13 January 2016

Jairus' Wife: Asleep?

Luke 8:40-56

They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. (Luke 8:52-53)

Is this a joke -
not taking us seriously
as thinking adults?
Do you think we can't see
the grim reality,
do you think it will help us
to pretend she's not dead?

Are you a fool
unable to face reality,
needing delusions
to find comfort from pain,
ignoring in vain
what cannot be undone,
as though calling death sleep
could wake her again?

Is this a comfort,
telling me she is in peace,
not in fear and not in pain?
Are you saying she is fine,
that I need not pine -
that death is not a threat,
but peace and quiet rest?

Is this a promise,
a still and gentle hope
that death is not the end?
That she will be returned to me,
and we shall reunited be -
that death's not irreversible
and sleepers will awake?


[13. January 2016]

Play Bach's "Sleepers Awake" after that last line ;-)

This is the result of talking about death and funerals these past two days, during a course on how to do weddings, baptisms and funerals. This morning my classmates and I had the opportunity to look at different texts (poetic and biblical) and pictures concerning death and collect our thoughts to them (as preparation for funeral sermons). Anyway all of that seems to have seeped in somehow and I found myself scribbling this during lunch.

In the background of this is on the one hand the story of Jairus' daughter - a girl who died and was raised back to life by Jesus. On the other hand I was thinking of the situations of families who have just experienced a loss. As a pastor one visits the family, partly to be with them in that time (some deaths are harder to deal with than others - I've been at three difficult funerals so far where someone died young, unexpectedly, or even before being born) and partly with the aim of organising the funeral (e.g. what songs will we sing, what text should the pastor preach on, plus preparing a short biography of the deceased which either the family or the pastor will share during the service).

One challenge is to not give the mourning family unhelpful answers. So: what with Jesus' statement that Jairus' daughter was "just sleeping"? Is that a helpful way to talk about death? In the texts and images I looked at this morning there were various different metaphors, ideas and images for death. So here I thought I'd look at this image of "sleeping". It can be taken as a kind of affront (stanza 1), or as an unhelpful delusion (stanza 2) - or as a comfort (stanza 3) or hope for resurrection (stanza 4). I believe in stanza 3 and 4. I also view this as a kind of "progress" from being closed off and suspicious (stanza 1+2) to opening up to the positive meaning in what Jesus said (stanza 3+4). Sometimes we also need to leave people time to get to that point.

And: I wanted to leave this all as questions. I think we need to give the bereaved the space to ask questions. And I believe the best way to understand what resurrection and life after death means is to ask questions, to imagine, to use images and metaphors, because until we are there we only see "through a glass darkly" (1 Cor 13:12).

Jairus' daughter's poem is here.

Picture by Carl Bloch - I love it: mother and daughter, and Jesus on his way in the background...

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