Thursday, April 22, 2010
Lyvia Roach, RIP
On Sunday afternoon, April 11, little Lyvia Roach was hit by a car and killed. Lyvia was a loving, smiling girl, the daughter of Tad and Casey Roach, the brother to Carter Roach, and, like her family, she was a member of thirdspeople.
On Friday, April 16, I conducted little Lyvia's funeral. Several have asked for a copy of his funeral homily. Below is an edited version.
Preached 4.16.10 (revised 4.19.10)
I have chosen to base my remarks this morning upon Psalm 42:9-11. Hear, then, the living Word of GOD:
"O God my rock," I cry, "Why have you forsaken me? Why must I wander in darkness, oppressed by my enemies?" Their taunts pierce me like a fatal wound. They scoff, "Where is this God of yours?" Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again -- my Savior and my God! (NLT)
Clearly, knowing why we are here today, we can understand the Psalmist when he laments -- O God my rock," I cry, "Why have you forsaken me? Or, again, when the scoffers say -- "Where is this God of yours?"
For just like the Psalmist our spirits too are deeply wounded. And just like the Psalmist we are crying and wondering -- Are we forsaken? For that is how it feels.
So, this TEXT rings true, doesn’t it? And I am glad that it offers us no worn-out cliches and no hackneyed spiritual sounding phrases? For, I don’t think I could stomach the dishonoring of Lyvia and the grief over her death, by offering sugary platitudes and preacher-talk.
No, instead, with this TEXT we are led by the hand to the truth of the human condition, for the TEXT reads:
I AM WANDERING IN DARKNESS,
I AM OPPRESSED;
I AM WOUNDED;
I AM SAD,
I AM DISCOURAGED
The TEXT, in its brutal honesty, takes our suffering seriously and treats us as adults. Humanly speaking, we are, all of us, walking through chaos; we are walking with death and destruction all around us.
To be sure there are many good things in this world, Lyvia was one of them, but these are countered by the truth that we live in a broken and marred world where all of us will die. In point of fact, we live in a world where children die every day, but on this day it was our child, it was our Lyvia who died. And so now the darkness that encompasses the world has closed in on us; now the hurt is present and raw and it sticks to our skin.
And yet, the strangest thing happens in this TEXT. In the midst of the darkness, oppression, wounds, sadness and discouragement, the poet of the Psalm writes this astonishing statement: I will put my hope in God! “I will praise him again -- my Savior and my God!”
This statement of faith is so stark and so vivid that it cries out for explanation. How can we hurt so badly and still hope in God? I mean, the natural question seems to be why, why did this happen to Lyvia, but that is a no brainer -- as I said, we live in chaos.
No, the real question is where. Where was GOD when Lyvia died?
I guess I have a somewhat different take than others I have heard make remarks on the mess we are in today. Whenever I think in this direction I’m always reminded of the story of the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, pastor for many years of the Riverside Church in New York City, whose 24-year-old son was drown in a violent automobile accident.
Rev. Coffin tells the story that, the night after Alex’s death, he was at his sister’s house, when a door opened and in came a nice-looking middle-aged woman bringing food for the family. When she saw Reverend Coffin she shook her head and said, “I just don’t understand the will of God,” then she headed for the kitchen. Reverend Coffin says he instantly shot up after her in hot pursuit, swarming all over her, saying, “I’ll say you don’t lady!”
He says: “Nothing so infuriates me as the incapacity of seemingly intelligent people to get it through their heads that God doesn’t go around this world with his fingers on triggers, his fists around knives and his hands on steering wheels, for God is dead set against all unnatural deaths, and Christ spent an inordinate amount of time delivering people from paralysis, insanity, leprosy, and muteness.”
He says, “One thing that should never be said when someone dies like this is, ‘It is the will of God.’ Never, do we know enough to say that.”
Finally, he writes: “My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will for God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God’s heart was the first of all our hearts to break.”
So what does this say to us? Where was GOD when Lyvia died?
On the authority of the Word of God, I can tell you that the Father Almighty was in her, and He was with her, with her in that very last moment! And before any of us cried, he cried, for he knows what it is to lose a child.
So do not think of the Almighty as the stoic “ice-man” in the sky, looking down on us with smirks and winks. No! The scriptures tell us that He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, that He understands our weaknesses and that he is as close as the very air we breathe.
Which means that God was not only with Lyvia, He is also with us right now as well. Even in all our wretched brokenness and grief, the God who is there and who is not silent, is speaking peace and hope through His manifold presence. But, are we listening? Do you hear the still, small voice of HIS comfort and care?
For, you see, He understands our weakness and our frailty, our anger and our questions, and he absorbs all of it in his eternal love. “I will put my hope in God!” reads the TEXT, “I will praise him again -- my Savior and my God!”
And as we say this we must remember something else. We must remember that we do in point of fact have hope in GOD, for in GOD all who are in Christ have a future.
That is, we are promised a day when the human condition, our human condition of chaos and heartache, of darkness, oppression, wounds, sadness and discouragement in one fell-swoop will be overturned, and in the twinkling of an eye all things will be made right and whole.
Do you know, in that day no other family will ever again grieve like you are today. Do you know that in that day there will be no more tears, sorrow or accidents, or death -- for the former things are passed away! And do you know something else? Do you know in that day there will be this grand reunion?! In that day we who have trusted Christ as Savor will see our loved ones again!
So, I would tell you on the authority of the Word of God, that Lyvia is not here, she now resides in the bosom of the LORD and one day we shall be with her again. Or as St. Paul wrote:
First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words. (1 Thess. 4:16b-17)
To which we reply: AMEN! AND AMEN! EVEN SO, COME LORD JESUS.
Now, I want to say something to the friends of Tad and Casey and Carter, and the rest of the family, especially to thirdspeople:
We have a responsibility here, even in our own grief, to comfort and sustain Tad and Casey and Carter and they walk this road of grief. So, reach out to them, and do not hesitate to speak of Lyvia, telling them your stories and memories of this shooting star who flew into and out of our lives so quickly.
And, I also want to say something to Tad and Casey and Carter, and the rest of the family:
You will never get over this. Well meaning people will wonder why you just can’t go on, as if you could! No, you will never get over this, but you will get through it. You will always hurt, but it will get better. But, to get better you must grieve, so grieve well. Feel the pain; go with it. Let it hurt. Grieve in your own way, but grieve.
Also, and finally, continue to put your hope in GOD. That is, do not run from GOD, run to him, finding solace in his everlasting arms and the arms of your forever-family.