He will gently lead the nursing ewes...
A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.
Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him And His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Isaiah 40:6-11)
(Tim, w/thanks to Kamilla) One young couple gave birth to their son. They held him and cooed over him and loved him and prayed for him and sang hymns to him until, two hours later, he died. They allowed their pastor to hold their son, too. The beautiful nurses dressed the couple's son in miniature baby clothes they themselves had knit for this and every one of their babies. This was their life--they spent each day in their metro-area preemie unit serving their babies and their babies' mom and dad as they fought, then gave in to death.
After two hours of love, their son died. Mom and Dad asked their pastor to take their son to the funeral home. The pastor took him in his arms. He was dressed in the nurses' homemade clothes and wrapped in a warm blue blanket. Down the stairs and out to the car.
The pastor laid him on the passenger's seat for the twenty-minute drive to the funeral home and wondered at the beauty of these nurses...
This was their life, day in and day out. And they did their work with such grace and beauty. He hadn't been surprised at their expressions of Christian faith up in the hospital room. How could an unbeliever live in such vulnerability and grief each day, having no hope of Heaven and our Lord's presence, there?
And the granite hard faith of Dad and Mom. Such submission and trust in their Lord Jesus Christ! Such tenderness with each other during the agony of the long-drawn-out asphyxiation and death of their son!
Life is hard, dirty, and short... Real life, that is. Not the life of the woman sitting prissy at a perfect table next to a perfectly clean window decorated with flouncy curtains, a mug of coffee or a teacup and saucer next to the Bible she's reading in perfect peace. That woman doesn't exist. She's a creation of ad agencies paid by Bible corporations.
No children. No grandchildren. No cell phone interruptions. No chipped or cracked and leaking teacup. No pimple on her forehead. No peanut butter on the tabletop left over from yesterday's grandchildren. No toddler crawling up her side with the goal of her lap, grabbing her arm and spilling her coffee.
And certainly, no attitude in the mother's voice as she tells her toddler to bug off and leave her alone.
Sin and brokenness and death are everywhere messing things up, and this despite the best efforts of Reformed Christians to grace-walk our way under a screen decorated with Queen Anne's Lace on a path covered with rose petals.
This is why I go to the Reformers and Puritans for spiritual help. Men writing today are almost always corrupted by Mr. Glib or Mr. Hip or Mr. Clean or Mrs. Seated-in-the-Heavenlies. And yes, I know that's a Biblical statement. Declaration, even--made by the Apostle Paul at the beginning of Ephesians inspired by God and profitable for us, today. I know that. But "In Christ there is neither ...male nor female" is a Biblical phrase, also. And also, endlessly abused.
The above is to encourage you to read and watch this wonderful testimony to the love of our Lord Jesus Christ as proclaimed by a broken mother and her welder-husband and their dying son. Their names are Deidrea and T.K. Laux, and their son, Thomas Gordon. Don't miss the sidebar box with links to a video and helpful organizations.
Every pastor has gone through this with one of more couples and remembers it as one of the most wonderful gifts of faith he was ever given by those he serves. In past centuries, such gifts of suffering and death were given to the People of God by their Heavenly Father all the time. They were the norm and the survival of a child to adulthood and old age, the exception.
I hope you use the Book of Common Prayer or a close derivative when you officiate at weddings. But even more, I hope you use it in your funerals and committal services:
In the midst of life we are in death: and of Whom may we seek for relief, but of Thee, O Lord, Who for our sins art justly displeased...
After countless funerals, I know this by heart and love it.
Soon, I will die. Soon, you will die. Soon, we all will stand before Almighty God.
And because of our sins, He is justly displeased with us.
Where may we flee?
To the Cross and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is mercy there freely offered to all who believe. Only there.
Life is hard, dirty, and short. Real life, that is.
O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world; have mercy upon us.