Prepare the Way: December 6, 2020

Prepare the Way!

“…to provide for those who mourn in Zion – to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.”
-Isaiah 61.3

When I was a kid, when you saw a woman wearing all black or a man with a black armband, you knew: these people mourn a terrible loss in their lives. A former foster son of ours, Native American, once appeared with his luxurious black hair trimmed way back. He explained that he had lost a close relative, and this was a traditional sign of grieving. We know that our Mexican friends celebrate reunions with the departed on the Day of the Dead. Sometimes our culture helps us through that most difficult time of grief.

But sometimes it does not. It’s a common problem: what do we say to a friend in grief? Well, we are told often these days what not to say: “Here’s what you ought to do…” Oh, please no! Everyone grieves in their own way. Be a listener, affirm as valid the person’s real needs, be ready in your heart to pray.

As Christians, we trust passages like Isaiah’s as best as we can. We know we are called to expect healing, the oil of gladness instead of mourning. We may doubt that we will ever be whole again. But God wants to restore us, and God is patient. We need to be patient as well. It might be a longer walk than I am capable of now to get to be among the “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.” But God walks with me: it’s God’s road.

Almighty God, look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants. Remember them, Lord, in mercy, nourish them with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance upon them, and give them peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP p.467)
-Tom Worrell