Readings: Titus 3:1-7; Luke 17:11-19; Psalm 23
For many of us, this may be a time of year where we have mixed feelings. We may have a sense of pride as we remember any relations who gave their lives fighting for the greater joy or we may be filled with sadness. As we come to Remembrance Day, we look back at the lives of those who have given so much for their respective countries in the war. This is a time which also offers personal introspection and remembrance, as well as corporate grieving as a nation , of those near to us who have died whether fighting for their country or not.
I know some for whom Remembrance Day is a particular struggle after losing a much loved family member. Creating the space to reflect, particularly at this time of year, can often be a cause for grief returning as we remember these loved ones who have passed. For those we know were Christian, we can rejoice in the promises of God that death is not the end but there is life eternal to come after this life. For those who had no faith in God, all we can do is hope for God’s mercy extended to them as well. Hope of a life eternal does not diminish our grief or make it unjustified. However, in our grief we can hold to the promises of God to help bring us through our grief by remembering the promises of eternal life.
The promise of eternal life is the ultimate act of God’s mercy through the rebirth in our baptism and the renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-5). It is not offered to us based upon our actions or perceived worth but because of the mercy of God. The hope and faith we place in God is of far greater value to our righteousness than any acts we may perform. Having been reconciled and justified in Christ we are able to access the eternal life we are promised but it is something greater than this. When someone we love dies , we go through the painful process of looking over their will to see who their heirs were to see who receives their possessions. We see in our Titus reading that for those who are renewed by the Spirit are identified as heirs to the death of Christ which rewards the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:6-7).
When we are in a position to have a hope offered to us beyond death. How do we live out a life of hope rather than fear of death?
I find many expressions of a life filled with hope in the Psalm today. Psalm 23 reads:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.
3 He shall refresh my soul and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil and my cup shall be full.
6 Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
It cannot be any more explicit about some of the things it says. We will lack nothing, our souls shall be refreshed, we will fear no evil for he is with us, our cups shall be full, goodness and mercy shall follow us. The part of the Psalm which matches the other readings and offers us hope of the eternal life that greets us upon death is the final phrase. A line rich in purpose and promise; ‘And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’ There is no greater reward or comfort than dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever. The significant thing about this part of the Psalm is forever means forever. We will not dwell in the house of the Lord until the time of our deaths but it goes beyond into that which follows. Returning to our Titus reading, dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever, is a part of heirship in Christ to the hope of eternal life.
Let us take comfort in God whose goodness and loving mercy follows us always and whose house we will dwell in forever because of the heirship we have in Christ.
We will remember all those who have passed giving them thanks for their service for our nation.
We will remember all those who have passed that we love and mourn for as if it is their first day of death.
We hope for God’s mercy for those who have died. We trust in the promises of God that we are heirs to eternal life.
We will remember together Christ’s sacrifice that offers hope to all that death is not the end. Death holds the victory no longer.
We will remember.