On Sunday 2nd December 2012, I helped with a Bereavement Service at Trinity United Reformed Church in Upminster. I was asked to give a short talk, which I now reprint below.
Isaiah 9:6 & 7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”
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: 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. But we all have suffered a loss.
We may be men and women who have a strong faith in God and in Jesus. Or we maybe folk who are just hanging on by our finger tips, or there again we may truly wonder where God has been recently. Jesus actually said that we only needed faith the size of a mustard seed to see wonderful things happen. We don’t need great faith in God, we just need faith in a Great God!
Often 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. Christmas approaches, the shops are full despite the financial situation, the TV is full of the build up to Christmas and everyone seems to be having business as usual.
Many years ago a man suffering after a terrible trauma wrote this:”Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me,” Maybe you can agree with him. He was a man called Jeremiah and he wrote those words as he sat in the ruins of Jerusalem ( Lamentations 1: 12).
May be we find that friends and neighbours cross the road to avoid us. Folk who were always good for a chat, pass us by with a muttered “Hello” or “How are you?” Hoping that you don’t really say how you are. Often its because people don’t know what to say or how to behave. They are embarrassed as they may open their mouths and put their feet in it! Perhaps that are afraid that if you tell them how you feel they won’t know how to handle it. So its better to walk on by.
Perhaps we are haunted by the “if onlys” or the “what ifs’”. If only I had called the doctor. If only he hadn’t insisted on driving that night. If only I had realised how ill she was. We’ve all been there, struggling with our regrets.
Or it could be the shame of how our loved one meet their end. Perhaps it was alcohol or drugs that was the problem. Or maybe our loved one committed suicide. I am wearing a red ribbon today because yesterday was World Aids Day. My brother in law Nick died from an AIDS related illness. Sadly some of his family could never say what he died of. The shame of it.
Or maybe it’s the silence of the house once we are at home for the evening. You can cope with the day, there’s places to go and people to meet. But as winter evenings draw in we can feel isolated. And doesn’t the house make some strange noises in the small hours as we lay there unable to sleep?
Often we have to deal somehow with experts who are full of “You should”. You may well have come across them. They are full of good advice: You should move to a smaller house. You should get out more. You should join a club, buy a pet etc etc.
Many years ago my friend Kevin lost his dad who was only in his 40’s. Kevin’s mum was told at the funeral by a close relative “Never mind, I’m sure you’ll soon find another man” I hope this hasn’t been your experience.
Oh how we long for peace. How we want the “if onlys” and the “what ifs” to go away. How we wish the expert with their suggestions to leave us alone. We want to stop making that extra cup of tea or cooking that extra dinner. How silly we feel when momentarily we go into autopilot and forget that he or she is no longer with us and turn to them to discuss something that’s on the TV.
And that brings us to our short Bible reading. This is one of the traditional readings many churches have at their Christmas carol services. Isaiah is writing some 600 years before the birth of Jesus telling us about him and what he will become. And in this list of titles comes the one most of us here today want to hear about. Jesus is to be Prince of Peace.
We may look at the world today and say that we don’t yet see much evidence of peace, with all the terrible wars and conflicts that occur and the violent crimes that stalk our cities at times. Yet we can have peace at a personal level to calm the emotional storms that rage in our spirits and to help us in our daily lives.
In John’s gospel, his account of Jesus’ life, he records what you could call Jesus’ last will and testament. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, amongst other things promises to those who follow him, his peace. It’s an inner peace that helps us in all the storms of life when we are in turmoil.
Jesus says to followers: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
It is my prayer to day that we would all know the peace that Jesus brings.
Loving God, we long for peace; peace to leave our loved ones with you, peace to strengthen us for today and tomorrow, peace with ourselves , with each other and with you. Grant us that peace which the world cannot give; through Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.