I just got home from a funeral on a First Nation Reserve where I served Jesus some years ago. The deceased was brutally murdered. The police investigation continues.

The sister has been a good friend to me. When I experienced a significant injustice she fought for me. But then it became my turn. Her brother went to get fishing line and met a group of people who attacked him and left him dead on the road.

So I helped with the wake and the funeral service.

He lived as a teacher of traditional native ways, including carving, hunting and fishing. His walk was gentle.

His nephew, who follows mostly the traditional way, though he learned Christianity in the Anglican church, conducted the traditional ceremonies. His words showed wisdom, his co-ordination of the many facets involved in a ceremony of both Christian and traditional ways mirrored his uncle’s gentleness. I told him of my feeling of honour to share with him and the Anglican priest in these ceremonies.

Happily one person held the smudge bowl and feather at the graveside and I smudged to leave all the pain there in the cemetery. With the tobacco and cedar I prayed for a miracle of strength for that whole family, and the community. God’s words through St. Paul echo with a deep truth to “Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad” (Romans 12:15 God’s Word).

Truly when others of the body of Jesus ache and pain in their soul we feel the same, if we love at all.

Maybe that explains why love rarely surfaces among Canadian Christians who selfishly avoid pain, our own or that of others. No love, no shared pain (or joy), we think.

I refuse to live like a snail Christian, sliding along on my own slime, ready to curl up in my shell when life gets tough.

I am glad I shared in the wake and funeral. My love for that family could never show if I had not risked living some of the pain with them. They granted me an honour to stand with them. I am humbled by their request to share their grief, and work towards their return to wholeness.

May God also grant that I may walk with them down the long road ahead as the criminal charges and, eventually I expect, the trial take up their life. Today caused pain. That road will bring even more.

I can’t do it, I feel, so I lean on the One who can. “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 God’s Word).