Each of the last four days there have been news accounts of a few more funerals held for the killed children from Newtown, CT. It is hard to watch those stories as the short lives of 6 year olds are remembered. “She loved to pick dandelions.” “He was an avid Patriots fan.” “He loved to play with his little sister.”
Unfortunately, these kinds of tragedies involving young people are taking place on a regular basis. Just in Minnesota in the last weeks there have been a number of tragic killings. This past summer a father in River Falls, near where I live, murdered his three children. The loss of young lives is seems so much more painful.
And then there is suicide. It is the third leading cause of death for teens in our country. I attended a funeral on Tuesday of a life that was cut short. A young man of seventeen who had many friends and was loved by his family…for some reason took his own life. It has been a painful week for my friends, the young man’s family and all of his friends.
The Orthodox Church was packed with people. It was literally standing room only with people in the aisles on the sides of the sanctuary and at least three rows deep in the back. The balcony and the steps leading up to the balcony were full. The grief was heavy. I trust the liturgy was comforting for many.
There was a moment toward the end of the service that stood out for me. After all the incense, all the prayers, and all the chants reminding us of how temporal life is, a very tall, old priest stood up for a word of encouragement. He was in full vestments, hat and all, had a long white beard and hair. He began quoting scriptures of comfort. And then he began to say, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden…” and as he did he stretched out his long arms as wide and open as he could, “…and I will give you rest.” It was such a holy moment that I felt encompassed in the love and care of my heavenly Father. My wife Lisa said later that she felt like she was being hugged by Jesus. I hope others felt the same way.
In these days of mixed emotions of grief and loss and joy and excitement, my prayer for you is that there will be a holy moment for you to experience the grace of a hug from God and that you will know that the invitation of Jesus is always available…”Come to me…and I will give you rest.”