Courageous grief: Welcome back, Jason!

Sunday was a big, fat deal for our Westside Church family: Jason preached for the first time since Kara’s Homecoming. As he explained to the new folks who have joined us since then, the elders graciously gave him up to 6 months for a sabbatical so that he could grieve and take care of his children and learn what their new normal is going to look like. Expressing his gratitude, he also explained that he wants Westside to be the kind of generous church that loves well in the midst of tragedy like he and his family have been loved. I can honestly say that Westside IS that kind of church, and it’s greatly because of Jason and Kara’s vulnerability in asking and allowing us to walk their impossible story with them.

Westside is a church full of broken people with their gaze fixed on Jesus and their arms outstretched to others.

As Jason preached, I fell into an old habit: taking pictures. When Kara got too sick to come to church, I would text her pictures of everything going on or her children doing cute things. She would want to know who was participating in the service and what songs we were singing. And then after the service, before I could even get to my car, she would ask about the sermon; she wanted my play-by-play so that she could engage Jason in conversation later and encourage him as only she could. I loved being able to bless her that way.

Jason’s sermon and heart-sharing on Sunday was perhaps the most vulnerable and courageous thing I’ve ever heard from the pulpit. He shed many tears, he shared his struggles and his thankfulness for the Westside family. And he likened the part in Psalm 90 where it talks about God as “our” dwelling place to our church—because God dwells in our church, Jason (and all of us!) has been blessed simply by attending and being with us during our worship services the past 5 months. In his pain, he has been met by God, by love, by hope even on his darkest days.

He painted a beautiful, biblical picture of community and its purpose in reminding us of who we are when we are too deep in pain to remember. And all I could think about is how proud Kara would be. Goodness, she would be so proud.

I encourage each of you to take a few minutes to listen to his sermon.

Psalm 90

1   Lord, you have been our dwelling place
     in all generations.
2   Before the mountains were brought forth,
     or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
     from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3   You return man to dust
     and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4   For a thousand years in your sight
     are but as yesterday when it is past,
     or as a watch in the night.
5   You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
     like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6   in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
     in the evening it fades and withers.
7   For we are brought to an end by your anger;
     by your wrath we are dismayed.
8   You have set our iniquities before you,
     our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9   For all our days pass away under your wrath;
     we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
     or even by reason of strength eighty;
     yet their span is but toil and trouble;
     they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
     and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12 So teach us to number our days
     that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
     Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
     that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
     and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
     and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
     and establish the work of our hands upon us;
     yes, establish the work of our hands!