Do not let your hearts be troubled..reflection on Grief

May 10, 2020   •  


The Reverend Michele H. Morgan

May 10, 2020

Easter 5A

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”    John 14:1-14

When my mother died I was 23 years old.  I knew she had been sick and either my Dad had not been as forthcoming as I wanted him to be or perhaps I only heard what I wanted to hear.  I was shocked when Dad called me and told me that I needed to get home.   That time was short, that my Mum was dying.

I got an airline ticket, and my sister Margaret picked me up with kids in the van on a hot steamy end of July/start of August day and tried to drive me to the airport.

I was understandably upset by all of it, I was not able to see past my own nose in all of this.  Would I know what to do?  Would I know how to sit by the dying?  Would I freak out?  Would I be able to say good-bye in a proper way?  What should I say?  What should I tell her?

So as we were going to the airport there was a problem with 35W.  A major freeway had buckled right under the 36th Avenue Bridge.  So all four lanes had to exit on to this one-lane ramp, and we had to go up and over and back on to the highway. It was a hot mess.

This reading from John’s Gospel is Jesus saying goodbye and disciples are having all the same feelings; that  I was having in the sweaty van.  Peter has a mere paragraph or two been told that he will deny Christ three times, and all of them heard that they will not act well either.

Do not let your hearts be troubled.

I wish I had heard that in the van, and perhaps like the words of my Father who art in Calgary I would not have heard them.   It is difficult to heard words of comfort when in a panic.  I was sure that I would miss my plane and miss my chance to see my mum.   Did no one in that row of cars understand could they not get out of the way?

I remember the fear and anxiety, the lack of control in that big blue van,  (a story from three decades ago) because of what is happening right now.   This time in the world is one in which, it’s brokenness.

Things that were had no control over, are still in play and not much way to distract from it.

  • Our country still divided those who want to open up everything and those who want to stay closed
  • People with a lot of guns and military-type flack jackets protesting at state caps and governors mansions
  • Yet another young black man, Ahmaud Arbery was modern-day lynched (if you do not know why  I am calling it this, Email me and let’s have a side conversation) as he went for a run in Brunswick Georgia.
  • Inequity of those who get to stay home and work, those who financially can not and the glaring economic and racial lines that are drawn.

Do not let your hearts be troubled

The new thing is that it feels all so much closer to our hearts, stay in place and global pandemic have given us time to contemplate many of these things and wonder what we can do, what should I do to change the world.  On top of it all it is not just the things happening to all those folks the heartache could enter our homes and our lives so easily.  Death feels close this week.  The death of two parishioners, Rick and Bao, the death and hospitalization of parents of our people who gather around this altar.   It is comforting to be told to not let our hearts be troubled.

It also can be difficult to hear John’s gospel say that Jesus is the only way to the father.  We use this gospel a lot when we do funerals in the church and I will admit I often stop the reading before we get to the part of the reading where it feels like we exclude everyone.  I do because Historically I know John’s community is hurt that they have been tossed out of worshiping with their Jewish Siblings.  I do it because that simple line in the gospel has caused a lot of anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-“ anything that is not like us sentiment” to hurt, kill and a lot of mayhem in the world.  SO please do not stop there, allow the part that is a comfort

We need to hear the world of comfort of not letting our hearts be troubled.  In a world where the upset of the world is very near and we cannot hide from it.  Brokenness for some of us sticks around.

Long after my mother’s death, after I returned from Calgary, I lived in a house right off of the exit that I so desperately waited to get through to get to the airport to get home to sit with my mother, to wait for death.

Did I do it well?  Not really.

Did I know how to sit with the dying; I learned my mum, she was my first teacher.

I did not freak out.

I said good-bye as best I could

Did I say the right things?  Some yes and some no

I did tell her I loved her.

Getting off that exit once a day, I felt the pang of it all.  I could not hide from any of it, I had to ask myself these questions and I had to make peace with it.  I could have pretended that my mum was still in Calgary and only deal with my grief when I had to.

I know it is different now, we will have to find a new way in and through this time, because for me I was able to show up physically for my mom.  Most of can not, we need a new way in and that is what God is always calling from us.  It is what the world always needs. Jesus knew he was leaving and tried to set the emotional table for his friends.  This is our work for a broken world.

We are asked to deal with the grief and the death, Jesus as a teacher invited his followers to do so, we are called to work on our grief with some acceptance.  I could not hide and we cannot hide from this grief and death and as Lindsey Jodrey wrote this week.

“Our naiveté may be gone, grief and death may be more and more evident these days, but perhaps there is salvation to be found. While we can’t save ourselves, may we be reminded that the God who saves has been unleashed in the world as love incarnate.

Love will conquer death. Love will find a way. This is true hope, even when our hearts are troubled.”  AMEN