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Let Your Servant Depart in Peace

Luke 2:29-32 (KJV); Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Isaiah 57:1-2 (ESV); The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their bed who walk in their uprightness.

A little over two weeks ago I lost a friend to a tragic murder. This is not the forum for the sad details, but this loss is especially tragic because those left behind have already suffered greatly. Two young men who have already suffered so much now have an additional measure of pain, that, due to the nature of the crime committed, will be experienced in isolation.

I’m sad to say that this dear departed soul was not an especially close friend. (Lord forgive us for the relationships we neglect in our arrogance towards the abundant time you have already given us!) The initial news of the murder was shocking, but I was numb of strong emotions; the tragedy did not affect me as I thought it should. However, as the days after the first news of the tragedy passed I began to think more deeply on the subject. (Whether this is normal or not, I, in my limited experience with murder, cannot say.)

Luke 2:29-32 is a normal part of evening prayer in the English prayer book tradition which I attempt to follow each night before I go to bed. I’ve probably said those words of response to the Gospel reading a hundred times and each of those hundred times I selfishly cast myself in the role of the servant. The other night, however, my mind wandered towards my now departed friend as I read those words. “Lord, now lettest thou they servant depart in peace[…]”

When I speak of departing I’m not thinking of my friend’s journey out of this world to the next, because that departing happens in an instance and is of no concern to man. When I thought on my friend’s departing and asked my God to let it be in peace, I was thinking of those left behind.

How can we provide comfort to someone who has bore so much and hadn’t healed from previous tragedies before this most recent one? How can we provide comfort to someone who has done the unthinkable and yet is still deserving of love? These and many other questions weighed heavy on my mind. I tried to put myself in the place of the two young men to try and gain greater understanding that might be of aid, but I could not even begin to comprehend the sadness and loss. Surely if there was anyone who could reject the notion of true happiness, it would be these two.

But, as these thoughts of despair came to my mind, I was reminded that I have seen and experienced the salvation “prepared before the face of all people”. This salvation, paid for by the complete of sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is free for all! Even in this tragedy there is “light” and “glory” abounding!

In the days since the murder I have seen an entire community form around those who knew my friend. The body of Christ was in full presence and acted quickly to help where they could. I’m sure my friend would never have imagined that she had impacted so many or that so many would come to her aid. I do not yet know if this outpouring of love has had a positive affect on the two young men in question, but for me the response to this tragedy has pointed towards a hope; there is still light to be found in this dark world.

Tomorrow I have the honor a being a speaker at my friend’s funeral. I’ve not yet written down all I will say on behalf of the organization my friend founded, but I do know I will end with an earnest prayer for all those left behind, “Lord, let your servant now depart in peace.” Amen.