The Dawn Has Come

This time of year I’m thinking about people in my life who have gone. It makes me grateful for my church. About 13 months ago, an uncle died. My aunt asked me to lead a prayer at the funeral. I had no idea what I would say, so I called the church office. The associate pastor copied a few pages from The Book of Common Worship, and I adapted them to suit him.

I belong to the Presbyterian Church (USA), but if you belong to any church, you have access to resources and traditions that have grown out of hundreds of years of people who sought words of comfort in times of grief and loss. At times like this, which we will all face in this life, a resource like that is truly priceless, and I am so grateful to have that.

One thing I have learned through those traditions is not to focus on the loss of the person but on gratitude that this person was part of my life, and no matter how long or short it was, that time was a gift from God. And in Christ, we have the hope of resurrection, which doesn’t take away the sadness but mitigates it and puts it into perspective.

One Bible verse is sometimes misquoted as “sorrow not” (1Thess 4.13). Paul did not say, “Sorrow not,” as if sorrow means you are lacking in faith. In fact, in the letter to Philippians, Paul tells of Epaphroditus, a friend of his who was sick nearly to death, but God had mercy him, “and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (2:27, ESV). In the 1 Thessalonians verse, Paul says, “…sorrow, not as those who have no hope” (KJV, comma mine). I added a comma to make clearer he is saying, Sorrow, but not without hope.

One year ago today, my grandmother died, and four days later my grandfather followed her into the Church Triumphant, as my pastor would say. He was at a VA nursing home, and I can’t help thinking she was probably there at his bedside saying, “Quit flirting with them nurses and come home!”

The words below are what I spoke at Uncle Calvin’s funeral. I’d like to offer them now for my grandmother and anyone who is mourning someone.

Say not in grief that she is no more but say in thankfulness that she was.
A death is not the extinguishing of a light, but the putting out of the lamp because the dawn has come.

A Prayer For The Dead

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.
Let all the people say, Amen.

Gracious God, surround us and all who mourn this day
with your continuing compassion.
Hear our prayers and comfort us;
renew our trust in your Son,
whom you raised from the dead;
strengthen our faith
that
Rosa and all who have died in the love of Christ
will share in his resurrection;
Let all the people say, Amen.

Father in heaven, we praise your name
for all who have finished this life loving and trusting you,
for the example of their lives,
the life and grace you gave them,
and the peace in which they rest.
We praise you today for your servant
Rosa
and for all that you did through
her.
Meet us in our sadness
and fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving,
through our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us all with the gift of this earthly life.
We thank you now for
Rosa’s life,
for every memory of love and joy,
for every good deed she has done
and every sorrow shared with us.
We thank you for
her life and honor her in death,
we thank you for the rest in Christ s
he now enjoys,
we thank you for giving
her to us,
we thank you for the glory we shall share together.
As we honour
her memory,
make us more aware that you are the one
from whom comes every perfect gift,
including the gift of eternal life.

Hear our prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let all the people say, Amen

Living God, you have lit the day with the sun’s light
and the midnight with shining stars.
Lighten our hearts with the bright beams
of the Sun of Righteousness
risen with healing in his wings,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
And so preserve us in the doing of your will,
that at the last we may shine
as the stars for ever;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let all the people say, Amen.

Grace and Peace to you.

Scriptures

Romans 6:3-5

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Rom 6:3-5 NRS)

 

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1Co 15:51-58 NRS)

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