Here's the text of the homily that the Rev Tim Mora preached for the Pike River national remembrance service at Omoto Racecourse, near Greymouth, on December 2.
John 11, 33 - 36
And when Jesus saw Mary weeping, and those who came with her also weeping, he was
troubled in his spirit and deeply moved; and he asked, "Where have you laid him?" and they replied, "Lord, come and see."
And Jesus himself began to weep.
So those with Mary said, "See how much he loved him!"...
To be honest, I don't think anyone here can really know how tough the last week has been for you as families.
And I know that today has probably not been much easier.
You had no time to prepare for what happened, and the news just kept going from bad
to worse, crushing all hope in the end.
Shock, despair, anger, guilt, blame, tears – you've experienced it all, a roller coaster ride of emotions. And it's not over yet.
So how can we help you?
In the reading from John one of the things that stands out for me is that Mary, who
had lost her brother Lazarus, was not alone.
She was surrounded by her community who had gathered to be with her in her time of loss much like, I guess, the way in which we have gathered today and pulled together as a community over the last fortnight to support each other.
Coping with the loss of a loved one is always a difficult thing, but it can be made easier when we find ourselves surrounded by a loving, caring, supporting and comforting community.
Because it's only as we allow others to share our grief, to hear our stories and to witness our tears that we can be helped.
And I have been amazed at the way in which we as a community have risen to the occasion
and pulled out all the stops to be there for each other.
It's made me proud to be a part of this place.
And it's not just our community, either.
I have found the response to our tragedy not only from around New Zealand but from across the world to be a little overwhelming.
China, Palestine... emails, cards, letters, texts, phone calls, vigils, services, prayers, offers of support, finances, practical offers of help, the list just goes on and on.
We are not in this alone.
The entire world is standing with us. And having that support helps.
But I want to address a deeper issue today.
Some of you are probably asking: why?
Why did they have to die? Why were they taken?
Many were still young, the youngest just 17.
They were full of life, engaged to be married, with families, young children, whole futures ahead of them. It's just doesn't seem fair.
But you know the truth of the matter is that they weren't taken. Not by God, fate or anything else.
Their deaths were tragically the result of an accident, a terrible devasting
accident, but still only an accident.
There was no divine fate at work to snatch their lives away. It wasn't their time or anything like that.
The fact is, we live in a physical world, a world governed by natural laws, laws that are consistent and predictable.
It's what makes this whole universe functional and able to be lived in.
But those same laws, when pushed to the edge, can be incredibly dangerous.
And that's where coal mining is. It exists right at the edge, a very dangerous edge of volatile
gases, tunnels and heavy machinery. And while we do all we can to make activities
like mining safe, we can't predict all the risk or all the danger.
Sometimes things just happen. And tragically for all involved, that's what happened for our miners last week.
Something unknown went wrong, an explosion occurred, gas levels rose,
there were other explosions and people died.
It's the nature of the world we live in.
Some, however, might go on to ask where God is in all of this.
Well, God is where he's always been.
Waiting patiently, ready to reach out and offer comfort and support.
In the story of Lazarus, when Jesus saw the grief of Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha
and those with them, it’s recorded that Jesus himself broke down and wept.
And the verse that records Jesus' own grief and pain is probably one of the most powerful
verses in the Bible, for it describes the heart of God.
Think about this for a moment: At times like these when we gather to mourn and remember it can seem like God is away up there, out of sight, out of touch, God doesn't know what we're going through, he doesn't understand our pain, he's never been there.
But that's not entirely true is it?
Because through the life of Christ God has experienced our humanity.
It means that like you and me, he has experienced tiredness, despair, fear, joy, anger, and on the occasion of his friends' death he also experienced and felt the grief that we feel when someone we love dies.
Think about that.
Jesus knew what it was like to lose someone you love.
At Bethany, like many of you today, he was confronted by the death of someone close – Lazarus – and also like many of you, he wept at that death.
And you know that encourages me because it means that in Jesus we have a God who is not away up there, completely divorced from everything we feel and hope for, but rather we have a God who can identify with us.
A God who understands what it means to grieve.
So know right know that in the midst of your grief and pain you can, if you wish, cry out to God, you can even yell at him, and he won't mind.
Because he understands the sadness and the pain that we all feel when we lose someone close.
No-one’s pain is going to stop today, no-one’s hurt is going to suddenly cease.
But it will be helped by what we have done today.
And it is my sincerest prayer that this time of community remembrance will have been
a healing moment for you all.
And so may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
And may the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be always with you.