Greg Murai's Passing

April 21 2016
April 21 2016
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Christ Church lost Greg Murai, our Worship Arts Associate, to a heart attack late Tuesday night.

Our staff has been rocked by two sudden deaths only seven months apart. Our church has known the depths of deep grief.

Christians, all of us, live in the tension between Isaiah 55 and 1 John 3…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8,9

(Tension)

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!... Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” -1 John 3:1-2

(Tension)

There are a lot of questions with no easy answers in moments like this: What is God doing? Is God trying to teach us something and what the hell is wrong with his pedagogy? Or, are there dark spiritual forces wreaking havoc? And if so, does that mean that the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing and subsequently, Satan is pissed? What “bad” is going to come upon us now?

The enduring witness of Scripture and the testimony of the Church teach us that God is good, that God is powerful, and that God loves us with an everlasting love. The enduring witness of Scripture and the testimony of the Church remind us that God has ultimate view, but we will never have more than point of view. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55)—we can’t see what is going on behind the scenes, but we do indeed know how this all ends (1 John 3). We know that Christ’s resurrection holds out for us a final resurrection—life, bodies, relationships, conversations, laughter, joy—and with it a fully renewed world to inhabit.

And so, as Paul says to the young church at Thessalonica, “We grieve…but not without hope!”

We will deeply miss Greg Murai. He was a soft-spoken guy with a heart that plumbed two miles deep. He was a warm, dear presence on our staff. When he spoke up, everyone turned toward him with rapt attention because he was about to lend an insight that would deeply serve the needs of others.

In this respect, much like with David’s death, we all feel a bit cheated. There was so much possibility and potentiality. While Greg served with us for 18 months, it felt like we were only just beginning to experience and realize his impact in our church. In fact, on Tuesday at our weekly staff meeting, as we were asked to recondition our job descriptions for the next ministry year, Greg pulled Katie, our Director of Christ Church Kids and my bride, aside and said, “Katie, I have a confession to make…. I need your help with my retooled job description. I love the kids at Christ Church, and I want to find even more ways to minister to them and with them through music.”

Speaking of kids, my kids reminded me last night that at the Ten Year Anniversary Picnic, one of our young elementary students at Christ Church Oakland walked by the dozens of pictures strung up between the trees, and pointed out a picture of Greg and gleefully exclaimed: “Oh, I love that guy! He teaches us music. I love him.” [Of course you do, he was a wonderful man!]

Finally, I was at a youth soccer game on Saturday, and I met a couple named Ephraim and Marissa. They asked me that dreaded question: “What do you do, Bart?” “Well, umm, yeah, so, I’m…uh, yeah, well I’m actually a Presbyterian minister.” We talked for a bit about this, and they said: “Wait a minute…do you know Greg Murai?” I said, “Yes, he’s on our staff!” “Oh, we love him…we used to sing in his jazz choir.”

This morning I reached out via email to let them know that Greg had passed, but not before I had a chance on Tuesday to tell him about our conversation. In the email, I told them both how excited Greg was that the three of us had connected, and how he now planned to reconnect to them and invite them to our church. I also mentioned that our church had recently endured another sudden loss. They wrote back with these words:

“Our hearts are heavy this morning - we are deeply saddened to learn of Greg's passing. Thank you for reaching out and for reconnecting us to Greg, if only for a brief moment - to know that he knew we talked of him fondly and regarded him with affection after all of these years makes me smile through my tears right now. We are holding Dale in our hearts gently and with love.

We are so sorry for the losses your church has suffered over the last year and will pray for your community's continued healing and peace. Interestingly - not surprisingly - the words of comfort that first come to mind - springing from the heart, so to speak - are the lyrics from the wedding blessing that Greg arranged for us; he had arranged a section from Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Springs" - it's called "Simple Gifts," and it's one of the most beautiful pieces ever written.  This is the blessing Greg wrote (adapted from a bible verse, I think), which we offer in turn now:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I'm with you always.”

What a comfort! In addition to many fond memories I will cherish of Greg as a member of our staff team, my lasting impression of Greg’s joy and passion will come from his song, Cantemos Al Senor, which we have used in two of our Easter Services. May you find the Resurrection Hope in the rhythm and words. And Greg Murai, May you Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory. Amen.