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Memorial Service

Greeting and Welcome

Welcome to our service of remembrance, prayer and hope.  We gather with a keen awareness of God's presence with us and with our loved ones that have preceded us into the life to come.   The love of God is one bond that keeps us connected to them. Today, we remember our loved ones, acknowledge our loss, but also celebrate their lives and what they meant to us.


Call to worship (responsive)

L: I cry aloud to God, that God may hear me!
P: I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember the wonders of old.
L: I will meditate on all God's works and muse on God's mighty deeds.
P: The way of the Lord is holy. Who is great like our God?
L: Come, let us draw near unto God!

Opening Prayer

God of us all, your love never ends.
When all else fails, you still are God.
You know our needs before we ask.
Give us now your grace, that as we shrink before the mystery of death,
we may see the light of eternity.
Speak to us once more your solemn message of life & death.
Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
We pray to you for one another in our need
and for all, anywhere, who mourn and remember with us this day.
To those who doubt, give light;
To those who are weak, strength.
Keep true in us the love with which we hold one another
In all our ways we trust you.

Scripture Reading  Isaiah 55:6-11

Seek the Lord who now is present,
call upon the Lord, who is near,
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return that the Lord may have mercy on them;
that our God may abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and return not but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I intend,
and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

by Rev. Frank Schaefer

We are here to celebrate the lives, but also to express our loss and grieve.  As a pastor I have had the privilege to be a part of many memorial services and one thing that always struck me was that when I met with the family to plan the service there were both of these elements represented: celebration of the life of the loved one and grief; there is often even laughter as some of the unique memories are conjured up and the laughter can instantly turn into tears again as we realize our loss one more time.

And that’s what we’re doing here today too, we remember and relish in those precious memories we have, we celebrate their lives, but we also express our grief acknowledging our loss.

But I think there is at least one more reason why we may be here which I find true in my pastoral experience:  We need to hear a Word from God, we need to know how this loss, this grief fits with the goodness and love of God.  It is that question of the theodicy that burns in us: Why God?  How can you?  I thought you were a God of goodness and mercy?  An all-powerful God?  How could you allow this to happen?

Then we come to our Scripture reading.  In Isaiah 55 it says: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

And that is one lofty theological statement.  Rationally that may sound about right.   There may somehow be purpose in our loss, but emotionally this may be as far removed from logic than the sky is from the earth.

The very least we can say is that facing a loss is a hard. There are no quick fixes.  There is no theological conclusion that can take away the pain instantly.

            If you approach a person who is suffering, and you don’t want to tell them: “hey, it’s all for the best!” Or: “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”  That person will most likely not appreciate that comment--even though your intentions and your theology are good.  Suffering a loss, when it actually occurs, is very, very hard.

The reading from Isaiah reminds me a lot of the conclusion that Job draws: who am I to question God; your ways are higher than my ways God.  If you’re not familiar with Job, he is the proverbial sufferer, a man who was tested by God under infliction of the worst kind of human suffering.  What a statement of faith and trust Job made following all he went through.

But….consider what it took for Job to get to that point of renewed faith.  Before he could make that statement he went through the pits; he reveled, he moaned, he complained, he expressed his anger at God.  He went through all the stages of grief and only at the very end, he regained trust and faith in God.

So if you find yourself at odds with God; if you find that your trust toward God is shaken, you are in good company with Job; it puts you on the theological map and we may even find comfort in the fact that our feelings of anger, depression, a lack of trust, and of feeling out of control are valid and perhaps necessary in our grieving.

The truth as I see it is expressed so well in a different part of our Scripture reading, that, no matter what we feel like, no matter where we are and what we do, God is always near.  It may not be possible for you or me to say with Isaiah: “your way is higher than my way and your thoughts are higher than mine,“ because our trust is shaken,

But… God is still near, and he won’t go away because we are not able to trust; he didn’t walk away from Job, he didn’t walk away from anybody that I’ve heard of.  God is near even in our darkest moment of rage or depression.

One modern hymn that expresses both God’s faithfulness and our doubt and struggle in light of this verse from Isaiah so well is Natalie Slate’s Hymn of Promise:

In the bulb there is a flower;
in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise:
butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter
there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season,
something God alone can see.


In our end is our beginning;
in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing;
in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection;
at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season,
something God alone can see.


Lighting of Candle
We look for light but find darkness,
For brightness, but walk in gloom.

We grope like those who have no eyes;
We stumble at noon as in the twilight.

Blessed be your name, O God, for ever.
You reveal deep and mysterious things;
You are light and in you is no darkness.

Our darkness is passing away
and already the true light is shining.


Closing Prayer (in unison):
(traditional Pakistani prayer)

O Creator and mighty God,
You have promised strength for the weak,
rest for the laborers, light for the way,
grace for the trials, help from above,
unfailing sympathy, undying love.
O Creator and mighty God,
help us to continue in your promise. Amen.


Benediction (based on Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious to us and bless us
And make your face to shine upon us,
That your way may be known upon the earth;
your saving power among all nations.

This simple reflective prayer for the future could be printed on the back of the bulletin:


Potter's Wheel Prayer

On the Potter's Wheel
Mold My Life With Loving Hands
On the Potter's Wheel
Fit My Future to Your Plans
As You Turn My Life I Find
You Imprint Your Life on Mine
I'm Remade to Your Design
On the Potter's Wheel