Swiftwater Journey

faith, culture, and growing up in a rapidly changing world

Celebrating Life after Confronting Death August 18, 2009

Filed under: pastoral leadership — billmacphee @ 6:56 am
Tags: , , ,

I stepped into the privilege of officiating a memorial service yesterday. Facilitating a sacred space for processing grief is never easy, but can’t be compared to the heartache of family and friends who have just lost one they deeply love. Preparing the words and then moments for quiet reflection for a memorial gathering is a challenge not to be entered into without humble and thoughtful trust in God.

Sometimes there is a tension brought into the worship setting. Some present are downright angry as they wrestle with the hurt and confusion of loss, and their anger is thrust outward toward God, the church, the minister, family members. They need care and a resilient environment of grace–sometimes just silence in which to sit and wrestle. Others are hoping a message on sin and forgiveness will fix all the hurt and right all the wrongs surrounding the relationships of those present. Often these two emotions and expectations can complicate an already difficult worship environment.

I chose to bring the presence, hope, and grace of Christ into the room through prayer, key Scriptures, and family remembrances [I know the grace of Christ was already present, I sought to be a reminder of that grace]. I acknowledged the power of community as we collectively waited on God to help us move with hope into tomorrow. We read Psalm 23 – God is our very present companion on this journey. We reminded ourselves that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and lays down his life for the sheep – John 10:11. Jesus’ invitation still stands – all who are weary and burdened can come to him – Matthew 11:28.

I led the crowd in a prayer based on Psalm 124:8 – “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

A beautiful and respectful eulogy was delivered by a personal friend.

We sang “Amazing Grace.”

Family members spoke their intimate, sometimes funny, and meaningful remembrances. It is so helpful to laugh through tears.

A message of hope was mined from Romans 8:1, 28, 31-39 – God is the God who is for us and with us-demonstrated most clearly by his choosing the cross of Christ.

We sang “The Old Rugged Cross” and then a final prayer/benediction was offered: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” [Numbers 6:24-26].

I sought to keep the focus on Christ as a demonstration of God’s extravagant grace. If God is for us, who can be against us? I wanted to be faithful to honor both the reality of allegiance to the cross of Christ and also represent his gentle and gracious compassion. I hope I did both well. We need more honest and loving conversation about life’s deepest mysteries.