Sorrow upon sorrow, grief upon grief. And yet grace upon grace. This is where our church finds itself this morning. Our congregation has experienced a lot of grief during the pandemic. Thankfully, we have also experienced and exercised a lot of grace. Today is another opportunity for this.
This afternoon, Brackenhurst Baptist Church will host the funeral of Annette Franks, mother of Michelle Murphy and Gareth Franks. The death of a loved one is always cause for sadness but, when it occurs during a pandemic, it adds sorrow upon sorrow. This is where the church can respond with grace upon grace.
Consider some of the compounding sorrows.
The limitation on the number of people who can attend the funeral add to the sorrow. I know how difficult it was for Michelle to make decisions concerning who to “invite” to register for today’s service. As she lamented, her mother had so many who loved her and so many whom she loved. Fifty is way too small a number. Added to this is the prohibition on singing and therefore Annette’s favourite hymns can only be heard and not proclaimed with hearty congregational voice. The social distancing of the seating seemingly creates “islands of mourners,” which can tend to make the service less personal.
Of course, we are grateful for God’s grace in having saved Annette from her sins. We are eternally thankful that, when she died, though she was absent in her body, she took up residence in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6–9). Though the pandemic has complicated grief, it cannot eclipse the truth of the gospel. Jesus had prepared a place for Annette and, early this past Monday morning, he came and transported her to it (John 14:1–6).
Annette’s believing family and friends are grateful for this grace; nevertheless, Christians grieve. This grief has been complicated by the pandemic. In early days of the pandemic, Chris Thomas’s father died in the UK and he was unable to attend his funeral. That is indeed sorrow upon sorrow. Now Gareth Franks is in the same situation. The global lockdown has confined Gareth to the UAE. He will be unable to mourn the death of his mother alongside his beloved sister. Two devoted children, two close siblings, are separated by a continent at a time when they most need the presence of each other. Sorrow upon sorrow.
What can we do about it? We can be used of God to add grace upon grace. In addition to God’s sustaining grace to our brother and sister, and their families, we can graciously do at least two things.
First, we can reach out with messages of love and support. I’m sure I am biased, but this is something that BBC is really good at. The sheep love the sheep and this is a delight to behold. Let me simply encourage us to keep at it. In the days and weeks that follow a funeral, realise that sorrow still lingers and therefore messages of encouragement are all the more important. Your grace can help in their grief.
Second, we can pray. I urge you to never underestimate the value of prayer. God desires our prayers and he perhaps especially desires our prayers for one another. Pray for Brady Farr, Annette’s pastor, as he preaches the funeral. Pray for Gareth and his family today as they grieve from afar. Pray for Michelle and her family as they grieve together. Church family, pray for these families and may their sorrow upon sorrow be matched with grace upon grace (John 1:16).
Sorrowing, serving, and supplicating with you,