Tonight is our annual service for those who've been bereaved. I'll post the sermon below. Again, it isn't a great theological treatise, but I hope it will be appropriate for those who are at the service.
Memorial service (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-5)
I hope we find those words from the Wisdom of Solomon comforting.
Of course there is terrible pain when we lose someone – we miss them, in ways that might change as time passes, but we never stop missing them. Many people who have been bereaved have commented to me that the pain doesn’t go away as time passes, it just changes with the months and years.
But the Christian hope is that although we feel the pain of loss, those we have loved are ‘In the hands of God’.
We cannot know for sure, this side of death, what it might be like to be in the hands of God, but we know what it means to feel secure, to feel loved, to feel comfortable and relaxed – and the Bible promises that heaven is like all the good things we know in this life.
On of the psalms – Psalm 16 – says
“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
And if you’re wondering whether this is anything more than wishful thinking, the evidence that God is able to keep our loved ones – and ultimately each one of us, safe in his hands, is that this is what happened to Jesus Christ – who was brought safely through death to resurrection life.
So Paul writes to the Philippians
“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” — Philippians 3:20-21
Not only are we told that those who have died are in the hands of God, we are also told ‘They are at peace’.
Very few lives are untouched by some kind of pain or struggle – and only we may know the difficulties faced by those we loved. But in the end, in the hands of God, and in the beauty of heaven, there will be perfect peace.
Sometimes when someone has died we feel that there are things we could have done differently. But God promises that the person who has died is at peace and offers us peace too, through the forgiveness of God.
They are at peace – and we can be too.
Finally, our reading says that at the end of their lives on earth ‘God found them worthy’. The God who made us knows us through and through, he knows the reasons why each of us is not perfect – but that doesn’t mean that each of us is not worthy of God’s love. Whoever we are, whatever we do with our lives, God never stops loving us. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross shows us the depth of God’s love for every one of us.
We can hear God’s word in the Bible and know that we can trust the love of God to have carried our loved ones safely in his hands, to a place of great peace, where they will be loved as precious in God’s sight.
And though we are separated for a while, we, too are held by God until we are all one in God’s eternal peace.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.