When a Brother Dies... A Lament is in Order

by Stephen W. SmithThis morning, I met with a small group of men, all in their early 30's who had attended one of our Transformation of a Man's Heart retreats two years ago. These dear brothers made a covenant at the retreat to meet together once a week on Friday morning at 7am until 8:30am. So, for the past two years, this small band of brothers has met faithfully, sharing their hearts, trying to speak words of courage into one another about life, work, raising small children, marriage and praying together.I was called by one of the men in the group and heard the shocking story that one of the brothers had died from complications from what was supposed to be an ordinary, surgical procedure. He did not survive the surgery. His untimely death brought shock and disbelief to this courageous but shaken band of brothers. As I sat in their midst this morning and saw their tears and felt their grief, I was struck at how sacred it is when small groups of men and women come together. Lives get interwoven; stories are shared and companionship is built. What began as men as separate islands, now converged as a strong continent of sacred fellowship, a holy huddle who pledged to do life together over cinamon crisp bagels and dark roast coffee at a near by coffee shop which became "church" for them each time that gathered.They belonged to each other. They did life together. They played, camped, joked and touched the Holy of Holies together. It is such a remarkable bond to witness. Every time I am priviledged to witness the church of two or three that JEsus spoke about and described, I am humbled to witness the power of His presence; the sacredness of how space between wooden chairs gets smaller and smaller and the hearts of men are bonded forever.I'm pausing today, giving thanks for all the small groups that I have ever been a apart of in my life journey. I've had the opportunity to bury--to take to the grave some of my small group friends. It's no easy task.It reminds me of the story in Mark 2 where we see four strong men lowering their dearly loved friend into the waiting arms of Jesus. These fellows would not let roof tiles stand in their way. They busied themselves by removing the tiles from the roof, then quickly made a roped blanket where they could lower their friend into the presence of Jesus.Tonight, these four men will perform that task all over again at their dear brother's Memorial Service here in Colorado Springs. With tear-stained ropes of prayer, they will stand together in solidarity yet with hearts broken to find the words to speak to honor this small group member--this brother of the heart.The widow, and their  three "surviving" small children will simply try to survive; try to endure; try to understand such unfathomable loss. She and the children will need these men for many years to come.Life is fragile. Give thanks to the few, the very few that stand with us in life to make it all worth it.My prayers are with you four strong men. I am for you.I am for every small group who seeks to live the Gospel out in our ordinary, every day lives. I think Jesus is for us too in doing this.