How long will you grieve? That’s what God asks the prophet Samuel… How long are you going to grieve that things didn’t work out the way you wanted them to or you hoped that they would. I’ve already moved onto something new and better, says God.
We grieve all kinds of things. It seems we are always losing something. In fact, it’s true. Nothing lasts forever, and everything changes, and so we go through our lives constantly grieving our losses, picking up the pieces and moving on.
Sometimes we need to realize that these things are petty. I can hear a little impatience in God’s voice towards Samuel about Saul. Hey man, how long are you going to grieve over this? How long are you going to grieve over worship attendance? How long are you going to grieve over the LBW? Heck, we still have Lutherans grieving over the old Service Book and Hymnal… How long are you going to grieve that Starbucks doesn’t carry Pumpkin Spice Latte all year?
It’s time to move on! Because God’s already moved on. The Church is doing a new thing. God is doing a new thing.
But sometimes our grief cuts deeper. How long are you going to grieve the loss of a loved one? A congregation that closes? Loss of work, loss of health?
Probably a long time. We are going to grieve for a long time because loss hurts, and grief is how we deal with it. But guess what, even in those places God is doing something new, and bringing new life, with the hope, and joy and love that comes along with it. Unfortunately, that is not always easy to see when we are grieving. Fortunately, seeing is what today’s readings are all about.
We often look at our present situation and see the negative. The loss, the failure, the not good enough. God looks at the situation and sees potential, possibility, and hope. Let me be clear and say that again. The same situation – we might look at the situation and see loss, failure, and not good enough, but God sees potential, possibility and hope. It all depends on how you look at it, really, and Baptism invites us to look at life through God’s eyes and see the possibilities: the life, the hope, the love.
Samuel grieved what looked like failure in his anointing of Saul as King. God saw possibility in the most unlikely candidate. Jesus saw possibility and the one people only knew as “the man born blind” – seeing the not good enough in someone who God saw possibility. God sees possibility and makes a way even in the most unlikely places and through unlikely and unexpected means even when it looks like there’s no hope to us.
And we see this no more clearly than in the story about the cross. When all hope seemed loss. On the darkest day. The disciples show up at the empty tomb to grieve their loss. And God is one step ahead of them! Similar to God’s question for Samuel, Jesus asks Mary at the empty tomb, why are you crying? Can’t she see her Lord standing in front of her? Can’t Samuel see that God has moved on to David? Can’t the people see that this is not the man born blind, but the man who now sees? Can’t we see what God is up to in our own lives?
Jesus empowers us to see, like he empowers this man to see, the world through God’s eyes. To look and see possibilities. Hope for the future. He invites us to grieve no more, because he shows us on the cross that the future is always full of hope and joy in God’s eyes.
What are we grieving that we need to let go of? What are our experiences, both good and bad that it’s time to let go of so we can be part of God’s future for us? That’s not to deny any of those things that we are grieving, the parts of our past that were important to us or shaped us. But it does remind us that we are moving forward, not living in the past. There’s a reason windshields are so big and a rearview mirror is so small: because even though you need to glance back sometimes, the key to getting where you need to go is looking forward.
And although going forward can be scary, the good news is that we are moving forward following one who is leading us to good things, even if we can’t see or believe them right now. The things that mark us: the hurts, the sorrows, the regrets, don’t define us. They don’t determine where we are going or where we will end up. God does. In the Lenten wilderness of our lives, regardless of how we see ourselves, our lives, or the world around us, know that God sees possibilities, hope, and love.