With Jesus We are Loved

With Jesus We are Loved

Homily for the Burial of William Edward Hilliard, November 2, 2023

November 2, 2023

With Jesus We are Loved

Homily for the Burial of William Edward Hilliard
Thursday, November 2, 2023
John 14:1-6 

“Ambiguous loss,” a term coined by Professor Pauline Boss of the University of Minnesota, [“ambiguous loss”] refers to a loss that lacks certainty or resolution.  Examples of “ambiguous loss” might be:

-        A solo round-the-world navigator disappeared at sea, and no trace of him or his sailboat has ever been found.  His family wonders if somewhere he could still be alive?

-        A family member has Alzheimer’s.  You can visit them and see them there, but they’re no longer “there” like they used to be.

-        Or, a family member is estranged.  You know they’re alive and even where they live, but they have in effect “disappeared.”

In each of these losses is“ambiguity,” something uncertain and unresolved.  Boss says that, even more difficult than living with loss, is living with ambiguous loss.  “Because of the ambiguity,” she writes…

… loved ones can't make sense out of their situation and emotionally are pulled in opposite directions – love and hate for the same person…  [and both] affirmation and denial of their loss. [And] Often people feel they must withhold their emotions and control their aggressive feelings... This is the bind...

Further, Boss writes:

Ambiguous loss makes us feel incompetent.  It erodes our sense of mastery and destroys our belief in the world as a fair,orderly and manageable place.

For those who knew William(better known as “Teddie”), Teddie’s was a case of ambiguous loss.  Teddie died estranged from the family and had been estranged for years.  Perhaps (for those who knew Teddie) Boss’ words ring true, that – even though you knew Teddie was alive, and even though you maybe knew (roughly) where he was – Teddie had in effect “disappeared.”  Maybe in regards to Teddie you found yourself pulled in opposite directions emotionally and not being able to make sense of the situation.  Maybe in regard to Teddie you felt a degree of incompetence and an erosion of a sense of mastery and the world as a fair, orderly and manageable place.  

Jesus, intimate with the Father, knows about estrangement.  Consider how many of the prophetic works are calls to return, calls to cease being estranged from God.  Or consider how the evangelist, at the opening of his Gospel, says of Jesus himself, that:

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  (John 1:10-11)

Jesus knows about estrangement.  And Jesus offers us the antithesis of estrangement.  As we just heard in John chapter 14:  “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” said Jesus….

If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you maybe also.

With Jesus there is no ambiguity as to where we will be – he will take us to himself, so that where he is, we may be also.  With Jesus there is no estrangement – Jesus invites us into the deep, intimate relationship that exists between him and the “Father.”  And to make sure that we know that this “place” to which Jesus will take us is not limited to an actual “place” but can be anywhere so that we never need be estranged, John has Thomas play the interlocuter:  “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?” Thomas asks.    “I am the way and the truth and the life,” replies Jesus.  “No one comes to the Father except through me.”   With Jesus we know exactly where we are (and where Teddie is) – Jesus says, “where I am, there you may be also;” with Jesus we need never be estranged – “I am the way and the truth and the life,” says Jesus.  “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I imagine that, for those who knew him – having been estranged for many years – Teddie’s death is difficult.  Extremely difficult.  I imagine that those who knew and loved him might find it difficult to sort through emotions, many of which may be conflicting.  I imagine there is aggression there, and perhaps a sense of incompetence or an erosion of a sense of mastery, and may be a whittling away of the belief in the world as a fair, orderly and manageable place.  Estrangement is difficult.  Extremely difficult.

I wonder if – when we’re ready – we can hear in Jesus’ words not ambiguity but clarity; I wonder if (when we’re ready) we can hear in his words not estrangement but intimacy.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says, for “I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you maybe also.”  

Jesus, familiar with estrangement, intimate with the Father, knows just what our hearts desire,which is:  to be in relationship with one who is the Way the Truth and the Life, who loves us deeply, and who invites us into the intimate relationship that is between Jesus and the Father and that we trust Teddie now enjoys.  With Jesus we always know where we are; with him we always know that we’re loved; with Jesus we always know we are invited to enter more deeply with him into this intimate relationship between Jesus and the One whom he calls “Father.”

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