You might be surprised to hear that I often feel like I don't know what to say.
I know, right? Isn’t that what you do, you might think: talk? And aren't pastors supposed to always know what to say?
Hmm. Well, no, I hope it’s not just what I do, and I've always felt that it isn't so much a question of knowing what to say as knowing when there isn't anything to say.
The Bible’s full of stories of Jesus with always just the right thing to say. Well, of course, you might think, it's Jesus. Yes, but don't you think it’s possible that, for every time Jesus had just the right thing to say to someone, there was probably a time when Jesus knew there was nothing to say. Perhaps it was just a moment to spend some time quietly with someone who simply needed some company because no one else would be seen with them, or to cry with someone who just needed to share their tears, or to wonder at a sunset with someone who could see for the first time or even just to rest in green pastures or walk by still waters.
I often wonder why there aren't more stories like that, but then I also realize that very ordinary, very human people wrote these stories down. Of course the most meaningful stories would be the ones that provided those words of wisdom, that instruction on living they wanted people to know.
But Jesus isn't always about words. Jesus does. Jesus, I bet, would go to where people are grieving and cry with them. He'd share lots of hugs and he'd encourage them to put up pictures on a wall and write their thoughts there, too, even if it was as simple as "I miss you." He might do a sharing circle or share a meaningful tradition of his faith or lift up some thoughts in prayer. Or maybe plant some flowers or mow the lawn or do some things that would be helpful, without being asked. Maybe he even made a casserole and dropped it off.
And maybe it wasn't only a question of quiet time. I bet Jesus was a good listener. For all the teaching and the preaching and the words of wisdom, for all the acts of kindness and compassion, I think Jesus listened. A lot. I think people shared their stories with Jesus, their feelings and their thoughts, maybe even their wonder - and anger - at what God was or wasn’t doing.
I doubt Jesus told them to get over it or move on. I doubt Jesus told people how they should feel and think. And when they were angry at God, I think he said that's okay, God can take it and the anger will pass someday because you should know this: God loves you and is always with you. God loves us so much that God doesn't control our journey, but God goes with us every step of the way, a companion to celebrate with and to cry with and to live with. God loves all of us, in whatever way we know God or don't, and that, in the deepest, darkest hurt, can be the beginning of light. In the coldest moment of loneliness it can be the hand that warms ours. Life can be full of grief and joy, but there is always love.
Jesus teaches us to live that out. When it's hardest to find the words, love calls first for our presence. Love calls for us to listen and to respond with love.