Remembering with hope

Good morning, Friends!

This morning we’re having a special time to remember the people in our meeting who have died during the past three years. We remember them on Memorial Sunday, but that’s a more public type of occasion.

This is more of a family remembrance, especially since during COVID we have often had to hold very small memorial services.

Many people haven’t really been able to grieve the way they need to. And many of us weren’t able to be here for the small gatherings and the graveside services which have taken place.

So, today we’re trying to reach out to everyone in our meeting who has lost a loved one during the past three years. We want you to know that we’re thinking of you, that you haven’t been forgotten, and that your loved one hasn’t been forgotten, either.

We’re going to have some quiet music. During the music, I will read the names, one by one. If the family are here, please come forward when the name of your loved one is read, and light a candle for them.

If there are no family members who were able to be here today, then please, if you’re a friend, or if you were in their Sunday School class, please come forward and light a candle for them.

If no one is here or feels comfortable lighting a candle, then Tanya will light one for them.

When all the candles are lit, we’ll have some special music. Then we’ll have a time of open worship, when anyone can share thoughts or memories or prayers. So, while the candles are being lighted, please be thinking, and during open worship, please be open if you feel you have something to say.

Remembrance – lighting the candles

Open worship

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

I only want to give a short message this morning. We’ve already remembered and given thanks for the lives of the many people we love who have died recently.

I want to share a Scripture from the New Testament, from one of the letters of Paul.

One of the strongest beliefs of the early Christians, was that Christ was returning soon. They believed that when Jesus came back, that all the dead would be raised, and that he would bring everyone who believed in him, to be with him in heaven forever.

None of us knows when that will be. And none of us knows what heaven will be like. It’s a matter of faith, but even more, it’s a matter of hope.

Paul did his best to try to answer the questions people had, and he tried to fill in the blanks and give people hope and comfort.

This is what Paul told people. And even if you find the details of what Paul says difficult to believe, I want you to listen to the faith Paul has in the love of Christ. He’s sharing his own vision of what’s going to happen.

What I want you all to hear and remember is the faith and the hope in these words.

My brothers and sisters, we don’t want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death. Don’t grieve like those who have no hope.

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again! We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive – we who are left until the coming of the Lord – we will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

I’m going to say again what you’ve heard me say before: we don’t know how it all will be. But we trust God, that we will be cared for, and that we will be together again.

You’ve heard me say before, that God knew us and loved us, before we were born – before we were ever even a glint in our mother or father’s eye – God knew us and loved us.

Even though we have free will, and we choose how to live our lives, God knew already what kind of a person each of us would be. God has guided us, at many points of our lives. God has called us back. God has lifted us up. God has healed us and showed mercy toward us, so many times.

But God has cared for us, all this time. God has never abandoned us.

And we believe that this love of God – which was here for us before we were ever born, the love which has carried us, all through our lives – we believe that love of God doesn’t end, whenever we die. God isn’t like that. God would never let us go! Not any of us. Not ever.

So, even if we don’t know all the details, we believe what Jesus says, about the life that starts now, the life which never ends. We are people of faith. We are people of hope.

We know that death is real. But we believe that death isn’t the last word. The first word, is life. The word we carry with us, all the time, is life.

We believe that God doesn’t waste any of the love in the world. How could death possibly be the end of everything?

Even if we can’t see, with our mortal eyes, what happens next, we believe, with hope in our hearts, that the love of God will never let us go.

Jesus once said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Neither let them be afraid. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it weren’t so, wouldn’t I have told you? I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, you will be also. . .” (John 14:1-3)

Paul says today, “Don’t grieve like people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again! We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. . .We will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

Some of you may remember a quotation, which I’ve shared before. It’s by the Quaker William Penn, who was known by some of the very people who started Springfield Friends Meeting.

William Penn, along with many others, had left England and made the difficult and dangerous journey to the New World. Most of those people never expected to cross the ocean again.

William Penn asked people to think about death like another kind of journey, but to remember that they were still connected, by unbreakable bonds of love, with those they left behind. This is what he said:

“They that love beyond the World, cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill, what never dies.

Nor can Spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; [which is] the Root and Record of their Friendship.

If Absence be not Death, neither is theres. Death is but crossing the World, as Friends do cross the Seas; They live in one another still.”

William Penn, “Fruits of Solitude”
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