February 8, 2010

A Time to Mourn

This weekend, while he slept, Jesus called home one of the young ones in our church family. The summoning came without warning or a chance to prepare. I imagine devastated and shell shocked can’t even begin to describe the emotions of this 14-year-old boy’s family. One minute a mother is making cocoa for her still sleeping son and the next she’s covered with shrapnel from her new reality. All the members of this close, loving family are.

It’s the kind of moment from which you awaken with a start and gasp with relief that it was just a dream. But there was no waking.

My friend, a neighbor of the family, was there before the emergency personnel arrived. Her husband ran to the house first to try to provide CPR. But it was the son’s time. My friend made the calls that needed to be made. First to our pastor and then to the family’s closest friends. Within moments members of our church family arrived to provide support, comfort, prayer and a loving embrace. It didn’t matter that our area was in the midst of a major snow storm or that they had other things to do or that this was too hard. They were needed and they went.

Though I am not part of the family’s inner circle, I mourn nonetheless. We all do. We are connected and our entire church family grieves the profound loss. We weep and grieve together.

I look at outpouring of love that so completely envelopes this heartbroken family and am amazed at the immediacy and completeness of God’s love. Yes, this family has many other connections in the community, but it was the Church who responded first and took the lead. I saw this same overwhelming display poured upon our friend Kirsten and her family. In far too short of a time God is asking us to go this road again.

Jesus commanded we “love one another.” This is what that love looks like—brothers and sisters in Christ offering pure, all-encompassing, selfless love. Love that sometimes just offers a hand to hold and a simple prayer because that’s enough. Love that doesn’t wait to be told what to do, it just shows up. Love that has nothing to do with buildings or theology or denominations or egos or titles or agendas or committees.

This is what the Church looks like. The Church as Jesus intended.

Before Jesus, the presence of God dwelt in the Temple. After Jesus’ death, the presence of God dwells in his Church—a spiritual house made of living stones, powered by the Holy Spirit. “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21-22)

You and I, as believers, are the living, breathing Church. We are the hands and feet of Jesus.

We offer hope to the hopeless.
Light in the darkness.
Rest for the weary.
Love for the unloveable.
Comfort for the brokenhearted.

As a Church, Jesus makes our mission abundantly clear:
  •  Love one another. (John 13:34)
  •  Spread the Good News. (Matthew 28:19)
  •  Feed my sheep. (John 21:17)

When we do these things, others meet Jesus.

When we pour love on grieving friends, others see Jesus.
When we pour love on the Haitian refugees, others see Jesus.
When we pour love on addicts, the homeless, the hungry and the incarcerated, others see Jesus.
When we give a ride to chemo, hold hands, wipe tears, send cards, make meals and do favors—without expectation of repayment—others see Jesus.

When we love Jesus, we feed His sheep. And we love His people.

I think of all the time I spend in the “business/busy-ness of the church” and see how often I lose sight of Jesus’ three simple instructions. How frequently I get caught up in wanting my own needs satisfied. How quickly I forget that the Church isn’t a place, it’s a people.

Imagine what the Church would look like if I followed Jesus’ commands.
Imagine what the Church would look like if we all did.
All the time.

Right now our friends walk through a valley of darkness. Our mere words offer little. But we bring with us hope that only Jesus provides. It may be that they must walk this journey alone, but through our fervent prayers we stand in the gap. We lift them up to the throne of grace asking for an outpouring or love and comfort. For healing of the immense void and peace that passes understanding. I have confidence that through it all God is with us.

Love one another. Share the Good News. Feed His sheep.
This is what the Church looks like. The Church as Jesus intended.

It’s what we must do.


Kelly Combs said...

Good post, but sad. My bloggy friend lost her son in December to cancer and it is horrific. No mother should have to bury their child.

But yes, we need to be Jesus hands & feet. Even when it's not convenient.

Julie Gillies said...

Oh Kelli, what a devastating situation. My heart grieves for that family right along with you and the rest of your church.

You're so right...the body of Christ offering His embrace and comfort to those who mourn will help carry this family through.

I think I'll go hug my 14 year old daughter now.

Sue J. said...

"Love that doesn’t wait to be told what to do, it just shows up."

This is so true, but I think this is what paralyzes us sometimes. We always like to be in control; always like to say the right things. And, in the end, none of that matters, because a situation such as this is beyond anything that we can control or "make better".

But, God doesn't want us to wait until we come to some sort of understanding. As His people, He wants our presence, so that He can work through us and reach others. If we don't respond as He calls, we deny others the opportunity to see who He is.

"Does anybody hear them?
Does anybody see?
Or does anybody even know they're going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple,
With all its lost and lonely people,
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me...."

--Casting Crowns

I am so sorry for the loss that you feel--all too soon--today. We do mourn with you!

Runner Mom said...

Oh, Kelli! I am so sorry! Bless their hearts. I will be lifting the family and your church family up in my prayers.
Love you!

Sassy Granny ... said...

How devastating! My heart aches for the family & friends that must now walk the sorrow of this course.

I have learned that church is not where we go, but who we are (and what we do). It's God's plan A for reaching a hurting world with His Gospel ... a reaching that often entails tears, hands and cups of cold water. There is no Plan B.


Carmen said...

Through the depth of your feelings, you've touched me. I am reminded of when I lost a friend suddenly. They went over a cliff on a motorcycle, and she, a single mother, left two young teenage daughters behind. It was devastating, but the church was there too.
They may not need you now, Kelli, but when everyone has done what they can, and when they're on their own, remember them again...maybe even just with a card. They'll appreciate it so much.
A really devastating post, but very well done. Thanks Kelli!

Linda said...

This is beautiful Kelly. I stand with you, awed by the love and support of the Church -- our friends -- truly being the body of Christ. I have never felt the presence of Jesus as I did at yesterday's services. In the midst of that horrible, unthinkable grief, He was there. And He wept. As we all did and still do.

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm so so sorry for this family. I am so thankful though they are surrounded by those who care. That means everything, that I know as I experienced death like that in our family a few years ago. Knowing someone cares enough to just show up is enough.

Cheryl Barker said...

Kelli, I'm so sorry to hear this. What a tragedy -- for the family and your church family as well.

I love how you say that others will see Jesus through our loving touches. May you all continue to surround this family with Jesus...

Kristen said...

Heartbreaking. I am praying for your friend & her family.

Jody Hedlund said...

This really makes all of us stop to think about how we would handle such a situation if it ever happened to us. I have a 12 year old son with asthma problems and so I already worry about the what-if's. I know it's all in God's hand and in his time, but it doesn't make it easier!

Laura said...

This is so hard. My heart is crying with mother-love; mother-grief. I will pray for this precious family.