Grief, funerals and hope

It goes without saying that the last year has been especially hard for all of us. However it is also fair to say that those who have lost family or friends have had additional challenges and pain associated with their loss. Not being able to comfort your own family with a hug or a kiss, not being able to be with those who are dying or ill, being unable to attend a funeral because of restrictions. All of these and so many more factors have made things hard and will continue to do so until we are able to meet together again, both with joy and with our grief. 

So I thought I would share with you the hymns and a talk I will be giving today at one of our church family’s funeral, you might find it helpful as you process your own loss. As a member of our church, Angela was a friend to many and for that reason I know it is hard that you cannot attend the funeral. So in a small way it may help to know the hymns Angela had chosen, Lord for the years and Bless the Lord (10,000 reasons) and the Bible passage she chose 1 Corinthians 13.

A short talk on 1 Corinthians 13

Have you ever looked at something without your glasses on or whilst squinting in the sun and thought that looks nice, only to put them on or come into the shade and be truly amazed. Or maybe you have looked at the artwork for a piece of music and thought I like that song, only to hear it and be swept away. In our reading we heard about the value and power of love, a word that used to be translated as charity. A concept that speaks of sacrificial love, serving and loving others, even often in hidden ways. But even if we use all the words in the dictionary to describe love they still don’t it justice do they.

So let’s take a moment to consider love together, especially as Angela choose this passage for us. It helps us to make sense of grief, which is in itself an expression of love, and yet I think Angela wanted us to consider these words so that we can do more than just consider love. As Angela knew the God who these words speak about, the God who is the source of all love, and who demonstrated his love in the most powerful and world changing way.

I think Angela’s joy and positivity came from her understanding of God’s love and kindness. A love and kindness that she not only enjoyed for herself, but that she in turn directed towards others. A love you would have known as her neighbour, friend or family member. It’s true that Angela was a gift from God and a reminder of his goodness and love to us, whether we believe in God or not.

As Christians we have a confidence like no other, summed up in the writers final words. 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 

Imagine being embraced by God himself and being welcomed to an eternity in paradise. In this life it is possible to be awe struck and overwhelmed by God’s love, yet one day we will experience that love in all it’s fullness and we will know it forever.

We all experience God’s love and provision each day, yet he has also recorded his love for us in the Bible. A love letter, in which his love shines most brightly through Jesus, God himself. The God who was willing to exchange praise for poverty, adoration for rejection and honour for shame. You can see God’s love in everything that Jesus did and said, yet the ultimate demonstration of love was shown through his death. A death which was underserved and yet also only the beginning of the story, as Jesus rose to life again. Through death Jesus defeated death and paid the price for our rebellion. Or to put it another way, Jesus made a way for us to know the God we turn our backs on and chose to live against. What an amazing love, what amazing grace, that our heavenly Father was willing to give up his only Son for you and me.

When we understand and experience God’s love for us in Jesus, it is life changing. When we truly know God’s sacrificial love we are empowered to love others in new ways. Then one day we will see Jesus face to face, the source of all love and charity. A love which will blind us, overwhelm us and then we will know real beauty. Then we will see love in all it’s glory. On that day we will know for certain that greatest gift of all is love.

So just as Angela responded to God’s love and gave her life to follow Jesus, I hope we will look to him ourselves. Not only for comfort in our grief, but also that our tears of grief might be turned into tears of joy. As we are reminded or discover for the first time the love of Christ, which outstrips and overshadows even the greatest love we have ever known. Amen.