Tuesday, November 20, 2007

God's Grief

I think I've written about the idea that prayer is two-way communication before. This post, for instance. It is through prayer that we communicate with God, but it is also through prayer that God communicates with us. And I don't think that that communication is limited to messages like, "this is what I want you to do." I think God is bigger than that, and what he wants to tell us is bigger than that. He wants us to know what he is like -- he wants us to understand his nature. He wants us to know that he cares about us, that he is concerned with what happens to us, not with just what we do. He want us to know that we are never alone in the world. And I think he can communicate all of that through prayer.

Sometimes I do think that we limit him by our definition of what prayer is. Sometimes I think that we consider prayer to be the time we are sitting still, heads bowed, hands crossed, forming words for God to hear. Prayer. Take it or leave it, God -- this is how we do it.

Could it be that prayer is bigger than that?

I went to Bill's funeral last week. The pastor who officiated had been Bill's friend. It was hard for her to do the funeral, because she loved the man who had died. I'm sure that that would be a very difficult thing to do. I also think that her obvious care for the person who had died was a way to minister to the family. It said, "This man mattered. He mattered to me. He matters to you. He mattered to all of us. He will be missed."

I also think that God wants to communicate that message to us, as well. I think God is saddened when one of his children dies. He created us for this life, he cares for us, he doesn't want to see us unhappy, and he knows when we are in grief. He understands grief, even if to him, death is not the end. Even if he has made it so that for us, death is not the end. Still, he wants us to understand that he loves us, he cries with us, and he is there for us in loss.

So, I'm wondering if the role of a pastor in a funeral is more than to just minister to the family and to show honor to the person who has died. I wonder if the role of the pastor is to communicate God's sorrow to his children. I know it sounds strange, but just forget the strangeness for a minute, and consider it this way. We can look at a person, and see his or her joy, but we can also see God's joy shining through another person. I wonder if officiating a funeral, when it is done well, can be a kind of prayer. We communicate to God, and through the minister, God communicates to us? I felt, as I watch Suzanne lead the funeral, that she was not only showing us her sadness, but God's sadness, as well. And maybe I'm not making any sense at all.

I think we know the nature of God better because of Suzanne, and the way she demonstrated sorrow at that funeral.

Image: Leaves near the VA parking lot.

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