top of page


Sermon Text - 06.16.2024

Years ago I was chatting with a pastor buddy of mine and we were talking about funerals. And he said one of his least favorite things to do at a funeral is when a family asks him to read 1 Corinthians 15, verse 55. Now, just in case you don’t have that little number logged away in your memory banks 1 Corinthians 15 verse 55 says, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” and sometimes people would want that read at the funeral - but my friend was saying that he would read it in the service, and then he would look up at the grieving family, and he would think to himself - it’s right there! O Death, where is thy sting? [gesture dramatically]. It’s right there! The sting is in the tears on a widows cheeks, the wails of a child, the sniffles of a grandparent or relative. It’s not actually that hard to find the sting of death. A lot of people would call that “mourning.” 

Today we are continuing our series called “Backwards: The Blessings of Jesus.” For the whole summer we are diving into the teachings we find in Matthew chapter 5, they are commonly called the beatitudes, and basically it’s this big list of blessings, but they are strange blessings. Last week we talked about the part where Jesus says, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” And today I want to dive into verse 4, “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” And one of the things that we’ve seen in this series that these blessings feel BACKWARDS. They feel upside down. Let me show you what I mean. So that word “blessing” - in the greek it’s “makarios.” A couple weeks ago we talked about how that word was usually used to describe the gods. The blessed ones were like the roman gods who lived up on mount olympus. But another common way to translate it is “congratulations.” You are blessed, makarious, congratulations. When someone gets a new job or has a baby or a new home - you are blessed, like the gods up on olympus, makarios, congratulations. But now I want you to take that and put it in this verse for us today. “Congratulations to those who mourn” [pause] That’s worse than “where o Death is thy sting?” Can you imagine opening up a funeral service with “Congratulations to those who are mourning, and that’s you guys!” Yikes. To be honest, it’s almost offensive that Jesus would say that. How could he say congratulations, how could he say blessed are those who mourn? 

And not just mourning (this actually gets worse the deeper you dive into it), the greek word for “mourn” (penthountes) is the strongest form or degree of the term. This isn’t mourning because Chik-Fil-A aint open on Sundays. This isn’t mourning because I stubbed my toe. This isn’t mourning because my favorite TV show still hasn’t announced when they’re dropping the new season. Penthountes is the strongest form or degree of the term - this is mourning that is feeling the full weight of what has been lost. This is mourning that borders on devastation. Have you ever seen those movies where someone loses someone, and they just crumple to their knees crying out and they do that thing with the audio where they cut it, and so you see them scream, but it’s silent, or maybe it’s just music, and stuff just explodes around them? This is fall to your knees, beat your chest, tear your clothes penthountes, mourning. 

In fact, that’s actually a very accurate depiction of mourning. There’s a story in the old testament about a lady named Esther. And there’s this part in the book where Esther is the queen and her cousin Mordecai has found out that all their people are going to be killed. Genocide is coming. This is in Esther, chapter 4. [read Esther 4:1]. And I love what happens next, down in verse 4, [read v.4]. Mordecai sees the death of his people and so he’s mourning, and he’s tearing his clothes and wailing and Esther’s over here trying to shut him up. She sends him clothes. And every time I imagine it, it’s the same conversation I have with my four year old on a daily basis. Look bud, you can’t just stand there all dirty, wailing at the top of your lungs in your underwear. Put some clothes on. But this is the picture of what mourning looked like back then. Actually, I sort of fell down a rabbit hole this past week - I was looking up jewish mourning traditions (don’t ask, my brain - that’s just… where it went). And I found myself on a website from a jewish community in Chicago, which describes their traditional mourning practices and rituals. And it’s fascinating, because obviously this is the modern world - but they still hold on to some of the old traditions, and this website describes the traditions and the different stages of mourning. And this is a quote, “Mourners traditionally tear their clothing or tear a small piece of black cloth provided by the rabbi or funeral director..” You go back a couple thousand years and the mourners would weep and wail and tear their clothes and throw ashes on their heads. But in the modern world you’re given this little piece of black cloth that you can rip if you are feeling upset. It’s just not the same, is it? 

Now, before we move on let me ask you - what do you mourn? With the story of Esther, there was a decree from the king and people were going to die. But think about this for your life. What has you brokenhearted? What has you tearing your clothes and wailing? What breaks your heart about the world around you? Maybe for you it’s the news. Can’t barely watch it anymore because it’s so heartbreaking. Maybe it’s wars going on in the Ukraine or in the middle east. Maybe it’s the political wars going on at home - all these trials and just the general state of our politics. Or maybe it’s closer to home. Do you mourn a broken relationship? A family or friend - and it used to be different, it used to be better. And you mourn, your heart is just crying out. Do you mourn change in your life? A kid graduating and leaving the house, retirement, or even getting fired - a change in your finances or stress? What do you mourn in your life? We all have something. Personally I’m a pretty upbeat person - just in general I make a lot of jokes and prefer to be happy. But, if I can be honest, sometimes I make jokes because there are things in my life if I look at them seriously they make me weep. Not always, but sometimes humor is a cover for what my heart is mourning. Jesus says, Congratulations for the strongest form or degree of sadness - Blessed are those who mourn. Whew. Okay Jesus. Help me understand. Now that we’ve kind of ripped apart the verse using the greek, let me put it back together for you. 

First, I want to show you a parallel that’s really important. When you think about Mordecai - he was mourning the death of his people, mourning the coming genocide and it looks a certain way. Weeping and wailing and tearing his clothes and covering himself with ashes - it paints a picture. But what I want to show you is that that picture actually sounds very familiar. Maybe you remember the story of Jonah, we studied that back in January. Jonah was a prophet, sort of a stinker, ran away from God, got eaten by a fish - it was a whole thing. But when Jonah finally gets to Ninevah, he tells the people they have sinned against God and this is their response: Jonah chapter 3, verse 6 [read v.6-9]. They wear garments of mourning. But what are they sad about? It’s not a funeral. Let me show you another one - King Josiah. If you’re not familiar, I’ll give you the cliff notes version. The country of Israel had abandoned God’s way, and they were living against God, and then Josiah becomes king and starts renovating the temple. While they’re repairing the temple, they discover the book of the law, which tells them how they should act as God’s people. Josiah reads the book, and realizes that they are not living the way God teaches them to do it. 2 Kings, chapter 22, it says in verse 11, [read v.11]. And again, Josiah is not sad about someone who died - what is he upset about? He’s upset about sin. Here’s what I want you to pull from that - mourning is a picture of repentance. Mourning is not limited to death, or the loss of a loved one. Mourning is a human response to encountering brokenness. And maybe people don’t like talking this way, but it’s a human response to encountering evil… and sin. And the most important mourning that we can do is when we find that sin in ourselves.

Okay, so this is one of those things where God through the scriptures has something absolutely brilliant to teach us. And I worry that I don’t have what it takes to clearly explain it to you all. This is my greatest struggles as a preacher - God’s word is so good, and I just.. I don’t want you to miss this. Let me break it down in three pieces. First, what we just talked about - mourning is the human response to encountering brokenness. The human response to encountering loss. Second, mourning is feeling the weight of that loss. Something has been lost and we noticed. When we’re talking about death - it’s the person, we feel the weight of them gone from our life. When we’re talking about sin - it’s the relationship with God that is lost. The closeness with our creator, the spiritual connection to the thing that is out there who loves and sustains us. And if you don’t feel the weight, then you haven’t understood the loss. Sometimes people don’t feel bad about the sin in their life - and that’s because they don’t understand what they have lost. They don’t understand what it could be to live in connection and communion with the God who made them and loves them. If you know just how good the father’s love for us is - then the idea of something, anything getting between you and God, that breaks your heart. And the picture of mourning - the wailing and tearing your clothes and ashes - that makes perfect sense. 1.) Mourning is a human response to encountering brokenness and 2.) Mourning is feeling the weight of that loss.

And here’s the problem - I think a lot of people stop right there. I think a lot of people think that mourning is just a huge bummer. I think to most of the world mourning is encountering loss and feeling the weight of that loss - and that’s miserable, and so then we rush through it. I don’t like this feeling - so I’m going to ignore it, cover it up or run away from it. We see mourning as only a bad thing - and so we don’t let it work on our hearts the way it’s supposed to. Stay with me on this - if Jesus said, “blessed are those who mourn” there must be something more to it. And here it is - the third and most important step. Mourning is the bridge between the wound and the healing. When we encounter brokenness, when we are broken - if we wallow in it. If we let the wound become our new reality, the pain becomes all there is and all there ever will be - but if we mourn. If we feel the weight of what we have lost, we begin the process of healing. You cannot come back to God until you know that you are far away from him. Mourning is the bridge between the wound and the healing. And again, this goes for sin and for death - the two things Jesus’ conquered. When we lose someone - they are ripped away from us, there is a wound in our life, a gaping hole. When we sin against God - that relationship is ripped away, there is a wound in our life a gaping hole. But when we mourn, when we feel the weight of what we have lost - we have begun the process of healing.

Here’s the thing I want you to catch this morning. The good news I have for you is that there is a God who cares enough to wipe away your tears. The blessing is not the tears on your face, but the hand that wipes them away. Revelation chapter 21 (and I know I’m throwing a lot of bible at you this morning. We’re kind of jumping around and that’s hard to follow - but you’re going to want to write this one down). Revelation 21, verse 3-5 - this is a picture of heaven [read v.3-5]. That is the actual picture of heaven that the bible gives us. All the rest of it might be confusing - people ask what heavens going to look like, “it’s going to be streets of gold and are we going to float around on clouds” and sometimes people just make stuff up - because we’re not sure what’s literal and what’s metaphor in the picture the bible gives us about heaven. But the one thing we DO know, the one promise that we DO have - is this is what it will be like: every tear wiped away, no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. Jesus said, “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” There is a God who cares enough to wipe away your tears. The blessing is not the tears on your face, it’s the hand that wipes them away.

Jesus says “congratulations to those who mourn, you have realized your wound and felt the weight of what you have lost, and there is comfort coming.” Because remember mourning is a picture of repentance. When we realize what you have lost in the relationship with God, that closeness to your creator - that’s the first step towards healing, towards repentance. And so our response to mourning, when we realize that we have sin, when we realize that we are far away from God - our response is to repent. The greatest brokenness in your life has its root in sin. The brokenness between us and God, that is the root of all the other brokenness in our life. It is the mourning behind the mourning. All the other mourning in our life is a symptom of the original sickness. And I know it’s no fun to talk about sin, like maybe it’s awkward or whatever - but listen, we could spend all of our time trying to heal every other wound, every other thing that makes us mourn, every other thing that breaks our heart - but they are just symptoms. The root of it all is our disconnect from God. The sins in our life that we need to repent of. So repent! Take the sin in your life, the things that keep you far away from God - take them and mourn over them.  

Now here is where the beauty of it all comes together. Jesus says “God blesses those who mourn” and we don’t like that at all. Yuck, mourning. I don’t want to admit my sin. I don’t want to admit the brokenness in my life that causes my heart to weep and creates distance between me and Jesus - yuck. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. There is an assurance that comfort is coming. Do you understand? I’m telling you right now - hey, if you’re mourning, comfort is coming. Now think about this - if you have an assurance that comfort is coming, that forgiveness is waiting… you are more likely to admit to your sin. Right? If I don’t believe in forgiveness - I’m going to hide my sin. I’m going to bury it and hope nobody ever finds out about what I did. But if I know, if God has promised me comfort and forgiveness if I am mourning, if I am repenting. Then I can admit my sin. I can look in the mirror honestly. I can know that I am broken, that I have done terrible things, I have hurt the heart of God - but Jesus told me comfort is coming. When you understand that comfort is coming you can be fully vulnerable, fully transparent, fully honest with yourself. You can’t do that anywhere else. Out there you have to pretend you are a better person than you are. We hide things and live terrified that someone will see through our facade. That someone might actually see the real me. Is this real life? Is this you today? Do you ever put on a brave face, secretly terrified that someone will see through it? But here it is: God knows the real you. He sees you as you truly are, with all your brokenness - and comfort is still coming for those who mourn. Don’t let mourning be where you stay. Don’t let mourning become wallowing. Let mourning become the bridge between the wound of sin and the healing of grace.

I have a friend named Danielle. I haven’t actually seen her since college, but you know - through the magic of social media you can kind of keep tabs on people. She posted this story a few years ago, and it was so inspiring and so I asked her if I could share it. Her husband’s name is Matt, and they have a little boy named Louis. And I’m actually going to read the story from her perspective. She writes, “Matt, Louis and I were on vacation on the coast of Main when we first found out we were pregnant with our little girl. After two separate miscarriages and a subsequent year of trying Matt and I were relieved to finally learn that we would be adding another little one to our family the coming spring…At my 37 week appointment, the doctor measured me and became a bit concerned about our daughter’s size and scheduled me for an ultrasound that day. It was determined that the baby’s size was fine, but that she was actually breech. We were scheduled for a version later that week to flip her. Unfortunately, the version failed and put me into early active labor. Later that evening, after trying to stop the labor, it was determined that I would need a c-section. I was rolled into the OR and within minutes I heard our daughter’s cries. I joined in, crying, “She’s here!” Our Sammie girl had arrived. ONe of the nurses brought her around to my head so we could see her for a few seconds. I remember thinking, “hmmm, she doesn’t look like I thought she would.” But I remember having the same thought when I first saw our son, too.” The nurse took her away to check all the baby things and Matt continued to talk to me as I was very nervous about what they were doing on the other side of the curtain…After a few more minutes the nurse checking her our brought her around to me so Sammie could do skin to skin. I saw her face for more than a few seconds and at this point I was certain. I looked at the nurse and asked, “Does she have Down syndrome?” The nurse looked panicked and the entire room got quiet. [The doctor spoke up] “It looks like she might have some markers for Down syndrome. We called the pediatrician on call so she can check her out. The next morning was when all the motions really hit Matt and I. The day started with the pediatrician coming in to talk to us about her diagnosis. And in hindsight she was one of the greatest blessings throughout our time at the hospital. I don’t remember much of what she said, but I do clearly remember her saying, “You need to mourn the child you thought you were going to have.” That was exactly what I needed ot hear and that’s when the floodgates opened.” …We were receiving nearly constant texts from family and friends who were lifting us all up in prayer and giving us the encouragement we needed, reminding us of the gift we had been given. I don’t know that we have ever felt so loved and I honestly don’t know if we will ever feel that amount of love again in this lifetime. Matt and I couldn’t stop saying “people are loving us so well.” Before leaving, the pediatrician who was such a gift to us in this time came in and asked if she could pray for Sammie. She placed her hand on Sammie and prayed, and Matt and I cried. This was one of the sweetest moments in our lives that I don’t think we will ever forget.” - Now there’s a lot more to the story, and you can read more about it at if you’d like. Basically Danielle, after grieving and mourning the child they thought they would have - they didn’t wallow, they didn’t stay in that mourning, they let that become a bridge to healing - she and Matt were able to fully embrace their daughter Sammie. And so she started a non-profit organization where they send supplies to hospitals that help mothers and families understand and celebrate the gift of a down-syndrome baby. They’ve helped over 2,000 families and I can’t really capture how beautiful it is - It’s one of my favorite stories to tell, even though she and I aren’t that close of friends - I’m honored to even know her, and and on a bit of a side note - Danielle’s social media, since that baby was born, has just been full of so much joy. And so let me finish with this - in your life, let mourning be a bridge from the wound to healing - and whatever your mourning is, whatever is causing you grief - please know, comfort is coming. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Let’s pray.


bottom of page