Memorial service for those who’ve lost loved ones.


7th May 2017. Reading: Romans 8:31-end

No Audio this time! Sorry.

Hope is what we cling to in the time of tragedy.
Some of you may have heard the story in the news recently of the Scottish surfer lost at sea for thirty-two hours. 22-year-old Matthew Bryce could not have known how his normal day of surfing would end with him stranded out to sea floating helplessly out to sea. Clinging to his surf board, he tried battling against the wind, paddling with all his might but of no use. As the hours passed and his shouts to passing boats went unheard, he said he’d almost lost hope “thinking I was going to die, I was almost convinced. I didn’t think I would see sunrise.” His parents spoke about trying to keep strong, to keep hoping but as time went on that hope ebbed away. Matthew went on to say “So I was watching the sunset and I’d pretty much made peace with it all and then a helicopter flew right over. These guys were the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I owe them my life.”
Clinging to hope keeps us going through the tough times. The times which seem dark and relentless. Where grief becomes all-consuming and the light of day brings no joy.
It is times such as these that bring us to this service this evening. Those who have recently lost loved ones will have received an invitation but others here, have come because there is still some sadness, even after many years, that can gnaw away at us. Yes, we are looking for hope.
Yet the hope we are looking for is a hope that will last. Not the frail human hope which dwindles over time.
A few weeks ago, we celebrated Easter, a festival which reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus. In the reading this evening, we heard Paul speak of a certain and assured hope that the death and resurrection of Christ brings to all who believe in Him. Yes, Jesus has been raised from the dead – so we can be sure that the dead can be raised – so yes, we can indeed have hope that is long lasting even in distressing times.
Matthew the surfer, paddled constantly against the wind but the wind fought back. There are times in our lives when we find that no matter how hard we paddle, how hard we fight against things, we find ourselves going nowhere. The tough times, life seems to throw at us, can make us feel stuck, hopeless and alone, separated from living life itself.
Paul is saying in these words to the Romans that life does go against us sometimes but we have hope because God gives us everything we need. He even gave up his own Son. Just when we feel condemned by life, God stands up for us. God has proven this through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. When we believe in this and have faith, Paul says we are justified by God. We are assured that God will never let us go.
Just when we feel we can’t go on and want to give up, in that moment, God breaks through.
As Matthew clung onto his surf board, he felt his end was near as the sun went down on his life. The sea had been Matthew’s barrier to life, separating him from the land and his family. Perhaps we too have barriers that separate us from truly living life in peace and happiness. Barriers of pain and suffering that, no matter what we do, seem to hold us back from God’s love.
However, Pauls states that nothing can separate us from the love of God. This is a hope that is for our past, present and future, as Paul continues to say that nothing we have done, nothing that we will do, neither anything in life or even death itself can separate us from God’s love.
This is the meaning behind, ‘we are more than conquers’ for the hope we hold does not dwindle, is not dependant on circumstances or luck, but is an assurance that God will never let us down as we share in the sufferings of life as Christ did.
As the sun went down on Mathew he saw the rescue helicopters miraculously flying over him. He said this was the most beautiful sight he’d ever seen as he knew he’d been rescued from death. To those who believe, Jesus is more than beautiful, more than wonderful. Jesus has conquered death and now reigns. One day there will be no more death or mourning but when that will be we don’t know. However, we can be assured that when we place our trust in Christ, God will watch over our lives and in the end Christ will come and take us to that place God has prepared for us.

This evening as we remember our loved ones and seek hope in the midst of the darkness we shall be lighting candles to remind us that Jesus id the light of the world, as we light them we are saying we long for this light in our own darkness and we long for hope in the solitude of loss. A sure and certain hope that nothing can separate us from the love of God. A hope we can rely on today and every day.

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