Today I gave a short talk at a Bereavement Service organised by a local funeral director BF Mulley & Son and held at Trinity United Reformed Church in Upminster. I am grateful to the minster Rev Phil Nevard for inviting me to take part in the service and give the message.
The Bible reading is Psalm 121 and is given below:
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
It’s good to see so many of you here this afternoon.
We come from a variety of backgrounds yet we all have one thing in common. Something, we in fact share with all humanity regardless of race, religion or status. We have all at some point lost someone we love. For some it is a recent loss and really hurts. For others, the loss happened a while ago and yet the pain is still there at times.
But we all have suffered a loss. We have all grieved or are grieving the death of someone of significance to us. Someone far wiser than me once said “Grief is the price we pay for love”. You could say it’s the flip side of the coin with love being the head.
Maybe we find it strange that life goes on around us as if nothing has happened, as if those outside of our little world don’t know what we are going through. Life continues.
I was visiting Jane a couple of weeks ago and she said to me how unreal it all seemed. She had just lost her dad and whilst for her, the world had stopped, everyone else just carries on with life. Business as usual. Jane wondered why no one seemed to care or even notice that she was grieving.
Just look at all the preparations for Christmas. The shops crowded with people eager to spend their money. The internet is humming with online shopping. Houses and shops groaning under the weight of Christmas lights and decorations. Adverts on the TV pushing images of happy families enjoying themselves without a care in the world.
Perhaps you are thinking “How can I enjoy Christmas when he or she isn’t here with me?”
I suspect the thought of actually enjoying Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus is fairly low in the list of priorities.
Quite understandably life has lost its sparkle.
And then we have the practical concerns of life to negotiate, perhaps for the first time on our own. Things we didn’t worry about, because he or she always did them. Getting the shopping, writing cheques and paying the bills, wiring a plug or mowing the lawn. For some this is unknown territory.
It may seem silly or embarrassing to confide in family or neighbours that you haven’t a clue what to do.
One of my brothers and his wife had to make numerous trips to North Wales to teach father in law how to use the washing machine, how to cook and basically how to look after himself. He’d never had to be involved in domestic affairs whilst his wife was alive.
Grief can leave us feeling so lost, even if we can do the basics of life. When we lose someone significant such as our life partner, parent, sibling or indeed a good friend, we can find ourselves literally clueless as to what to do next.
Who do I turn to? Who do I ask?
And this is where our Bible reading comes in. Many of the psalms were written by David a man who had at times been through the mill. He had done some terrible things at times. He had known loss and tragedies. He had been wrongly accused and persecuted and yet despite all the awful things that had happened to him he could write this:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
In a shifting landscape David recognised the one certainty in life that God is there. People may let us down or we may not want to bother them yet again. We are told we should be strong and independent yet its not always possible.
Some people have a wrong idea of God that we are not good enough to approach him or indeed to ask him for help. Yet he loves each and everyone of us so much that he sent his son Jesus to bridge that gap between us and God so that we can know him and seek his help in times of trouble.
And the good news is God is there for us 24/7 if we ask him. The psalm says “he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” God doesn’t take the day off or have 40 winks or leave you speaking to an answerphone. You can speak with him any time in the knowledge that he listens.
There are people here who will confirm this to be true from their own experiences. And I am sure that you can talk to myself or to Phil after we have finished if you would like to know more.
So this afternoon it is my hope that if you wonder where you can turn to for help you will like the writer of the psalms look to God and accept his love and comfort knowing that if you do so he will watch over you forever more.
Let us pray:
Eternal God and Father, look in mercy on those who mourn. For our loved ones the trials of this world are over and death is past. Accept from us all that we feel even when words fail us; deliver us from despair and give us strength to meet the days to come in the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.