Meditation for Moriah Munsch's Witness to the Resurrection
March 12, 2016, Psalm 23 & 139:1-18, Romans 8:31-35, 37-38
I want to start by thanking all of you for coming to this witness to the resurrection. There are no words to express the deep sadness and loss we are feeling today because of Moriah’s death. That’s why it is so important for us all to be together to support and comfort each other. At a time like this no one knows what to say, but you can speak without words. Offer an arm, or a hug, or a Kleenex, or tears.
The very first chapter of the Bible says that human beings are made in God’s image. So look around. Really. Literally, look around. Everywhere you look you see a different image of the same God. Everywhere you look there is another person who is here because of this tragedy. We have each other today and always. And we need each other today.
And we’re going to need each other for a long, long time. It’s especially hard to grieve the death of someone so young. Mia’s death is going to leave a gap, an emptiness that we are going to feel continually. When friends and family get together—we’ll miss Mia. At school reunions in the coming years, we’ll remember Mia and feel sadness that she’s not here to share in our lives. We’ll grieve the death of someone who never got to grow up.
When we sat down to plan this service on Monday, I asked what would we have to mention to honor and help us remember Mia. Cats. The first word. Cats. And this is quite personal for me. I first met Mia when she was just about to turn two years old, when I came to this church. A little more than two years later, Livvy’s cat, Coco had kittens, and one of the kittens had long, mostly black fur and one eye that always appeared to be crying. Mia called this kitten “Booboo Eye.” When Booboo Eye was about two months old, he came to live at my house and we named him “Nosey,” because that’s the perfect name for a kitten. But sometimes Nosey’s eye still tears up after all these years and I call him Booboo Eye and think of a little girl who loved him before we knew him at my house.
I am not the only one with memories of Mia. Just looking at all the photos around the church today, she had lots of good times lots of great friends, and we all have memories that we can and should hold onto forever.
Mia also loved to cook and bake and she was really skilled at cake decorating. When she was about ten she brought some cupcakes to our annual corn roast and many people found it hard to believe that someone so young could do such a good job.
She loved going to concerts & driving in the country.
Mia was a good friend, loyal, caring and supportive. She stayed with people. She loved her cousins. Gail said she was sweet and didn’t want ripples. She was a peace maker and a peace creator among the people she knew.
Share those memories. And share them bravely. I mean that; don’t think, ‘oh, it might hurt to remember this story,” pick up the phone, or text one another in the months ahead. Those memories and stories are precious and healing.
Tears and laughter are also healing. They are both ways that we can express emotions that we can’t put into words. And expressing these strong, strong emotions is a large part of healing and moving on.
Singing is another way to express emotions. This congregation is used to hearing me say, “If you can’t sing well, sing loud.” I mean that, God made all things, that includes your voice, and if God didn’t do a good job with your voice, or your sense of pitch—church is the perfect place for God to hear that.
We also have the comfort of the words of scripture. Psalm 139 tells us that God is already in all places—there’s no escaping God’s presence. The psalmist wrote, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there, if I make my bed in Sheol, that is, the destination of the dead in OT times—God is already there. And darkness not dark to God. God knew each of us before we were born—and made us “fearfully and wonderfully.”
We discussed Psalm 23 on Monday afternoon. Yes, it’s very familiar, but it’s also very comforting. And its words are so familiar we might not notice how powerful they are: Even when I walk in the scariest place “valley of the shadow of death,” God is there, with us.
About 20 years ago I shared this psalm with a woman who was very ill in the hospital. After reciting it, I asked her, “What’s your favorite part of that psalm.”
I watched her face and could tell she was reciting it silently in her head. At last she said, “He restores my soul.” Another verse we overlook. That’s present tense. Not God restored my soul once, or God will one day restore my soul, but right now. God is at work, restoring all our souls. And finally, God’s mercy and blessing overflow, like the cup that David wrote about.
The New Testament lesson is, in my opinion, the strongest passage in scripture. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome that there is no force, no power, nothing in the past or future, above or below, nor anything else that can separate us from the love of Christ. Even death cannot separate us from the love of Christ. Death is very powerful, it has taken Mia from us, but the love expressed in the death and resurrection of Christ is stronger than the power that. Christ promised eternal life. In our church the cross is empty. We remember that Christ died on the cross, but we emphasize that he is not there anymore. When we gather on occasions like this we call the services “witnesses to the resurrection.”
There is comfort in our memories. There is comfort and laughter and tears. There is comfort in music. There is comfort we can offer to one another. There is strong, enduring comfort in the words of scripture, in the promises in scripture. And we need all of these sources of comfort today—and we’ll need them for a long, long time.
As we planned this service Monday afternoon there was a moment that was just unforgettable to me and I will close with this observation because I think it is exactly what we need to hear. As we were getting started, Carol said, through sobs, “Mia’s in God’s arms. Mia’s in God’s arms.” There is great comfort in imagining what it means, how it feels for Mia to be in God’s eternal presence. I believe that whatever we imagine will fall short of that reality. Our challenge though is to hold both these ideas together: Mia is in God’s arms, and God’s heart is as broken as our hearts are—even as God’s love surrounds Mia right now. Amen.