I didn’t listen to much of the funeral last week the funeral for former president George H.W. Bush. I was talking to a class of nursing students about how to talk with families about death when the funeral started. I was heading to my work as a chaplain not long after it ended. But while driving away from McDonald’s with lunch, I started to cry as I listened to Jenna read from the Bible.
Her text was Revelation 21:1-4, 23-25. John (Saint John) talks about his glimpse of the new heaven and the new earth. It’s a text that talks about grief and comfort. It talks about the kings of the earth coming into the city of God, bring their glory to offer it.
It was clear that she had read it through, out loud, a time or two before she started reading. Which is good. Because it was her grandfather’s funeral, and that’s a hard place to read about being comforted. And because she read those words with current and former world leaders watching, which brought a new layer of meaning to speaking truth to power.
What captured me in the middle of the reading was the simple word, “see.” In the story of the text, this is spoken by a loud voice, a proclamation to all of everyone everywhere in every time. But the way she said “see” wasn’t like a demand (“See here”) or an argument (“See, I don’t think you understand”). It was like the granddaughter of a man who once was in the position regarded as “the most powerful man on earth” and who was known to her as “gampy”. Her voice offered challenge and comfort and invitation.
It reminded me of the power of listening to scripture, not just reading it. It’s worth a listen as we start the week.