So I’m going to be real with you right now, I’ve been having a rough week… no vomit on the carpet this time, so that’s a plus, but I did have one sick kid who kept waking me up but that’s like all the time so that isn’t what was bothering me this week. And if I’m honest with you, I’m not even exactly sure if I know what was bothering me. All I know is that I was bothered.
That ever happen to you? You can’t exactly pinpoint the exact root of your issue, but you know there is an issue. For me, it could be because of the stuff that happened last weekend, as I mentioned a colleague of mine suddenly passed away. And while we weren’t super close, we still had interaction enough that I will miss her. And then that whole Humbolt Broncos tragedy, and while I didn’t know a single person on that bus, but it did remind me of the fragility of life, how precious every moment is, and how we just never know when our last day is our last day.
All this of course, made me think of my dad, who as you know passed away last summer. I did find myself this past week at his graveside, thinking about how much I surprisingly miss him. And I say surprisingly because my dad and I never had that good of a relationship, nor did I even see him that much outside of planned family gatherings. I wouldn’t go over to just hang out with him like my siblings did. I wouldn’t call him on special days like Father’s Day or his birthday unless my mom reminded me to do so. I didn’t even cry at his funeral to be honest. I cried pretty much every day around his funeral, but not that actual day.
So I thought I was ok. I thought I was being strong. I thought that my years of facing death, death of family members, death of friends, death of the family members of friends, and then death of parishioners, I thought that prepared me for death… that I could handle it.
And so when someone like my dad, who is obviously close to me in relation but not so much in relationship, well sure it will be tough but I can handle it. I can manage. I can push through because death is just another part of life and I, as a pastor who has seen a lot of death, am better equipped to deal with it.
So I was in the office almost every day of my bereavement leave after my dad died. I refused any help offered by my friends and colleagues. I put up a front of strength and resilience and lived comfortably behind my walls and locked doors. I didn’t take time… to just mourn. And here it is… rearing its ugly head and breaking my heart again or for the first time or maybe just… still.
So this whole past week was just full of this. I was out of focus, I was unproductive, I even missed a scheduled meeting on Thursday. And I tried to push through, I really did, but I’m starting to realise more and more… I’m human too.
Now, before you charge me $200 for a therapist fee (thanks for listening by the way), what I mean is that I feel that sometimes as a pastor, I put too much on myself thinking that I can handle it when I obviously can’t. At least, I can’t to the degree that I give myself credit for. I sometimes lean on my knowledge and faith and think that I can do this because I have to. I can do this to show others that it can be done. I can do this because I am me.
Well, me is just human.
A human that has emotions, can get hurt, and needs friends. A human that needs to listen to his body and sleep when sleep is required, find support when suffering, and eat when hungry. A human… with a life full of history and scars.
Basically, a human just like any of you. A human like all the humans throughout history. A human… just like Jesus.
See that is the thing. Here I was thinking that I was so self-righteous, so self-sufficient, so self-reliant that I could just save myself. Guys, Jesus didn’t even do that. When Jesus was hanging on the cross people mocked him “save yourself!” and he didn’t. Whether he could or not is an entirely different theological discussion, but the fact is that he didn’t. He just hung there. He took it. Leaned into the pain and lived as fully human.
So I think I could do better?
The risen Jesus appears in front of his disciples and proves that he is who he is not by the comforting stuff he says or the healing stuff he does or by feats of strength and might, but by showing them his scars. By telling them where he was hurt. By revealing the pain he went through. The proof wasn’t in invincibility, but it was in fragility. The mark of a human isn’t in strength and resilience, but in hurt and emotion. The good news of the resurrection is that there is healing and restoration, but for that to happen there first has to be brokenness and pain.
And man alive, do I feel broken.
Resurrection doesn’t mean that we break once and are healed and that’s it, either. It doesn’t give you some kind of immunity from pain like some kind of vaccine shot. It isn’t a one-time deal that has to be used sparingly. Rather, resurrection happens again and again, because we hurt again and again. We feel pain again and again. We are broken, we suffer, we die a bit inside throughout the ups and downs of life, and through it all, the resurrection is there to give us hope, to give us healing, and to give us peace.
I mean, even after Jesus appeared again he was hungry. He still had ongoing needs. He still was human.
The promise of resurrection isn’t that we will be strong and unable to be brought down and be free of sorrow and raw emotion. But it is a promise of community, support, and healing and new life beyond our suffering in that we will get better, we will be risen up out of the depths of sorrow, we will be comforted by the peace breathed upon us by the grace of God.
I mentioned earlier that this bad week that I’ve been having could have been triggered by what happened with the Humbolt Broncos hockey team. In case you haven’t been at all in any contact with anyone in Canada in the past week, the situation is that there was a horrific traffic accident that involved a transport truck and a bus carrying the team to a playoff game, resulting in a lot of injuries and death… not just in the literal sense but also the metaphorical as many people around the country are still reeling from this.
Last Sunday, there was a vigil held for those killed in the accident, and the team chaplain Sean Brandow gave a heartfelt message of hope in light of the accident. Here is an edited clip of the parts that really spoke to me:
I don’t know Sean Brandow, I didn’t even know there was such thing as a team chaplain, but as I watched this for the first time there were two things that I couldn’t stop thinking about: first I thought this guy really looks like comedic actor Seth Rogen.
Second, I felt scared for him. It is hard to preach already especially at a funeral, but to preach in front of people so fresh in their grieving, to preach in front of so much pain, and have the Canadian Prime Minister present… he must have been really nervous.
But he nailed it. Those 4 words that he needed to hear for comfort aren’t just words of comfort, but they are the fundamental truth of who we are as humans. They are the foundation of life and community. They are the source of our healing and peace.
“You are with me.”
Four words. That is it. Four words that are often over looked in the very famous Psalm 23, but they are there. You are with me. Even though we face some of the hardest points of life, you are with me. When we feel unbearable brokenness and suffering, you are with me. When we are having moments or weeks or months of utter sorrow and pain, you are with me. And you bring with you healing.
You are healing me in community, in the people around us offering care and support. You are healing me in relationship, as we lean on loved ones to help us through whatever we’re going through. You are healing me in the midst of my fears, my hurts, my humanness and you give me peace.
Peace that comforts. Peace that restores. Peace that resurrects us back into life. Not a life that is free from any future kind of pain, but a life that is full of the joy in knowing that there is healing in the pain. Not a life that is invincible and can never feel broken, but a life that is plugged into community and draws strength from it. Not a life that can never end in death, but a life that carries on in spite of death.
In this new life, may we find that healing that we so desperately need. In this new life, may we find that community in which we can feel supported and cared for and trust that we will not be alone. In this new life, may we see God through Jesus, scarred by pain and brokenness, hungering for relationship, and bringing us peace.
As we continue in this Easter season, may we witness God present in our lives and in the lives of others, as we continue living in relationship and community, granting us support and healing through all the ups and downs that life throws at us. Peace to the friends and families of the Humbolt Broncos. Peace to the friends and family of Reverend Dyanna Noble. Peace to all us humans, in need of healing. Thanks be to God. Amen.