I've been reflecting a lot on life this past week. My friend Renee's husband Ben is the seminarian that is presumed dead in Haiti. Ben was an amazing sould who emmenated Christ's love. I am so glad that I got to know Ben through Renee. I just wish I had gotten to know him a little better. My heart aches...aches for Renee, aches for the people of Haiti, aches for all who mourn in the aftermath of this tragedy, aches for Ben's family and friends, aches for the Wartburg Seminary community. It's been hard to imagine such a brilliant joy-filled man who loved Christ to the core of his very being taken from this Earth so soon but that I am reminded of the words of his song Psalm 30 where he sings about Christ turning our mourning into dancing. That seems to me to be so difficult as we wonder why this happened etc but the reality is that Christ tells us it is ok to weep in the face of death.
This afternoon I found myself sitting at my computer screen trying to write a newsletter article for the next newsletter. I had a hard time trying to put words on a page and decide what to write on. As I was brainstorming, I came across an article from the ELCA in which Renee and Jonathan were quoted. I found myself once again crying tears as I read through the article. It is such a powerful article. I cried as I read Renee telling the tale of this horrifying day. I cried as they both talked about how important faith and music was to Ben. I cried as Renee said, "He spent his last breath singing." Ben loved music and often could be heard singing. I remember my friend Liz and I attending the Global Mission Festival in LaCrosse two summers ago when Ben and Renee helped lead the music. It didn't surprise me that that was what he was doing at the last moment of his life. I also found myself smiling as I thought about how many weddings and ordinations Ben had sung at. I am sure there are many. Ben along with Renee and Jon sang at my friend Mark's ordination.
Below are the words that flowed onto my computer screen this afternoon as I wrote my newsletter article
The last week has been an emotional and sad week. It was just last Tuesday that the earthquake hit Haiti; the poorest of poor. It was just last week that I found out that there were three Wartburg Seminary students in Port-A-Prince. I was told that they were my friend Renee (from my days at Camp of the Cross), her husband Ben, and Ben’s cousin Jonathan. Initially we were told that no one had heard from them, then that Renee was safe but the boys were missing, and than at last word, that Renee and Jonathan were safe but that Ben was presumed dead. My heart was aching…aching for Renee, aching that the church would never get the chance to have this unbelievable man as their pastor, and aching along with the Wartburg Seminary community. And as I ached with them, I couldn’t help but think of the hope in the promise of the Resurrection as I wept tears of pain, grief, and sheer sadness.
And in light of last week’s tragedy, it seems to me that it may be hard for us to trust in that hope, but the reality is that Jesus loved us so much that he died on a cross for each and every one of us. However that is really hard for us to grasp sometimes. The truth though is that Jesus acknowledges to us that it is ok to weep in the face of death. Christ carries us when we are at our lowest and saddest points. I think Joe Orso said it best in one of his articles in the LaCrosse (WI) Tribune when he wrote these words in light of Ben’s death, “These are the words of people of faith. Not a wimpy faith that gives answers like everything happens for a reason. Not a thoughtless faith that assumes God is up in heaven so all is swell down here on earth. Not a perfect faith, either. But people of a graced faith, and a faith Ben loved.”
Ben emanated Christ’s love to all he met. I will never forget when Renee first introduced me to him when I came to visit Wartburg after I graduated. I could tell they were meant for each other. They just lit up the room with their love for each other. As we conversed, I saw that they each had a passion to serve…to serve all of Christ’s people even the poor and least among us. I was thankful Renee had found her soul mate and I was excited to see what they would do together serving this church. In fact Renee said this about Ben, “Ben loved this church. He knew it wasn't perfect, but he loved it. He lived out his ministry through the church.”
And as I reflect on last week’s events, I can’t help but cling to the hope in the promise of the Resurrection especially as the Lenten and Easter seasons are shortly upon us. Christ wants us to know that he walks with us. Christ is with all who struggle to make sense of faith in the midst of life’s pains. Christ is with Renee, Jon, and all those that knew and loved Ben; Christ is with all the people of Haiti and all who mourn; Christ is with us all!Christ wants us to cling to that promise; knowing that he will eventually turn our mourning into dancing.
Ben, you have reminded me of the promise of the resurrection. I cling to that promise knowing that there is hope in the midst of that promise...that we aren't on this journey alone. Ben, thank you for loving Renee. Ben, thank you for serving even the least among us. Ben, thank you for sharing your joy for Christ with all you met. May we take your words to heart and turn our mourning into dancing.
So as I close this blog entry, I just ask, "Will you dance? Will you dance and share Ben's joy for Christ with all those you meet in your daily lives? Let us all turn our mourning into dancing and dance sharing Ben's joy for Christ.