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
L: Come, let us draw near unto God!
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
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 thats what were 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
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 dont want to tell them: hey, its all for the best! Or:
God doesnt 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.
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 youre 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.
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.
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,
God is still near, and he wont go away because we are not able to trust; he
didnt walk away from Job, he didnt walk away from anybody that Ive heard
of. God is near even in our darkest moment of
rage or depression.
hymn that expresses both Gods faithfulness and our doubt and struggle in light of
this verse from Isaiah so well is Natalie Slates Hymn of Promise:
the bulb there is a flower;
in the seed, an
In cocoons, a
soon be free!
In the cold and
snow of winter
spring that waits to be,
alone can see.
In our end is
in our time,
In our doubt
there is believing;
in our life,
In our death, a
at the last, a
alone can see.
Lighting of Candle
We look for light but find darkness,
For brightness, but walk in gloom.
like those who have no eyes;
We stumble at noon as in the twilight.
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)
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.
reflective prayer for the future could be printed on the back of the bulletin:
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