Sermon based on Luke 2:29-35, John 19:23-27, 1 Cor. 7:29-31
Rev. Paul E. Capetz
Christ Church by the Sea (United Methodist),
Newport Beach January 19, 2020
The Jews have a ritual called Yahrzeit. This is a Yiddish word that means “anniversary,” and it refers to the one-year anniversary of someone’s death. On the Yahrzeit, a Jew who has been in grief marks the official end of the period of mourning by saying a special prayer for mourners. Although nobody can put a precise date on when someone’s grief over the death of a loved one should be over, I think there is great wisdom in this Jewish custom because it reminds us of two important truths: first, grief is real and there has to be sufficient time given to the process of mourning the death of someone we have loved and lost; second, life does go on and thus even mourning must eventually give way to a new focus on the life of the living. Today is the Yahrzeit of Darrell Lightner, who died one year ago today, and our sister Lynne has been in mourning this past year for her beloved husband. So I think it is appropriate to mark this occasion with her and to take this commemoration of Darrell’s Yahrzeit to reflect on the reality of grief that we all inevitably have to face so we can ask what consolation and hope our Christian faith has to offer us in the midst of grief and loss.
Specifically, I want to ask: Is there such a thing as “good grief” and if so, what does it look like? No doubt, you all remember the Peanuts cartoon. Every time Lucy would get exasperated with Charlie Brown, she’d let out her frustration with him by exclaiming: “Good grief, Charlie Brown!” But all joking aside, what if we can affirm that the process of grieving, when done well, holds redemptive possibilities for our lives beyond the intense sadness of our loss? What if there really is such a thing as good grief? A colleague of mine who teaches pastoral care at a seminary wrote a book recently entitled Good Mourning, spelled “M-O-U-R-NI-N-G.” He’s asking the same question: is it possible to mourn well so that, beyond the sadness of our losses, we experience a new quality of life that enriches us and makes us stronger persons?