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 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.