Today, we wait.
We wait with “the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee … and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid; then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath day they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke chapter 23, from verses 55-56)
What sort of rest could that have been? Peaceful, and refreshing? I don’t think so. Rather, I imagine them fretting, longing for the sabbath to be over so that they could go to the grave and treat their Lord with the respect and devotion he deserved. For too long they had been forced to be nothing but bystanders; they wanted the opportunity to do something for Jesus. Like the woman with the perfume, at the house of Simon the leper just a few days earlier in Bethany, they intended to do a “beautiful thing” to Jesus.
This must ring true for so many families around the UK, and the world, right now. For the cousins, nephews, in-laws, sisters – all those related by family and friendship to those who have died, for they have been denied the opportunity to see their beloved at rest, to bestow one last kiss and one last goodbye, to weep at the graveside, to join together to support one another, to demonstrate together their affection and thanksgiving for the life of the person who has passed away.
Nor can it be easy for ministers and others who conduct funeral services, for the presence of others is a critical element in how that service unfolds. An audible sniff, a soaring in song, laughter as an annoying habit is described, smiles of recognition as a favourite piece of music is played – all of these responses contribute to the celebration of a life. The loud ringtone of a mobile phone that someone forgot to switch to silent may even be welcomed – for it might be the very thing needed at that moment to break the tension. Especially if the one who has died was one of those people who was never without their own phone! We who are at the lectern work together with those who are seated in front of us; we gather at the graveside to listen to and be supported by one another. Grieving should be a communal activity as well as an individual emotion.
All of this our Father in heaven understands.
So let’s turn to him now in prayer.
You are a God of LOVE
a God of POWER
a God of FAITHFULNESS
We believe that you hear our prayers
even those we cannot put into words
You bridge the chasm between life and death
between earth and heaven
between we who are alive
and our dear ones who reside
in your eternal kingdom
So, dear God, we simply ask this: give them our love
as they have given their love to us
We pray in the name of Jesus
who died on the cross so that we too might be raised to new life