Last Friday over 500 of us gathered in church to celebrate the life of Kenzie Cheston, one of our beloved young people who died suddenly and unexpectedly over Labor Day weekend.

Amidst our shock, grief and heartbreak, we prayed and sang and wept out loud, together. Spirit spoke through scripture, liturgy and Rebecca’s homily; hymns, poetry and a violin. Grace and comfort soared through the voices of our young people, encouraged by Maggie Klaes and accompanied by Val Adelung on the piano, singing reassurance that we will encounter Kenzie in the “space between”. Parents-turned-ushers welcomed and greeted each person who came through our doors.

Our nave offered sanctuary to weary souls who came in need of respite, comfort and solid ground on which to stand, regardless of faith or creed, belief or non-belief. And the Good News that nothing —not even death — can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord was proclaimed, felt, and lived.

In a world and a culture that persist in the illusion that we are separate, that vulnerability is weakness, that we must “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps” and “tough it out on our own”, and that death has the final word, the One whom we follow invites a different way of being and living:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

As it turns out, we do this – we come to our Lord and find rest – by coming together and gathering in community; by being the hands and hearts and feet of the living Christ for one another. In times of joy and sorrow, celebration and grief, through all the changes and chances of this world — the rising and falling of people in power and of financial markets, of relationships that delight and disappoint, of dreams and goals achieved and lost, of our deepest selves lost and found, of loved ones living and dying — we embody Christ — “God With Us” — most powerfully when we are present with and for one another.

Deep inside, we know this: we cannot be fully human in isolation; we can only be fully human in community. The mercy, compassion and healing balm of God are embodied in and through us — in acts of kindness and connection, hands outstretched and arms open wide, hearts broken open and opening wider still. Yes, we need each other. And yes, we are stronger together.

So let us continue to walk beside Shannon, Jim, Clare, and so many others who are making their way through the valley of the shadow of death. Let us practice encountering Kenzie and our beloved departed in the Space Between. Let us keep gathering, inviting, extending hospitality, offering sanctuary, showing up and being fully present to, for, and with one another, so we may be the change in the world that we so desperately long to see.

Our very lives depend on it.