February 22, 2003

Homily by Pastor Fred Romig

What else can we do in a moment like this but say and show as best we can "I am with you."

Dawn and Fred, Jamin, all your family, we are with you. We cannot give a reason for the terrible turn of events that has brought us to this moment.

We can only join together with you in asking the agonizing human question, "My God, my God, why? "

"Why God?" is not a question; it's an expression of our grief and a statement of faith.

When someone asks, "Why has this family been wounded by such tragedy?" or

"Why must I walk this lonely path of separation now?" or "Why was this young man cut down by such a dread disease?"

We don't really want answers because we know there are none.

What we do want is a sympathetic ear; we want to know that we and our loved one are not alone.

Could anyone ask "Why God?" if they didn't believe God exists? The question itself is a profound expression of belief in the existence and presence of God.

It also presupposes a loving God who cares; it affirms that even in the face of death, God is in charge, the all-powerful Creator and sovereign Lord of life.

There's no need to dwell upon the intense grief we share in this moment, the numbing shock that grips us. As a child in Sunday School I used to wonder what Mary felt at the cross when the question of agony fell from her son's lips, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

We here know what she felt.

The experience of both Mary and the suffering and dying Son of God tells us that grief has its place in our human experience-its bitter wine is something we all must taste.

As I have sought to walk with Brian Morden and his family through the past two years of his illness, and again this past Saturday morning when Fred called my home, saying, "Pastor, we lost Brian early this morning ..."-in all of this (strange as it might sound on first hearing), I often found myself bombarded with bitter tasting memories:

Dawn, Fred and Jamin, I can't begin to describe your personal pain right now. I don't even pretend to know the depth of your personal loss.

But I do know that when I've sat where you are now, when I've cried out my "Why God?" questions just as the Lord Jesus has promised, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Mt. 7:7)there in the midst of my human agony was my loving and compassionate Lord, reaching out to me with his truth, his comfort, his peace.

Certainly Job in the Old Testament of the Bible sets before us a model for the human reactions of pain and grief that afflict us.

In Job's sickness and in the loss of all that he holds dear, he cries out to God in anger... "Why God?"

In his bitter struggle to find answers, Job finds each word of counsel from friends absurdly irrelevant. He talks about his vacant, lonely feelings, about the temptations he's had to just give up, and, finally, about his determination to fight on, to try again.

Then slowly, yet astonishingly, Job comes out with this dialogue with God that is perhaps the most beautiful statement of faith to be found in all the Bible: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes-I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27)

I'm not here today to stop the tears or to say wise words that will ease the pain.

I'm here to secure your hand and mine in a firm hand-grip with the God who spoke Brian Morden into being and who gave us our lives.

He made us for the divine/human partnership that Job saw through faith, a partnership that only begins in our life and experience together here.

For Job's God, enfleshed in Jesus the Christ, is still speaking life into being, saying: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (Jn. 11:25-26) "Because I live, you will live also." (Jn. 14:19)

"Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (Jn. 16:22)

Our time together here is much more than just a moment to acknowledge our grief.

While we didn't have Brian Morden with us long, he was a bearer of many gifts to us. We need to celebrate those gifts.

Think of the gifts a son bears to his father--- to his mother -- to his brother and family-to a special buddy and friends. Think of his style of life-his special ways of saying things-the times when someone else made you happy and proud to know him.

For 19 years Brian passed on his special brand of joy-his special flavor and spice.

No one will ever take his place.

We're all God's unique creations, and when we leave this life whether by sickness or accident or on a battlefield, we leave a mark in the pageant God's creation that is most certainly not vacant or empty.

Remembering Brian's gifts, we can turn to God who is our source and sustenance and say "Thank you!" for the treasure of love that he has shared with us in Brian Morden.

And like Job, even in the midst of grief that weighs so heavy on your family and us, in the distance - if we will listen - we can hear a still small voice.

Go to the voice for it is saying, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." (Mt. 11:28)

Go to the voice; God is in the voice. Just as we are here with you and for you, God is here with us and for us.

Some are broken by tragedy, never to be repaired. Some grow because of tragedy into unexpected, new, even more beautiful creations.

The difference?

Some accept, others reject the gifts only God himself can give.

Let us open our lives to life-giving and life-changing love, and let us gently and trustingly lay Brian in the redeeming arms of our Savior, his God. Amen


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