This morning I took a funeral. The Minster was packed. When 250 people departed, unbeknownst to me one man stayed on until after I had been to the cemetery to conduct the burial and returned to the Minster, because he is living with anxiety and had no-one to talk to.
I travelled to and from the cemetery with the hearse. On the way back, the driver asked, “Are you done for the day, then?” No, but it is hard to describe what my days look like—you’d need to tag along.
I changed out of my robes, and the man who had waited for my return approached me. I sat with him and listened for as long as was needed, and prayed with him.
I don’t have answers to the life-issues he is facing. There aren’t answers—at least, not satisfying ones. What I have are stories, a deep depository of stories of men and women who faced life in all its unanswerable questions—this is wisdom. The Bible, where I find not so much answers to my questions as an invitation deeper into the mystery of life. (Job’s friends offered him spurious answers; God did not. Jesus rarely gave a direct answer to a question, often answering a question with a question.)
But it is hard for someone to draw on the well of stories when they have been cut off from them for a lifetime. So, I tend to listen more than I tell stories. But sooner or later, it’s the stories we need, to immerse our own lives in.
Whereas I find that people are disappointed in the lack of answers—true in church, but also wherever else one might go looking—mystery will not let go. At its heart, that mystery is personal, relational, loving. It is far beyond our comprehension, yet calls us in. And so, I find people making their way to find an open church, a priest, even if they aren’t sure God is there or listening.
Here’s the killer. In a crowd of over 250 people, whose lives are interwoven, it is possible to feel utterly alone. And you won’t be the only one.
We need to be reconnected, to God, to ourselves, to our neighbour. And, no, I’m not done for the day...