Thursday, May 17, 2007
Tomorrow we will host a family of refugees from Rwanda. The house they were due to move into is not ready. They arrive tomorrow afternoon and need some place to stay. So. The church will give them a place to stay for a day or two. A family of seven. A mother, her five children, and a grandmother. We have the room, and showers, and a kitchen. It's not the best. But it will be something. A roof.
This is one of my ministries. I have been working to help resettle refugees for a few years. I care deeply about this. I realize, all too keenly, that I am blessed to live here in this country; to not worry about losing my home, my family, my life to war and politics or worse, genocide.
These refugee families come here after living through incredible violence and fear and loss. They have been dislocated and cannot return "home" because they will lose their lives. That is the primary difference between a refugee and an immigrant - refugees cannot return home for fear of life. So, by the time they are relocated they have survived 10 or 15 years in a refugee camps. Refugees do not have a choice on where they are relocated or when. They can, via a lottery, be relocated to any of the various countries that receive refugees. If they have family in a particular country they stand a good chance of being relocated to be with that family. But if not, you go where ever once your number comes up. They come here with incredible survival skills. They are not, necessarily "happy" to be here, which I think makes sense. They would rather be home, if home were safe. But, they will work hard to build a new life.
Today I bought seven sets of sheets, comforters, pillows, towels, toothbrushes. And food: chicken, eggplant, leeks, oranges, mangos, keifer. Tomorrow seven twin size beds will be delivered to the church.
So, my wish for them during the time they will be staying with us: that we can help them make a good entrance into this county. We can give them comfort, and peace, and privacy. And maybe, hope.
There a few elements of life common to all people. Basically they include living, loving, suffering, and dying. All of us experience these aspects of life. The quality of them we may describe as good or not so good. Regardless these elements of life form who we are in deep and profound ways.
Gathered here today we celebrate all of these.
We celebrate the life of Lynn, wife, mother, sister, daughter, niece, cousin, friend. We come her today to honor all the ways she lived and you knew her in life. We remember her love. We are relieved that her suffering has ended. And we mourn her death.
What I know about you all as a family is that you will do this well. Today and in the days ahead you will celebrate Lynn’s life with funny stories and laughter, with tears and sorrow. You will grieve her loss and you will rejoice that you knew her.
In life we all suffer times of great sorrow.
Our lives are peculiar. For just when we think everything is great, life is wonderful, something happens. An illness, a death. Something unexpected happens that turns a perfect life into chaos. The chasm opens and we fall in. Suffering is the one element that is the same for everyone.
There is nothing good about suffering. Suffering thrives in chaos. Life as we know it has changed. A wound has been opened and we fear it will never heal. Tears come easily and often.
One of the great mysteries of life is that suffering eventually ends. Life is such that the wound does indeed begin to heal.
And not tomorrow.
Memories will catch us off guard, but over time, the tears connected to the memories come less often. Slowly over a long while a scar is formed. To many this scar will look like the healing itself. But the scar is only a sign of the healing that is taking place underneath. The scar is the place where the wound has closed over, but it is not actually the healing.
The scar will pull at you and tug. The scar will never let you forget the wound. Living just in the scar will keep the pain fresh and will leave us bitter. Underneath the scar real healing can occur.
In this place deep inside we begin to realize a few things. Grief and sorrow do not last forever. In time the memories that are so tender and ripe today will begin to feel solid again.
We remember how much we love and are loved. It is this love that heals the wound. It is this love that enables the scar to become a sign of wholeness instead of brokenness.
True, our scars can leave us bitter. We can push aside the love, live in the scar and reside in anger. But love will pull at us. Love will eventually ask us to let go of our anger, let go of our sorrow, let go of grief.
Scars heal from the outside in,
love heals from the inside out.
In time the scar, once a sign of our broken lives becomes a sign of wholeness, because the way we remember love.
Here. In this place. The very place of my deepest wound is also the place where I know I have been loved and where I love.
Christians know God to be the source of all love. And we see in Christ, in his death and in his wounds from the cross, the signs of God’s love for us. Christ comes to us scarred, as one who knows suffering and loves through the pain.
The same is true for this family; a scar will remain. It will tug at you and pull on you. The scar will never let you forget. Just as Jesus appeared, wounded and scarred to those who loved him, the love of God comes to us in our darkest days through those who love us. For Christians this is the sure and certain sign of the resurrection, the love of God that prevails.
Our understanding of this profound love is feeble at best.
But certainly we are pointed in that direction when we begin to remember how we are loved and are able to love again.
I am sure that Lynn, where-ever she rests this day in peace, will continue to bring you love. She will love you in the memories you have of her. At family gatherings memories of her will bubble up, the way she laughed. The joy she brought. She will be with you in those memories.
She will love you in the simple ordinary ways of life.
She will love you from the inside out.
The scar that remains will be a mark of her love.
(Lynn was 53, died from lung cancer although she never smoked. Life is fragile)