Last Sunday afternoon, I read the Scriptures for today and planned roughly what message today’s sermon would bring. But, as is sometimes the case, my plans fall through, and this is one of those times. Monday seemed to be a pretty typical day, at least in the morning. But, the afternoon was anything but typical. I came back from lunch, and one of my co-workers pulled me aside and asked if I had heard about one of our previous coworkers. I knew he had recently found a new job he was enjoying and was expecting a larger role in the company, so when she asked me if I had heard about him, I thought he must have received the promotion he was expecting. That was not the case. She informed me that he had committed suicide that morning.
It took a few minutes to sink in. As the day continued, we heard more about what had transpired over the weekend leading up to this tragic event. But in our grief and confusion, we still had jobs to do, and although the normal enthusiasm was missing, we all got through the day.
Each day this week got a little easier. We found out what the funeral arrangements were and made plans to attend. Almost everyone in the shop planned to attend his funeral.
Throughout the week, we talked among ourselves asking the questions that begged to be asked. The question asked most was simply, why? What could possibly be so bad that suicide becomes the best solution for a person? I can’t fathom what that would be.
The turnout for his funeral was huge. He had a large family and many friends, mostly from different shops where he worked. A lot of people I have worked with were there and we all seemed to be a little in shock. His wife, his five children, his siblings, and his parents were all there, and going through the line meeting them was very difficult.
We still don’t know why he did this and we never will. We can speculate, but that is all it is, speculation. What we do know is he is gone and there are a lot of people who miss him. Some of the people at the funeral were angry with him for what he did, but most were just sad. Many questioned whether they could have done something, anything to have prevented this.
Then I thought about our Scripture readings for today and about the faith that the disciples and Paul showed. In Corinthians, Paul is afflicted with what is called a thorn. Every time I read that I am reminded of the pain I have felt when getting stuck by a thorn on a rose bush, but getting stuck is temporary. Paul lived with his pain and prayed to God to have it removed. God answered that God’s Grace is sufficient. Paul didn’t say his prayers weren’t answered, or that God didn’t care or love him, he accepted his pain and his faith stayed intact, and even grew.
In our reading in Mark, the disciples are sent out to proclaim the Good News. Jesus sent them out without any money, without any food, without a change of clothes, without anything except a staff. It must have taken a great deal of faith to venture out like that, to depend on God’s love and protection to keep them alive and to provide food and shelter.
I do not know many people today who would venture out without taking much more with them. Someone traveling today would take money or a credit card, a cell phone, many clothes, food and water, as well as their toiletries, cosmetics and probably some headphones.
But the disciples went out with very little and a lot of faith. I have been wondering about my friend’s faith this week. We didn’t really talk much about religion or faith, but I wonder, what kind of relationship he had with God. Did he trust God the way Paul did or the way the disciples did? Did he sense God’s presence in his life? Did he sense God’s love, God’s forgiveness, or God’s compassion? Do we? Our relationship with God is so important. It is not only about the time we leave this world to be with God, it is also about our lives here on earth, in the present.
We have all made mistakes in our lives. We have all probably done things we are not proud of. Perhaps we have even done things that are hurtful to other people. There may be times in our lives when we can’t see any way to fix things. There may be things we have done that we cannot forgive ourselves for. But there is nothing we have done that God is unable to forgive us for. There is no problem we will face where God will forsake us. God is always with us, always with us to comfort us, to guide us, to forgive us, and to be in relation with us. God doesn’t always help us avoid difficult situations, but when we face difficult situations, God is always there with us, to help us through those situations.
Perhaps, if my friend knew this, he would still be here and a lot of people who are now grieving would not be.
We are all on a journey, the journey of life, and we are in different stages of this journey. Our life journey and our faith journey are really one and the same, for the foundation of our faith is formed very early in life and our faith evolves from that point on and is influenced by everything we see and experience in our lives.
As people of faith, as Christians, our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is a gift to be sure, but also a responsibility. We are called to go out and proclaim the good news to people. I wonder how many other people are considering what my friend did. I wonder what their faith journey has been like. Would it make a difference in their lives to learn that God forgives them if they have done wrong? Would it make a difference in their lives if they knew God loved them, unconditionally? Would it make a difference in their lives if they knew God was with them to comfort and guide them? I believe it would.
We are also called to Love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Another one of my coworkers reflected after the funeral, that there were hundreds of friends who attended his funeral, but none of us saw any sign of what was to come. Because none of us saw it coming, none of us were there to try and help.
We are meant to live with each other in community, which means not only that we are there to help those in need, but it also means when we are in need, we are to let others know, so they can help us. We are not created to face life by ourselves and to work out all of our problems on our own.
I urge each of you, if you know anyone who is facing difficult times, reach out to them, let them know someone cares. While we are all on our own life and faith journeys, we are also on this journey together. Let our journey be a journey of faith.
Let us pray,
Gracious and loving God,
We give you thanks that you love the world so much
that you gave us your commandments
to help us live in peace with you and each other.
And even when your children did not follow your commandments or your prophets,
you loved us so much that you sent your beloved Son,
Jesus, to dwell among us.
He who bears your very image,
the firstborn of all creation,
through whom all things have been created,
took our flesh and suffered death
that we may be made whole.
By his death he conquered death,
and by his rising he gives eternal life.
And even though Jesus conquered death,
Your children still mourn when we lose a loved one.
We pray you will be with the families and friends
Of those who have died.
God of the covenant,
In our baptism you called us
to proclaim the coming of your kingdom.
Give us courage like you gave the apostles,
That we may faithfully witness to your love and peace
in every circumstance of life.
During this journey called life that we are on, give us courage to be there for others, for those we love, and those we barely know. Give us courage to seek you through prayer and those you have placed in our lives to help us when we feel overwhelmed by life, help us let others help us.
In the name of Jesus Christ our redeemer,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever.
Amen and Amen.
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