Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Ben, Beloved Son
I never met Ben, son of Rebecca and the late Bruce, but I know how much he was loved by his parents. He was the oldest child, firstborn son, and there is always a special bond between a mother and her first child. Never having been pregnant and never having experienced childbirth, a new mother has such indelible memories of that life-changing event. How could there not be such a powerful connection between them?
Fathers and firstborn sons often have challenging years. A younger father cannot help but feel some jealousy towards that boy who proudly bears the family name. New parents are terribly fearful of every possible hazard. The old saying is that with a first child a pacifier dropped on the floor merits sterilizing, a second child’s dropped pacifier gets washed under the tap, and, by the third child, the pacifier is picked up and stuck back in the child’s mouth. New parents are exhausted. Couple intimacy can be interrupted for months. Immature men may grow to resent the child and especially the attention the child receives from his mother.
Having said what can often be problematic for fathers and first sons, Bruce was, nevertheless, immensely proud of Ben, who was an obedient son. He was hard working, not a party animal, active in his Lutheran congregation, taught Sunday School, and was considering a call to the holy ministry. On a cold Pennsylvania Saturday night in early December, Ben was on his way home when his truck hit a patch of black ice and careened into a tree. Ben died instantly.
Bruce and Rebecca stopped by my office the next morning before early service. Bruce said they had been up all night crying as he described the worst news any parent can hear. After receiving the Lord’s true Body and most precious Blood, they drove to Pennsylvania for the funeral. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for them to see Ben’s truck after the fact.
Probe beneath the surface of most people who have stayed away from worship for years, and you will usually hear the story of a tragic, unimaginable death. The community of faith and its pastor need to be particularly attentive to parents after the death of a child of any age. The old enemy, the father of lies, always attacks where we are most vulnerable. He will play upon grief and every weakness of the parents to try to draw them away from the hope and comfort that can only be found in God’s beloved Son Jesus Christ. The old evil foe’s goal is to isolate the grieving in order to separate them from Christian friendship and the intimacy with God that comes through the Word and Sacraments.
In his grief, Bruce invested more time in Crossways Bible Study. He couldn’t elaborate on his feelings, but he drew strength from being with other believers and digging deeper into God’s Word. Like many men, Bruce could not talk about the hurt in his soul, but he would not let go of the outstretched arms of the Crucified Jesus. Bruce contracted cancer, not once but twice. It killed him the second time.
Like many women, Rebecca found comfort in our congregation’s grief support group that meets on 2nd Sundays at 12:30 p.m. After many years of missing her firstborn and her husband, Rebecca has been able to comfort others with the comfort she herself received from God.
Dear Father, thank you for the gift of children who bring us joy and yet can break our hearts in this life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Put ten pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to provide food for the local food bank to share with the poor.
Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.