Isaiah 25:6-10 —
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all
faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.
It is not insignificant, I believe, that Peter died on Thanksgiving. It’s a paradox of the utmost to grapple with this most grievous reality — on a day when we are supposed to be thankful for all good things, someone beloved is taken away from us. The pain of loss digs sharply into our hearts to have to face death when this loss occurs on Thanksgiving weekend, of all times.
How can we be thankful in such circumstances? Is this possible?
We say that a funeral service is about a “celebration of life”. When we name it such, we choose to focus on life. Then, perhaps we can begin to approach the notion of giving thanks even amidst the turmoil of grief.
Because “death does not end our relationship with those who have died. Relationships at their deepest level are not of the body, but of the spirit. And in that sense, they are never over. The crux of a relationship lies not in its form, but in its content.” (1) Living into heaven, but starting on earth.
It is our work on earth, especially now that Peter has died, to tap the gift of faith in us and deepen our understanding of the eternal nature of relationships, and the eternal nature of love. This understanding, I believe, can bring peace to even a tormented heart.
We need to use our imaginations, and examine our beliefs honestly. The gift of faith grants those who wish to exercise it a rich imagination that is filled with God’s good promises, and the blessing of love lived out.
The image the prophet Isaiah paints is rich indeed! A feast on the mountain where there is more than enough good food and wine for all people! What a beautiful image of heaven, a promise to those who can imagine such a thing. And to all people, not just to those whose faith seems impressive on the outside, not just to those who appear spiritual. But to all.
Since Peter, I hear, was quite a cook, he would appreciate the attention to detail required to put on such a scrumptious and generous gift of food for all. I can imagine him today, one of the cooks in God’s kitchen!
Thanksgiving, as I’ve said before, is not a feeling that presumes all is well all of the time. In truth, thanksgiving is an action that stems from a belief in the never-ending power and unconditional nature of God’s love, forgiveness and presence — especially in the darkest and most trying of times.
“Faith, hope and love remain. And the greatest of these is love,” writes Saint Paul to the Corinthian Church. “Your anger, O God, lasts for but a moment; your love and mercy endureth forever,” sings the Psalmist. Again, Saint Paul to the Romans: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord — not even death, nor principalities, nor things to come.”
These promises of God’s enduring love can be an anchor for you in a tumultuous, stormy sea of life. Such visions of God’s generosity are like salve to the troubled soul.
As you grieve the death of a dear husband, son, brother, brother-in-law and friend, I pray your thanksgiving for his life leaves a legacy of God’s love amongst yourselves, and in the world, for the days ahead.
Peace be with you,
(1) Marianne Williamson, “Tears to Triumph; The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment” (HarperOne, New York, 2016), p.123-127