2016: Blessed are those who mourn (Matthew 5:3-12)

The year is almost over and not a moment too soon. It’s been a strange twelve months, marked by political upheaval and a seemingly neverending succession of celebrity deaths. If there’s a season for everything under Heaven, then 2016 has been a time to mourn.

It feels strange, mourning those we’ve never met, but the loss of beloved cultural figures like David Bowie and Alan Rickman and Carrie Fisher has had a genuine impact. After all, our society is formed by the stories we tell, the songs we sing, and losing those who told those stories leaves us impoverished. It’s fair to grieve, necessary even; we grieve and mourn, and maybe we’ll even be inspired to pick up a pen, or a guitar, or a script. Because while the Holy Spirit is a Comforter, he’s also an Inspiration and an Encourager, and if he can give Bezalel the vision to create beauty in the desert, maybe he’ll give us ears to hear new music, eyes to see new art, a Pentecost heart to speak new words. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted, and sometimes through being comforted, through our tears, new possibilities are born.

There are those who’d say we shouldn’t mourn actors and pop singers while thousands die in Syria, in the Mediterranean, in countless disasters and atrocities around the world. But it’s not an either/or thing; may we see the destruction sown around the world and be moved to cry out for justice and hope. The Children of God are peacemakers, or shold be, and this last year has been a reminder that we should lean into that inheritance, that we shouldn’t accept the world as it is, but instead work to build bridges, to break down walls, to beat swords into ploughshares. And where we’re suffering from apathy and compassion fatigue, may we be given an appetite for justice, may we hunger and thirst for righteousness and cry out to God to be filled.

But we don’t just mourn those we’ve lost. We mourn the upswing in and prejudice, we mourn the trolling, we mourn the hate speech. We mourn what we may become, we mourn the darkness we may be stumbling towards. We have to decide how we respond to this – with complicity, with malice, or with a desire for justice tempered with mercy and grace. This is our choice going forward.

2016 is about to recede into history; we stand at that liminal time of year at which a pregnant future swirls before us, ripe with opportunities. And we all walk towards it; no-one can stay behind, but in the midst of it may we glimpse Christ beckoning us forward, calling us to be compassionate, calling us to be creative, calling us to stand. 2017 opens its arms to receive us, to welcome or to crush we don’t yet know. Whichever it is, may a light still shine in the dark; may a better Kingdom come.

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