Ok, I am not a rocket scientist, though I know one, and I know a brain surgeon as well, but I digress… I am also not a linguist; I am a pastor. But honest to goodness, until today, I never saw the correlation between the word for our devotion Sorrow, and its root mate, sorry.
That is until I was looking through the Lenten Photo-a-day companion devotional and read this question in the midst of the daily reflection: “As we continue our Wilderness Wanderings, what are some things you are sorry for? ” Wait… sorry I thought we were talking about sorrow…Wait… oh… wow!
I have been with many including a family today that was experiencing sorrow as we laid a loved one to rest and commend them to God’s baptismal promise. As I have walked with families through their sorrows, and I have experienced mine, today I see that much of the feeling of sorrow grows from the depths of being sorry. Most often our sorrow comes from feeling sorry for ourselves. Now this is not a pejorative nor negative statement. When someone we love dies, when a relationship we had high hopes for collapses and dies, we mourn… we feel sorry because we realize we will not have the chance this side of heaven to live into the fullness of that relationship again… and we feel sorrow.
One memory when I felt a deep sorrow was on the night of my graduation from Luther College. I was to move into an off campus house for the summer but was not able to do that until the following day. So I made arrangements to stay in my dorm in old Larson Hall. After all the celebration of graduation, the culmination of 4 years of study (well some study anyway) and the hustle and bustle of normal college dorm life, I was suddenly on a campus with only a handful of people, none of which were my girlfriend or core group buddies. I was alone, very alone, and I suddenly realized, I would never have what I once had. Ugh, I still get a little verklempt as I write this. This was sorrow, aching, lonely, devastating sorrow… I bawled like a baby until I fell asleep.
Today’s scripture reading from Mark is a heavy hitter, what with milestones, hell, and salt. But Jesus is dead serious about the reality of sin and its disruptive power. I am reminded of a verse that I often read at the graveside when sorrow is often its most powerful. Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 12:51-57.
“Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the midst of feeling sorry for ourselves, in the midst of our sorrows we hear this word, it is a word of hope, a word that tells us that death is not the end, that new life is not only possible it is ours in Christ.