Our blogs tend to be thoughts and musing, articles both serious and humorous. Today, however, I wish to take this opportunity to write this Pastoral Letter to you in light of the last few months here at St. Stephen’s.
I write this letter to you today as I look back over the first five months of the year. It is not a secret, nor is it unknown, 2018 has been a rather difficult year in regards to loss. Many members of our church and friends of St. Stephen’s have experienced significant loss of family members, be it children, spouses, parents or grandparents...and for our tiny parish this is significant. While we may not see the absence of these dear ones in Christ on Sunday (many have been homebound or not with us on Sundays as of late) their absence is felt significantly by their loved ones.
In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul asks a pointed question, one that is familiar to many of us that have attended a Christian funeral. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Looking to the second question, the sting is VERY real for those of us that are reeling from the loss of someone we love. The empty chair, the quiet nights. This is not a rhetorical question because the sting is right here with us - around us and a reminder of the loss.
This is why we pray for the bereaved, this is why we pray for those of us left behind. One of the prayers that we may use in a funeral liturgy is as follows:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source
of all mercy and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our
sorrows so that we can comfort others in their sorrows with
the consolation we ourselves have received from God.”
Christ comforts us in all our troubles, all our joys AND in all our sorrows. The image of Jesus as the shepherd that gathers his sheep into his arms is perhaps one of the greatest images of comfort that we have. This idea that we are gathered into the embrace of Jesus is a consolation and a truth that we all look and pray for. Yet, as everything in our faith, we are also called to action. We are also called to mimic this image of a consoling Christ to others that are in need of such comfort. This prayer is especially helpful because it reminds us that just as we are comforted, we too are called to be the comforters for those in need of that earthly embrace. Pray for those that are still feeling the sting of death today - and be that presence of divine love and comfort for them.
In all this, as we witnessed on Saturday at the memorial service for Dorothy Davis, death does not have power over us. We sing in Eastertide “this is the feast of victory for our God.” Paul’s letter also reminds us that death has been “swallowed up” by the resurrection of Jesus Christ - a resurrection that has secured for all of creation eternal life in the glory and the power of a God so committed to loving each and every person as they are, as they were and as they will always be. We are called to take up our crosses, to live as Christ has called each of us - and to live in the glory of God is the greatest honor we can do for those that have gone on before us.
It is my prayer that the comfort of God be with all those that mourn, the strength of Christ be with those of us that can console, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit give us the courage to be a resurrection people of hope, love, and comfort.
The grace, peace and love of God be with you.
Yours in Christ,