Thought for the Day 18th August
‘’God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing’’ (1 Thessalonians 5: 9 - 11).
I was recently reminded of these verses at the funeral of my daughter-in-law’s father, the first funeral I had attended since pre - lockdown. Only a few of us were able to be present (many of his friends and part of his family live in Scotland) and there were the now familiar Covid restrictions of mandatory masks, social distancing and no singing However, there was was a great sense of peace and tranquillity and what particularly stood out for me was the testimony compiled by friends and family. It was a testimony to an ordinary Christian saint who had, throughout most of his life, faithfully and steadfastly served his community and the church (both as a Church Warden of the Anglican Church and later as Elder of the Church of Scotland). It was heart-warming to hear the wide-spread appreciation of and thanksgiving for his life (with the addition of a few humorous anecdotes!), from his active involvement in the affairs of state and church in the Glasgow area to his service to the community in the small Scottish island to which he had retired; then latterly, in a care home near his family in Cambridge, his patient and cheerful acceptance of his terminal illness.
I was led to thinking how much funerals have changed over the years. I have memories of them being sombre occasions with minimal if any contribution from friends and family. Now they tend to be centred on celebrating and giving thanks for people’s lives, often still within the context of a Christian Service. Funerals can be an encouragement, an inspiration, perhaps even a challenge. They can help us to think about our own pilgrimage and spiritualI legacy, also perhaps what we have left undone and still have time to put right. I remember when I was on the diocesan Christian Studies Course that one of the projects we were given was to write our own eulogy: not an easy task if approached openly and honestly! If we look back on our lives, what do we see? How much have we followed Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to encourage (comfort) and build up (edify) one another? We are called to be active participants in our church, not passive spectators. If we were all to encourage one another, we in turn would be encouraged and built up into a more vibrant community marked by the transforming presence of God. Paul reminds the Thessalonians, and us, that we are enabled to care for one another in this way through our acceptance of the salvation offered through Jesus ‘’who died for us, so that whether we are awake (alive) or asleep (have died) we may live with him’’. Funerals are a timely reminder of the continuity of out life in Christ, both now and in eternity.
The final hymn at the funeral was ‘’Make me a Channel of your Peace’’, commonly known as the Prayer of St Francis. This prayer encourages us to look first to the interests of the other person, especially in the following verse:
‘’Oh master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul’’.
Our heavenly Father,
Help us to be active in our faith and with the power of your Holy Spirit, who comforts us, to reach out to comfort others. We thank you for the wonderful gift of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us that we might live with him, both now and eternally.