This week's topic is bittersweet. Lisa-Jo has written about her friend Sara Frankl in her intro to this week's theme and all of us who have participated in her Friday invitation are very aware of Gitz's wonderful contributions each week. They will not come again. As I posted earlier today when I wrote this post, Gitzen Girl's chosen blog title is "Choosing Joy." Each and every one of her blog posts over the last three years is a reflection of Sara's intentional posture of doing exactly that - despite the restrictions, pain and isolation of a serious chronic disease. Over 600 folks have commented on yesterday's post, compiled by Sara's dear friend Shannon, where it was announced that Sara is now on hospice care and will not write again. I will try to do this topic justice tonight.
In all my years of pastoral ministry, I did both weddings and funerals; not often, as I was never 'the' pastor, but with some regularity. And typically, we think of weddings as occasions for laughter, high spirits and yes, joy.
And that is usually true. But if I'm being honest, I would have to say that some of the most remarkable experiences of my life happened at funerals, not at weddings. I'll try and ferret out why in this space, only skimming the surface in the alloted five minutes.
Certainly funerals, graveside services and memorial services are reason for tears, for sadness, for regret and for grief. BUT, they are also amazing times of celebration, story-sharing, deep connections between people who may not have seen each other in a long while and also - an acceptable place in which to worship God through lament. And what I love about lamenting is that it is REAL. And it almost always leads to thanksgiving and to praise.
Check it out in the psalms. There are more laments than any other type of psalm in our psalter. And every single one of them except one (I believe it's 88) ends with rejoicing of one kind or another. That to me, is the essence of joy: turning the corner from sorrow to praise.
Because let's face it, life sucks sometimes. Life sucks a lot of the time. It's hard to be human.* People and relationships break, wear out, get sick, die. But see, here's the thing: if you come together in community when those things happen, if you come together in worship as a community, little miracles start to sprout up. People laugh in the midst of tears. Memories come flooding in, both good and bad, but most often, the good ones win out. Grief is not an easy road - but oh, it's so much better to walk it with others, and to walk it with God.
Joy comes in the morning. And joy comes in the mourning, too. Oh, I want to choose joy!
*And I will add quickly here that life is also wonderful, beautiful, glorious and rich...at times. I took two minutes extra tonight to finish and added italics and photo after the buzzer.