The Last Word…

This coming Sunday (November 6th), along with other believers around the world, we will be celebrating All Saints Sunday. In the Catholic Church, every day of the year is designated by the celebration of a particular saint – typically a person of great faith who was martyred on that day. Eventually, one Sunday was set aside to remember all saints – known and unknown. Many protestant churches picked up on this tradition and use this Sunday to remember those in the local congregation who have joined the “great cloud of witnesses” in heaven.

As has been our tradition for a number of years, All Saints Sunday is the day we remember those who have died in the past year, dedicate memorial gifts to the church, lift up our special memorial funds, and pass out Bibles to our Kindergartners and High School freshman (compliments of the Ruth Anderson Memorial Fund).

According to the number of files saved in the “Funerals” directory of my computer, I have officiated at over 200 funerals over the past 15 years as pastor of Central Christian Church. So many dear ones have made the transition from this life to their eternal home. On Thursday of this week, I will again be officiating at two funerals – one for a long time church member whose wife’s funeral I did several years ago and another for a man whose wife’s funeral I did earlier this year. Just as I stood with them besides their wives’ graves and spoke words of hope, I will now stand with their children and grandchildren and seek to speak words of comfort and peace.

The New Testament reading for this Sunday is taken from 1 Thessalonians 3:13-18. The opening words of that text are sometimes used to imply that people of faith should not grieve the loss of loved ones. “Grieve not…” begins the text. But that is not Paul’s entire thought. Paul’s message to the people of Thessalonica was “Grieve not as those who have no
hope.” There is a big difference.

Perhaps you have lost a loved one in the past year – or in the past 50 years – and continue to struggle with grief. The sermon for this Sunday will be entitled “Good Grief,” not after Charlie Brown’s famous words, but because grief is very much a part of life. Grief is not something we seek out, but when entered into in faith can be something that ultimately leads us into a deeper appreciation of life, a stronger relationship with God, and a better capacity to minister to others.