Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tears of heaven...

This morning I found myself taken over by tears during the hymn
before my message.  It is a hymn I first heard years ago at Bea Wightman's funeral. An old colleague from Michigan's mother was a member of my congregation in Tucson. And when she passed, he asked if we might use "The Hymn of Promise" in her memorial service.  It is lovely:

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me. From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery, Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

A couple of background notes:  1) One of my dear church members and an even more precious band mate sings a descant to this hymn that is stunning; it is even more so as this hymn was dear to her beloved but now deceased pastor from Wisconsin: to hear her soar on the high notes a midst her own tears is very moving to me; 2) Half-way through singing this hymn today I realized where I first heard it - at Bea Wightman's funeral - and then as I remembered this I also recalled that later today I was going to be in worship with Bea's son - my old colleague - who was the preacher at this afternoon's gathering of Congregational people meeting to honor our African American church's 168th anniversary.  And, then of course, I have been in deep prayer and grieving over two beloved people very close to my heart:  my buddy from Tucson, Roger, and a dear man in my Pittsfield congregation, Rick.

So, as my tears overwhelmed me this morning as I was about to share my reflections on I Thessalonians 4 - we do not want you to grieve, beloved, as those who have no hope - it seems that my sweet friend Rick was dying. Just as I was about to lay down at 4 pm for a quick nap, his wife called to let me know that at about 8:45 am Rick slipped away quietly and in peace. I knew he was close - we had talked about letting go and resting deeply in God's love on Thursday during the blizzard - but I didn't know it would happen so fast. But it did - and while I am heart sick with missing him - I am also deeply relieved that for Rick all sickness and pain are ended.  Indeed, we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

So tonight I will drink a toast to my dear friend who has just gone home to the Lord, watch a little "Downton Abbey" with my honey and steel myself for working on his funeral next week. It is a beautiful but agonizing thing to love so deeply... it is in times like this that I feel a bit of the mystery and I give thanks to God.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Background: it was written by Natalie Sleeth for a dear friend of hers who was dying of cancer. Years later, she herself succumbed to cancer. We sing this one a lot in the UCC here.

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