Day 4: “Mourning” 08.06.18
Matthew 5:4 (NIV) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Matthew 2:18 (NIV) “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Rachel was not comforted despite her mourning. The Prophet Jeremiah is brought forward in the Gospel of Matthew in this passage. He spoke of it centuries before it happened. Herod has given an order to kill all of the little boys two and under in Bethlehem and the vicinity. The weeping of the mothers can be heard through the streets and out into the desert. Their children have been torn from them and no attempt at consolation will give them peace. They are without hope. Theirs is a pure and quintessential mourning. At this moment, the mothers hate life itself. Pure mourning.
After forty years of ministry, I look back on hundreds of funeral services at which I presided. I have watched mourners look upon the tiny casket of a one-month old baby and the polished coffin of a 99-year-old. In the former case, there is always palpable disappointment. Yet, we know that death comes to us all, especially at 99. But in my mind, I carry the picture of a beautiful young Mom leaning over the lifeless body of her one-month old daughter and refusing to let the her go. Her husband and the funeral director gently asking her to release the body. Sheer misery. And the husband, a hardened unbeliever, looking at me almost with distain because I had just preached about the love of God. He was not to be comforted.
We do a lot of mourning in life. Personal mourning at the loss of a loved one. Or a dissolved marriage. Or a lost job. Or our health. Often in those instances, the mourner remains hurt and hopeless and bitter. They may be comforted by others but often they simply live with mourning in their heart. In many ways, ours in a mournful world. We can expect pain. As Job said: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7 (NIV)
In our current day, 2018, we need only open the internet and see the tragic state of the world. Terrorism. Bombings. Constant acrimony between political leaders. Entertainers who peddle filth and blasphemy repeatedly. Surely, we are a culture that reminds us of the way Jeremiah described ancient Israel in their worldliness.
He said:Jeremiah 6:15 (NIV) “Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So, they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD.
There is a marvelous scene in the movie Cry the Beloved Country. James Earl Jones plays the part of a local South African Pastor trying to guide his poor flock. At one point, a wealthy man loses his only son…killed by inner city thugs that he was trying to help. The father’s bitterness cannot be measured. He is beyond heartbroken. After the funeral, he turns to his wife and says sadly “No one…. should bring children into this world!”
I am not indifferent or dismissive relative to such pain. But the words of Jesus in verse 4 are about a deeper mourning. THE TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS IS IN A STATE OF ONGOING MOURNING FOR THE WORLD! It is a spiritual mourning for the fractured creation in which we live. What started out as paradise soon became corrupted by sin. Death and breakage all around. Surely, we are living in a time when people have forgotten how to blush. We are mourning even on our best days…mourning for the death of the world God designed. It is that mourning that Jesus promises will be ended.
He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Here is the great news. We who belong to Christ will eventually live in a place where no one harms his neighbor, steals his wife, gets rich by running over others, cuts people off in traffic and generally curses God. It is a promise of Paradise beyond all imagining. As the Word of God says:
Revelation 21:1-4 (NIV) 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
I think as true disciples we would do well to consider “mourning” as our normal state. I don’t mean we should go about all day looking sad and being miserable because of the broken world. Yet, on one level, we are always aware of the loss of what God had originally planned for mankind. Including us. But we are constantly and quietly mindful that something is not right, and we feel an aching sense of mourning.
At some point, we need to be comforted now although the ultimate comfort will come when we live in the visible presence of God…in a world without sin! But here is a suggestion for right now as we live and enjoy the lives God has given us…even as we mourn. The KEY IS TO LOOK AHEAD! I’ve often thought that the great patriarchs were mourners who endured their deprivations because they knew what was coming.
The writer of Hebrews tells us this about Abraham:
Hebrews 11:9-10 (NIV) 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
The old evangelist liked to say, “Keep looking up!” That was sweet, but I think we should also say “Keep looking forward!” The day is coming when we will know nothing of any kind of mourning. That will be comforting!
Peace. Pastor Alberta