You’ll never hear more bad theology than at a funeral.
One of the most difficult experiences in my pastoral career was in Ohio. A seventeen year old member of our church was killed in a car accident with her friends one night. The whole community was rocked, and as a result, several hundred came to her funeral. As one of the pastors, I stood with her parents in the receiving line, offering handshakes and hugs to mourners before they offered condolences to her parents.
If you’ve ever stood in those lines, you know that’s where people say some truly awful things. Things like, “God needed another angel in heaven.”
Really? God’s so needy he takes children? God can’t just make more angels?
Or, “Everything happens for a reason.” As though any reason is adequate to bring comfort in the midst of grief.
We say those things because we’re not good at grieving.
Other people’s grief makes us very uncomfortable. We feel an anxiety that makes us want to push all that away, to fix it, to do SOMETHING to make everything feel less awkward.
So we offer a cheap platitude because then we DID something and we can LEAVE and not feel like we’re abandoning someone.
Times like right now, when we’re not in the middle of the ickyness of grief, it’s obviously the wrong way to respond.
But what DO we do? How DO we respond to pain (and not just individual pain, but the pain in our culture, in our world)? What is a good, helpful, appropriate response to grief?
We’re going to talk about how to be WITH each other in our grief. To be honest about the pain, to bear witness with each other.