Remembrance Sunday 2018 - Kyle Hanawalt
Today is a special Sunday for our community - Remembrance Sunday -
Each year we take a Sunday to talk about and process and engage something all people experience but that can be hard to talk about and process and engage - grief and sorrow.
Today we set aside some time to remember Loved ones lost by people in our community
I think grieving and remembering those who we have lost can be a challenge in our current culture - we live in a time and place, in modern america, that has very little structure or space to grieve, to process death.
I would say compared to almost every other culture ever, we are less set up to know how to deal with the loss of those we care about. But, traditionally it has been spiritual communities like this that have helped people in times of loss. And we being such a community as this, feel it to be part of our role to help create some space to process, grieve.
This last year I lost my Grandmother - Iona Chandler. She had lived a long and good life, her husband, my grandfather had passed a couple years prior. She and my grandfather had met as teenagers, and so I think it was fair to say that she was ready to join her husband. I actually found it all surreal going to their house without either of them there. And as we were down in Springfield, MO, where they lived their whole life - I think I went through about a dozen different emotional states. I was sad, sad to know that I wasn’t going to see her again. Sad to look at pictures of what she looked like at the end, so frail. I was sad for my mother, seeing her process the lost of her own mom. Then, I felt thankful - felt thankful for all the stories we were able to share, the impact my grandmother was able have in her life. I felt thankful as I heard stories of her fearlessly standing up for the other women in the factory where she worked in the face of sexual harassment from superior. She was a fierce woman, who stood up against what she thought was wrong - even in a time with little actual recourse and taking risk to do so. I felt Thankful for all the ways I am who I am because of my grandma, the inheritances of who she and my grandfather were, and how they passed that to my mom and she to me. I felt thankful to be there with my mom and my family, to feel like we sharing something important - to feel like I was able to be there for my mom, who for so so much of my life has been there for me. I felt confused - how do we remember the life of flawed people. My grandparents were awesome! But they also had flaws, because they were human. How do I remember them in death. Do I just think of the good parts, or this actually dishonest to their memory. Or am I dishonoring them by dwelling in any of their flaws. Do I learn from their life, or is that trite, their life isn’t an object lesson. I should just let myself feel moved to emotion. I felt scared - It made me think of my own death and the inevitable death of my parents. I felt scared as I thought of my kids and how they would manage without me. I felt anger and regret - that I hadn’t spent more time with my grandparents. That I didn’t try harder to learn from them or hear the stories of their life. And then on top of that I started to notice how differently the people around me were processing it. Some just wanted to tell good stories, just remember the good of her life - didn’t really even want an official ceremony. Others were longing for something to mark the moment - to have something to bring about a sense of closure. And I say all of this, in part because I find it cathartic in processing my own loss, but also in part to acknowledge how complex and varied our grieving is. That I don’t think there is a one size fits all - this is how you grieve. People process death differently, engaging the emotions grief stirs up in different orders, at different paces, with different levels of intensity - Sometimes we just need to be sad and cry Sometimes we need to feel the hope and belief that this is not the end - death is not the end Sometimes we need to be thankful and remember the good. And sometimes we need something else entirely And furthermore - I don’t think all death is created equal. How we process the death of someone like my grandmother - someone who lived a long and good life - is different than how we grieve and process the death of a friend, a sibling, a child, or a parent who died far too soon. In the end - there isn’t a right way to grieve - but I do think we need to grieve - We need to create space to grieve - because current modern american life is going to leave space for us grieve - If we don’t create it For me, I was really appreciative that I drove to my grandmothers funeral - it gave me a lot time to process to think, to grieve. But, honestly - I don’t think I have finished grieving - Once I got home - I jumped right back to life. And so, I really appreciate today, and I am going to use the space provided today - to ask God to help me continue to grieve.
I was listening to the This American Life podcast this last week as I was preparing for this Sunday
And in this particular episode - they followed a women who had lost her daughter in Aurora Colorado Movie theater shooting - as she traveled to help console those who had lost loved ones in other shootings - In this particular case - it followed her as she went to comfort people after the Stoneman Douglas shooting of last year.
And there is this moment when see sees a young man caught in grief - and she just walks up to him and tells him. Put your arms around me - and as soon as he does - he just starts to wail - And as she is hugging him she says - It’s ok, it’s ok. It’s not ok, it’s not ok. Be angry, be whatever you need Let it all out, let it all out I am so sorry, I am so sorry.
And in hearing this - I just had this really strong sense of, that is exactly how God longs to meet us in our grief. Jesus shows us God is like this mother who lost her daughter -- God is not lofty and high, removed from grief. God has visited grief himself. He is deeply acquainted with it. And he is, as a result, never uncomfortable with our’s. He seeks us out in our grieff, as this mother sought out the families and friends of the Stoneman Douglas victims, So that he can hold us. And for some of us, to tell us It’s ok. Tell us it is going to be alright. That death is part of life That death is not the end - that they are with him now. And for others - to tell us - It’s not ok You can feel angry - you be upset - you can ask why - you can be angry at the unfairness of it all That you can feel like death is not ok, that it isn’t right But in the midst of whatever feels helpful to us - he is saying and asking us to let it all out - let it all out - That he is so sorry, so sorry. Empathizing with us. Accessing his own grief to share our grief.
I think there is a temptation to want to say the right thing in the face of grief - and this can lead to us missing the truth that many times there isn’t a right thing to say. That really - what we most need is a space and person, a safe place to process and grieve however we might need or want to in that moment.
I think that was the case for me, and as I am someone who is adpt to look to the Bible for help in this, I think we see this particularly in the psalms.
That there is not one way to process loss - That sometimes we might just need to be angry, even angry at God
Like we see in in psalm 44 -
Awake! Why are you asleep, O Lord? Arise! Cast us not off forever! Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression? For our souls are bowed down to the dust, our bodies are pressed to the earth. (Psalm 44:24-26) Or psalm 13 How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? (Psalm 13:2-3) Again, in this I think we see that it is healthy to at times say this is not ok. Be angry
Or sometimes it is helpful to speak the reassuring words to ourselves that it is ok Like we find in Psalm 4 Many say, “Oh, that we might see better times!” O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us! You put gladness into my heart, more than when grain and wine abound. As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you alone, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling. Or like in Psalm 23 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
All of this to say - today our goal is to provide a space to move forward whatever grief is a part of your life, and we want to encourage you to use that space however you need. And to those of us here not currently grieving - we invite you to help us this morning by being here for those who are, and by praying with us.
And I would love to invite Vince up here to help me. As an act of remembrance to do together as a community, we are going to light a candle for each of the loved ones lost this last year by people in this community.
Pray "God, we look to you now, we ask you to help us perceive that you are here with us... and we hand those we've lost into your care..."
If you would stand with me I would love to pray