I recently had to give a funeral sermon in my preaching class for a victim of Domestic Abuse. I chose to write a sermon for fictional person named Gloria. She was 22 years old. A childcare worker and part-time college student with a bright future. Unfortunately she was killed by her boyfriend. Although fictional you could insert anybody you know into this sermon because abuse happens everywhere. It is an all to common occurrence. I use Paul’s passage on Love from 1 Corinthians 13 because Paul is exhorting a people deeply divided. Abuse deeply divides and damages the world we live in. We are called to a love deep and sacrificial. Abuse is not Love.
1 Cor 13:1-8a, 12-13 (NRSV)
13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends…12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
The statistics say 1 in 4 women experience Domestic Violence. Well Gloria is not a statistic. Her life was taken from us and today we remember her as A Child of God, a loving daughter and a friend. We are angry, heartbroken and overwhelmed trying to make sense of her tragic death. Maybe we are feeling guilty, like we could have done something. We wait in expectation demanding justice for Gloria. Today, Death has left its sting on us. “She lies here today because of hate. She lives in our hearts because of love. Embrace love because only love can heal the hurt we feel today.”
And not any kind of love but the kind of love that is a deep, meaningful, abiding love. A gift from God, the kind of love the unites us and comforts us as we remember Gloria for the fun loving, life-filled, caring person she was. The kind of love in which Jesus holds Gloria now. A Love that is patient, kind, slow to anger, and abounding in grace.
Of course it doesn’t change the fact that we live in a broken world. That Gloria is no longer with us. We live in a world where Love is distorted and defined in shallow and insignificant ways. This passage on love reminds us what we know is true that everything we do is meaningless without love. Life is not life unless it has Love. Love brings joy, peace and meaning.
Let me be perfectly clear, Abuse of any kind is not love, it only brings destruction and hate. No excuse or circumstance excuses abusive behavior. It brings misery to everyone it touches, victim and abuser. It has no place in the kingdom of heaven. It makes me angry that Gloria is dead because somebody’s view of love is control, harassment and violence. It makes me angry that Gloria isn’t the only one to die from abuse. Yes, Gloria suffered but it wasn’t because God didn’t love her. God is grieving with us.
In the midst of this sinful world, God loves us so much that he sent us his only son, Jesus Christ. To this sinful world, Christ came for both victim and abuser, oppressed and oppressor. To bring life, To show us how to live in love. He endured the cross and died, he knows our pains, hurts, sorrows and sense of injustice. He loves us deeply and intimately. And because of Christ we Live. Because of Christ’s love we are not longer separated from God and Life. There is hope in the Resurrection. Because Christ conquered death we know that Death will not have the last say, that injustice we will not be the last word. That Gloria is loved deeply not just by us by our creator who holds each and everyone of us.
Her parents told me that Gloria always saw the best in people, that she smiled often and she loved her work. Gloria loved Children, She wanted to be a teacher. She worked at a day care part time while going to school and Her colleagues saw the gifts she had, that she was somehow able to love even the toughest Child. She demonstrated love to others in an extraordinary way. Maybe it was that sense of hopeful expectation that helped her endure the violence her boyfriend inflicted upon her.
We prayed often for her safety and I wish I could have done more for her. Her family did all they could to help Gloria in her volatile relationship. It pains us to see that evil has seemingly prevailed. The minutes, hours, days and years to come will be filled with loss, anger and fog. We are left with questions and pain. Maybe the biggest question we have is, what do we do now?
We can trust that Gloria is with God, that she is at peace. We can trust that God’s love is more powerful than one person’s violent act. We can trust that God’s love will prevail despite Gloria having to lose her life on this earth.
We can love. The Apostle Paul gives us this description of love not as a romantic gesture but he gives this description of love to a community divided. To a community much like us in need of guidance to understand and live out Love the way God intended. It is difficult to understand love completely in the midst of violence. A love that is patient, kind, and seeks out others. A love that deep and wide. A love that is given freely and never exhausted. This love is can be a mystery to us but we can only love because Christ first loved us. We can learn to love because through the Holy Spirit, Christ moves in and through our hearts, comforting, sustaining and transforming us at this very moment.
We can share Gloria’s story of pain and struggle so that others know they are not alone in the prison of domestic violence. Abuse is not something that happens to somebody else now, It has happened to us. It has affected each and everyone of us here. We can be advocates. We can support each other. We can seek help for ourselves and others. If you are being abused, don’t wait to seek help. God loves you and it is not your fault. If you an abuser, God’s love you and desires that you not hurt yourself or others, seek help and forgiveness. If you are family or friend do not remain silent, listen, show trust and be a place of safety and healing. Together through God’s grace we can be a sign life in the midst of this death.
We can honor her memory by trusting in God’s mercy and living the Love that God intends for each and every one of us and helping others to do the same.
Let us Pray,
Lord we thank God for Gloria’s life. We give you thanks for the many hearts she touched and the way she loved. We are angry and sadden by the events that led up to her death. God grant us Justice, Grant us forgiveness, Grant us peace. We pray for all those in abusive relationships victim and abuser give them courage to stop the cycle of violence. Give them hope for future. Give us strong voices to those that have none. We commend Gloria to you trusting in your infinite grace and mercy. Amen.