Today, we are grieving. It seems strange on a day that we know that the tomb is empty, strange at a time when we're so certain of the promise of Christ. And yet, here we are. Grieving.
It's been a tough few days for many of us, as someone that we love so well (and by whom we were loved so well) left us so early, under such difficult and terrible circumstances. We knew that the last few days had been hard ones for her, and we were praying for her comfort, praying for her relief, praying for answers to what seemed like a thousand questions all in one breath and then...we were grieving.
We called ourselves together, sent out an urgent message, unlocked the doors of the church and declared that we were coming together to pray. Anyone who was able. Anyone who was near. Anyone who felt called to come and pray, then come. Pray. Lift your voice to heaven with ours in intercession for this who had so often, and so faithfully, interceded for us.
What we did not know, what we had not yet learned, was that at the time that we called ourselves together, it was already too late. No one had told us yet, but she was already gone.
It's something that I've been thinking about all weekend, particularly as I have grieved and as I have known that my brothers and sisters are also grieving. We all felt the weight of Good Friday this year, every one of us. And yet, we are a people so confident in Easter Sunday. We are a people who know better, a people that understand what the empty tomb means. And I've thought about how we, as a people of hope, grieve differently than the world grieves, how we mourn through tear-stained hallelujahs...somehow.
And as I've thought about that, about how we grieve (and I have done my share of hospice work for this very reason - because I am well-acquainted with a holy grief), I've also thought about this realization that I've had that at the moment we were coming together with all of our hope, it was a moment that was too late.
What do those words even mean to a heart of hope? What do they mean to us who know that the end is only the beginning, that death does not have the final word?
If we had known it was 'too late,' would we have stayed in our homes? Would we have failed to come together? If someone had stepped into the prayer meeting and said, "I'm sorry, but it is too late," would we have dispersed? Hung our heads and silently walked out to our cars, nothing more to say?
I...can't believe that is true. I can't believe that if we thought it was too late, that we would have stopped praying. That we would have failed to pray. I think about all of the times in Scripture when someone would come to Jesus or come to the prophets or come to the men and women of God in moments when they thought...it's too late. And it was never too late.
And I'm not talking about a resurrection. I'm not talking about turning back time or working a miracle or changing the outcome of this situation. That's too narrow a view of what it means to pray in faith, as a people of faith. That doesn't tell the whole story.
What I'm talking about is...well, it's the understanding that even if we had known it was 'too late,' there's something in us that would have prayed anyway. We would have prayed a different prayer, but the heart that brought us before the Father was not changed in the circumstance. That thing that draws us to God is still real, still vital, still...vibrant, even when we're losing. Even when we've lost.
That's the thing, I think, about being a person of faith. The world says there's nothing more to see here, but the heart of faith knows that whatever it is, it has just begun. The world says it's over, but we know that it's just getting started. The world says death wins, but we know there's an empty tomb. And so in a moment like this, we still come together. We still pray. We still cry out, even if it's 'too late,' because we know something that the world doesn't know, something that we sometimes can't even put into words. We are confident in something that seems...impossible right now, and yet, we know it more certainly in this moment than maybe we ever have.
I've been thinking about these things this weekend, about how faith changes the way that we encounter moments like this one. About how what we know is so sure, so certain, so confident, even now.
And then, over the weekend, I read this story in 1 Kings.... We'll dive into that tomorrow.