Sermon for June 28, 2015
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!…
Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me. – From 2 Samuel
The words are David’s, from his lamentation after the death of King Saul and his son, David’s beloved friend Jonathan. We all know that David was a great lyricist and singer and the composer of the Psalms. But suppose – God forbid – David had a tin ear. What song might David then listen to to help give voice to his grief?
To help him in his grief, I can see David listening to songs like “In My Life,” by the Beatles, or Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt.” Or maybe he’d listen to Boyz II Men’s “It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye,” or Mariah Carey’s “Without You.” Or maybe he’d listen to Celine Dion’s, “My Heart Will Go On,” or Diamond Rio’s, “One More Day.” (“One more day, one more time, one more sunset, maybe I’d be satisfied.”)
I bet David would find a few favorites that he would listen to again and again, songs that would not only give voice to his feelings, but that would also help him to begin to work through his grief. I have a hunch he’d really like Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath my Wings:”
I was the one with all the glory
while you were the one with all the strength…
I can fly higher than an eagle
for you were the wind beneath my wings.
I can also see David identifying with the royal language in “The Dance,” by Garth Brooks:
I held everything.
For a moment
wasn’t I a king?
But if I’d only known
how the king would fall,
hey, who’s to say,
you know, I might have changed it all.
And I think David would like, too, Avril Lavigne’s “I miss you:”
I miss you, miss you so bad.
I don’t forget you…
Now you’re gone…
Somewhere I can’t bring you back.
Those of us who have experienced loss can well imagine David’s grief. And we can likely imagine the comfort that David may have found in song, be it his lament in today’s lesson, or in the Psalms (or in Bette Midler or Garth Brooks or Avril Lavigne), because there is something about music that touches us and opens us and can help us heal when we are in grief.
For example, there are probably hymns that, when we sing them, we can’t help but think of someone who died and the hymns we sang at their funeral. Or there are favorite songs of that person which, when we hear them, we can’t help but think of him or her. And there are songs that – ever since that person died – are hard to listen to without tears. There is something about music that touches us and opens us when we are in grief… and can help us heal.
A helpful image for how healing can happen is found in today’s gospel lesson. When Jairus let Jesus into his house, Jesus was able to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Jairus didn’t leave Jesus standing at the door. Jairus didn’t let Jesus part-way into the house and then bar Jesus from entering the inner room. Jairus let Jesus in – all the way in – to the room where the body was. Only then – after being allowed all the way in – did Jesus raise Jairus’ daughter.
If we would find healing in grief, maybe it would help if we would let Jesus “into our house.” Not leaving him standing at the door. Not letting him part-way in. But inviting Jesus all the way in. If we can let Jesus all the way in to where the “body” is – and often music can help us do so – Jesus can take us by the hand and say “Talitha cum,” “Little girl, get up!”
Or consider the story of the hemorrhaging woman. When the woman touched the hem of Jesus’ garment from behind, she was “healed.” But after Jesus turned to face her and they engaged in conversation, Jesus told her that she was “made well.” In the Greek, the first is more of a clinical term – the woman was simply “healed.” The second is a more comprehensive healing: the woman was “made well,” “saved from certain death,” the Greek word means. The word used here for “made well” is also used at Jesus’ resurrection. To touch Jesus’ “garment” from behind, then, can be healing. But if we would be “made well,” if we would be saved and share in Jesus’ resurrection – it helps if we can let Jesus turn to face us, and engage and relate to him.
Healing in grief takes time – a lot of time. But in time, as we grow in our capacity to let Jesus “into our house,” and as we grow in our capacity to let Jesus turn and face us and engage him, then Jesus has the possibility of “making us well.” Not just a clinical “healing,” but a “making well” that touches our whole being, that fills our whole “house” with resurrection power.
So on the one hand, we have no idea what song David might listen to to help him in his grief. On the other hand we know exactly what David listened to, for it is the same “song” that can help all of us when we are in grief: whatever “song” it is that helps to let Jesus “into our house.” Whatever song it is that helps to let Jesus turn to face us, and to engage and relate with Him. So that we might not simply be “healed” from grief, but in grief and through grief be “made well,” be “saved from certain death,” and experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection.