The Serious Business of Laughter

As the middle child of three, I totally get this!
Samuel comes to mind. He’s always too excited at our house to go to sleep, even when he’s exhausted.
Good one. On the other hand, what do you think all that kicking was about?
Raw carrots, yes. Cooked carrots, meh.

Yeah, these are kind of juvenile, but I needed a good laugh today. We did the best we could this past year during Sara’s heart-wrenching illness, and then we did the best we could to support and resource those on the front lines of both her public and private services. (I was happy to take a behind-the-scenes role and let others use their gifts to lead the memorials.) The healing work goes on, though, so we need some relief points along the road ahead.  

One of my favorite Sara memories is when I was cracking up during a late-night chew-the-fat session at our house last year, and she started narrating the various sounds and gestures of my laugh while I was in the very act of laughing. That just made me laugh all the more. And the memory of it is making me laugh today, too. So, thank you, Sara! 🙂

Does it really need to be said that pastors are just ordinary people like everybody else? We have our own set of struggles while simultaneously serving as the repository of other people’s pain. It can be unrelenting sometimes. And it hurts.

The last time I led a congregation through the path of deep grief after a similar tragic death, I was soon plunged into the dark world panic attacks and depression myself. Thank God in time he “lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2). He can do the same for you.  

In the meantime, try to laugh a little. It can be medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22).


Get it? 🙂

Then You Also Will Appear with Him in Glory

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4   

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 
Revelation 21:3-5

Beautiful, Brilliant, and Broken

I’ve lost count of the number of Shakespeare festivals and other productions we attended together over the years, but they were one of the highlights of our friendship—along with rich conversations about theology, art, and literature well into the night (and sometimes well past midnight). The Braveheart Highland Pub in Hellertown was a favorite pre-show dining spot of ours.

In the final ten months of her life, Sara’s mental illness plummeted faster than I had ever seen in anyone else her age. No amount of counseling, encouragement, therapy, medication, prayer, or hospitalization could help. And she received the best available in each case, albeit too late. It wasn’t merely depression that took her from us but schizoaffective disorder in all its ugliness. It was a heartbreaking tragedy we watched unfold before our very eyes.

Yet we are persuaded that God met that tragedy with his abounding grace. We who gathered to discuss her services (and the difficult ministry to those who remain behind to deal with deep grief) concurred that nothing could separate her from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). Her love for the Lord was genuine and not undermined at all by her aggressive illness. Indeed, the Lord is near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). He is near to us, too.

Best of all, when you know Christ by faith as your Lord and Savior, what puts you in the grave can’t keep you in the grave.

So, in that spirit, I bid farewell in hope:

“Goodnight sweet prince[ess],
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2

Beautiful, Brilliant, and Broken

She was one of the best young friends our family could ever have.

She was one of the brightest and most insightful students I have ever taught.

She was one of God’s greatest gifts to those who needed a dose of beauty, truth, and goodness in their lives. 

Sara Elizabeth Gummo
May 3, 1990 – July 10, 2023 

Today we laid Sara to rest after a private funeral service in her hometown of Fleetwood, PA. Tomorrow we begin discussing the public celebration of life service at her home church. Someday we will rise together and be forever with the Lord. 

“She was beautiful. She was brilliant. She was broken. She needed a Savior. And she had one—Jesus Christ. You need a Savior, too.”
– Rev. Randall Grossman 

Job 19:25-27a
I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes. 

Psalm 27:4
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

Isaiah 42:3
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

John 14:1-3 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” 

The empty tomb of the risen Christ changes everything. Let it change you, too, and give you hope beyond the grave. Abounding grace will be yours forever.

Death, Be Not Proud
By John Donne 

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. 
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, 
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, 
And soonest our best men with thee do go, 
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery. 
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, 
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, 
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then? 
One short sleep past, we wake eternally 
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Goodnight, dear friend.

Joy comes in the morning.