Blues preaching gives full voice to the painful places of life. It is as honest about sorrow as it is about joy…In lament, sorrow is not washed away before it is acknowledged as sorrow. Lament is not afraid to look at the blood and the dirt, and name it what it is.
There is a place for pain in the preaching moment if we are to speak to the real world. Too often we “wash away” pain before fully describing the pain we are attempting to wash away. Sometimes we are especially prone to do this during times of hurt. During national or local crisis, and sometimes during personal crisis. We quickly jump to “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5), before we have allowed ourselves to experience the night which will lesson the power of the joy and the morning.
There are some ramifications for our preaching. When we jump to quickly to the joy, we can reduce the reality of pain in this life. Our sermons can become an alternate reality where good always wins down here and evil never makes any progress against God’s people. We can end up preaching about guaranteed financial benefits for serving God when our congregation provides many examples of this not being the case. We can end up preaching about guaranteed healing from diseases when the funerals you had to officiate last month demonstrate that is not true.
Another problem with not addressing pain is that it limits our preaching topics when we don’t confront the pain. Sermon planning will cause you to address many issues in your congregation. Pain and hurt is one of them. Sometimes we act as though pain stops after the funeral. Maybe the divorce happened, but after a few weeks we act as though the break is not still painful. However, we all have people in our congregation who are living in pain. They come to church and too often we give them palliative care for a moment rather than applying the balm in Gilliad to there real issues. We too often speak of pain, spend a few moments discussing it, and then add a whoop where we minimize the pain. But if you want to address real needs. we must confront pain.
Ultimately, we limit the power of Grace to overcome when we don’t confront real pain. Some of us may be fearful that grace cannot overcome the pain. Certainly there are instances of evil seeming to overcome in this life. But we as Christians believe that “where sin abounds grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20). That means that where we find sin, we need to look closer to find the grace of God healing and reconciling. Where we find hurt, don’t throw a band aid on it, look deeper to find the grace of God there seeking to help us live in this world of pain and heartache. Where we find hurt, God is there, yes, and sometimes we may even have to admit we are having a hard time finding God, but we go on by faith.
Finally, preaching that does not confront pain will ultimately make us irrelevant. As Jones notes, if we are honest about pain, then we will gain the ability to be honest about the God that overcomes that pain.
The first primary need of the dying person is the need for closure. One could describe this as tying up all the loose ends. Many stories in the book demonstrate this need. For example, Joe held back his plans for living after his wife Laura died. This is described on pages 5Ã¢â‚¬â€œ7. When Joe Ã¢â‚¬Å“shared his plans and gave her permission to dieÃ¢â‚¬Â¦LauraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s preoccupation and restlessness stopped. She became peaceful and remained so until she died a few days laterÃ¢â‚¬â€with Joe tearfully holding her handÃ¢â‚¬Â (page 7). Laura was scared that her husband would not be able to handle living after she died. Joe was able to let her know that he would be able to live without her and thus her work was done. In short, the dying person Ã¢â‚¬Å“need[s] permission to die.Ã¢â‚¬Â (pg 71)
This tying up of loose ends often does not only include fear of a loved one not being able to handle life without the dieing person, but also the need for resolution. In fact some die mentally painful deaths because they cannot have resolution with some important person in their life. Sometimes individuals need forgiveness for wrongs they have done to others. Others feel a great need for resolution with a supreme being. (pg 147) As pastoral caregivers we can make use of this understanding of others need for reconciliation and tying up loose ends to help us care for those who are dying
Another important need of a dying people is the need for community. Interestingly enough this community includes not just the living, but the dead. For example, it is not uncommon for the dying person to get visits from relatives who have died. These relatives comfort and assure the dying person that where they are going is a good place.
But the dying person also has a need for a group of living people to share in their journey. These people should place the needs of the dying person above their own. The community must help the dying person in the stage of denial. However the community should never support or humor the person in this denial (page 39). Neither should members of the community actually engage in the denial, which can weigh down on the dying person. (page 41)
Sometimes individuals in the community think that the dying person needs Ã¢â‚¬Å“cheering up.Ã¢â‚¬Â But, like Mark who was dying of cancer, many Ã¢â‚¬Å“needÃ¢â‚¬Â¦someone to listen to his pain, empathize with his sadness, and share his tearsÃ¢â‚¬Â (page 51). Callahan and Kelley sums this up by stating: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Dying people need the company of those who listen , those willing to understand their situations, those who continue to offer love and friendship in the face of death.Ã¢â‚¬Â (page 60).
Perhaps one of the interesting needs of the dying person is the need to communicate and get understanding from others. This is really interesting due to the fact that often the dying person speaks in what could be described as riddles. Callahan and Kelley states that Ã¢â‚¬Å“dying people know they are dyingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦[t]hey attempt to shareÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ information by using symbolic language to indicate preparation for a journey or change soon to happen.Ã¢â‚¬Â (pg 73). Often the dying person can become upset if the message is not heard. The dying person will then continue to attempt to get the message across. Sometimes those who work with dying people think that the dying person is losing coherence. But one simply needs to know that dying people will attempt to speak in these terms.
Callahan and Kelley speak of two kinds of messages that dying people generally try to convey. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The first category of messages described what patients were experiencing.Ã¢â‚¬Â (page 29) Ã¢â‚¬Å“The second category consisted of messages about something, or someone, needed so death would be peaceful.Ã¢â‚¬Â (page 30) Understanding these messages will give the dying person a primary need and thus help the dying person have a better death and go to a peaceful rest.
As ministers we must make sure that we help the dying person in this final phase of life to fulfill these needs.