You will have read in the AGM packet the moderators report. To break tradition, I will let it stand as is rather than expounding on it directly. What I want to do is talk a little bit about grief. We often make a mistake about grief. We simply lay it down only at death’s door. There it is rightly placed when a parent or friend dies. It cuts deep just as it should. However, grief actually has more to do with loss than anything else. Smaller griefs accompany us throughout our daily lives, the Loss of a job, loss of promotion, loss of health. These are some of the ways grief presents itself to us. Whether or not we recognize it, some of us at JRCC, may be in a state of experienced grief. I for one am. I’m acutely aware of the fact that there a brothers and sisters in Christ that started the journey with us that are no longer present. I look at each of you and I also look for missing faces that normally would be a part of this evening. I’m hurting because some friends are absent. I expect if you were to think for a moment there would be faces that come to mind of those that you miss too. This is loss this is grief.
Grief experienced at its deepest is like a gaping wound. I remember when my father died at 67 years old (I’m 66). Immediately after his passing the mere mention of his name started the waterworks. I was so deeply saddened. The following 2 years were extremely difficult. I developed a stubborn infection that typically occurs in 70 year olds (I was 39 at the time). It took 2 rounds of intravenous antibiotics to cure. Then my anger became unbridled. I was angry at everything and everyone. Unknowingly I wanted someone to blame and Patti unfortunately took the brunt of it. I also fell into a deep depression that took years to recover from. That’s when Patti started her own journey of grief. She told me years later that she felt as if she lost her husband during that period and in a real sense she had
This is all to say that grief can manifest itself in multiple ways. It needs to be recognized and cared for so that healing can begin. So again, might Jericho be in a state of grief? You may have experienced some of same symptoms I had as it relates to the loss of my dad. Sorrow, anger, depression, even physical illness. Acknowledging the grief in our midst is the first step towards healing. And forgiveness plays a necessary part. Forgiveness is akin to the 2 rounds of intravenous antibiotics that I had or the medications and counselling for my depression. It heals. There may have been times over the last few months where we were less than kind towards each other in thoughts and sometimes words. If so, we might need to name that.
One of the stages of Grief is anger. Anger is actually a normal response and should not to be ignored. It would be unhealthy to do so. In The Colossian Way group Patti and I were part of experienced a session where the conversation became highly charged. The following week we returned to start the session with lament and apologies. This was a healthy treatment of the situation. We sought to be reconciled.
Miraslov Volf in his wonderful book Exclusion and Embrace paints a beautiful picture of what it means to truly forgive and be reconciled. It involves you guessed it, an “embrace”. First a person must open up their arms wide making themselves vulnerable to the other party. If the other party has a knife, you could easily be wounded or killed. Therefore, vulnerability is always the starting position with a hope that the other person whom you have wronged or who has wronged you too will become vulnerable. If both are open then the 2 come together and arms close around the other. The space that previously existed between them is now gone, swallowed up in embrace. That is to say the hurt grief anger etc. is extinguished. The 2 envelop and then after a moment release each other back to there own lives. However, what remains for both is the essence of the embrace and a reminder that as individuals they are reconciled.
Could it be, that for us to move forward as a church some form of embrace may need to occur? I pray for us all, me included to ask the Lord to search our hearts and see if any ungracious words or attitudes might reside and then move us towards embrace. Let us keep watch for those among us that are still struggling with sorrow deep hurt and yes even anger. Let’s tune our ears towards the Spirit who is at work in our midst to reveal Jesus our healer.
I close with this. Healing is rarely instantaneous. It just takes time. Any deep wound requires first of all cleaning, then room to breathe. That is what we were convinced of as elders and why we delayed this time together for a month to allow time for our collective wound to breathe. If you have a scar especially one from a deep cut you know it looks different it feels different and is a reminder of the trauma that produced it. It eventually becomes a story to tell others. My prayer for Jericho is that, we acknowledge, forgive where forgiveness is required, embrace and heal to the point that we can tell a story too. One that is full of grace truth hope and love.
- Mark Hastie, Moderator