|Posted by jeffdoucette on June 15, 2018 at 8:10 AM|
4 23 Jesus[c] went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news[d] of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, and he cured them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
How does one even begin to prepare to preach at the funeral of a 24 year old who lived in the world of drugs and jail and was murdered? For me, like any other funeral…I begin by meeting the family at their home and ask them two questions: (1) What name did your loved one go by the most? (2) Can you tell me some stories about them? So let’s look at those two questions…
(1) What name did your loved one go by the most?
Names are important…they were thought out at a young age by parents who had hopes and dreams for this child before birth. With that came lots of worries and questions. But finally a name was settled upon. There is always a reason as to why the name was important.
(2) Can you tell me some stories about them?
This can be hard to begin for some…grief catches up in our throats, relationships come into play, the moment surrounding their death can be a little too fresh. But eventually they begin to share some stories…some good, some that make them laugh, some that bring tears, some that bring anger, some that bring about a longing for years ago.
So for me these two questions were important. Because I wanted in the midst of their son being murdered to remember his name…the name of their boy they loved into life with hopes and dreams. I wanted them to remember in the midst of the names he might have had tagged on him because of his life circumstances, that he was first and foremost their son whom they loved…despite what he lived and how he died. And this was evident in their words as I met them both.
The stories were important because as well as acknowledging the pain, I wanted them to remember Kyle in those moments of light and love. But grief and the questions of “What could I have done more or differently?” can often take over. I want them to remember that their son was first and foremost “their son…birthed with love into life”.
This gathering at the funeral home was biblical, was touching and gut wrenching. As one described the funeral who knew the dad said “It was filled with sex workers, street people and addicts… When you urged people not to give up on themselves, to believe that they are loved by God—well, I’m sure there were a few there who did not want to hear anything like that, but I personally think you planted some amazing seeds that will bear fruit some day.”
In my closing remarks I did say to them…Never let anyone tell you that you are anything less than Children of God. I implored them that if they found themselves in a hole desperately trying to get out…to keep reaching out. There were groups and people willing to be there for them.
We allowed a chance for people to share stories of Kyle and share they did. Some stories brought out laughter and some tears. It was full of raw emotion and some had self medicated to be there to try and mask their pain. And we all walk through the fog of grief the best we can. I told them that we can never reduce people’s lives to how they died…but those moments of light and love in their lives.
Afterwards many young people gathered outside the funeral home and brought a car up on the sidewalk and listened to music and wrote messages on a painted piece of plywood and opened a bottle of something and sprayed it over the messages saying “this is how WE mourn, not like that in there…” and that was as sacred as what we did inside. This was their church and I am not the least bit insulted. I am grateful that the funeral home allowed them their space to do this. I heard two of the people from the funeral home mentioning it going up the stairs…I quickly responded “They are grieving together”. This might have let them leave the young people be and I am glad they did.
I preached on the Beatitudes…I did not do an altar call, or a come to Jesus moment or shake my finger and tell them this is what happens when you live that life. I actually choked up a couple of times. I could feel the raw pain in that room. Kyle had frequented the youth homeless shelter where I worked before I went back into church ministry. So I have heard the stories of youth who have been kicked out, or into drugs, or had been molested, or lived with mental illness, or were coming out of jail.
And at no time did I judge them…instead like at the funeral yesterday I simply reminded them to never let anyone tell them they were anything less than children of God. At the shelter I did not use these words…but I did so in my actions. I tried to help them find housing and financial support and medical treatment or mental health help. Most of all I wanted them to know they were safe at the shelter.
Yesterday I wanted them to know that God had a place for those who lived with great pain, who could not find a way out, who struggled so horribly with life. I reminded them of the disciples who grieved their own friend Jesus who was murdered at 33. I reminded them as the disciples did to gather together, to look out for one another, to tell Kyle’s story and find hope and believe in their goodness.
Most of all I prayed hard for the right words at the right time in preparation and the actions to back them up. I went early and talked with people, I hung around and talked with people and I shed tears. Ministers are not robots…we hurt too…we grieve deeply. Yesterday was one of those moments where it was almost like an out of body experience and I could imagine so vividly what Jesus saw when he moved through the towns being with people. Jesus saw the forgotten, the marginalized, those who feel lost and unloved. I did also…I did also. I continue to pray for Kyle’s family and friends who gathered yesterday.
Until next time…