among us, even amidst life, even amidst death.