‘Blessed are you pure of heart, poor, broken, sad, bereaved or wrongly accused. You who are meek, persecuted, and hungry are of worth and value. Blessed are you all indeed. You are blessed for showing mercy and for wanting peace and righteousness.’
These words are heard often in the month of November; sometimes at Services of Remembrance on or near the 11th November to remember all who made the ultimate sacrifice in wars or conflicts or peace keeping. It’s also used in funeral services and memorial services. Since I was ordained 23 years ago (you’re right, I don’t look old enough!!) I’ve always had an annual service to remember those whose funerals we’ve taken in the last few years. Having said this, everyone is welcome to come and remember their loved ones. (details on our website) Another element of this service is to raise money through a collection for either Marie Curie or Macmillan Charities.
Some find the use of the word “celebration” in regards to funerals very difficult to understand. To explain it in a few words we celebrate a person’s life, love, action and simply who they are. Sadly in this past year we’ve gone this for the greatest age span: from babies to people over 100 years old. Every person, no matter what age, is a precious child of God. We know from the Bible that Jesus wept for the loss of his friends, people he cared for, his stepdad etc. God weeps for our loss. We all go through a spectrum of feelings when we lose a loved one. Everything from deep anger at God to feeling numb and lost. When you come to one of our churches or one of the chapels at the crematoriums you are not forgotten. Nor is your loved one. Our congregation hold you in our prayers.
I purposely never give advice at funerals due to the fact that everyone’s grief and loss is theirs, it’s unique and precious to you. But, I would say never keep your grief locked inside. Don’t repress or suppress your pain, for it will certainly eat you up like cancer.
In our world today people may think with some justification that the world has gone to pot. Such violence, war, and abuse; such damage to our world and the creatures we share it with. But this speaks of human greed and sin not an absence of God. So often we can see our fallen state – from us as individuals to a sense of national sinfulness. We can reflect on how we treat the needy, the sick and dying, the elderly, ‘the widow and orphan’, as the Bible puts it. Recently, I was with my son in Matlock and it was a bad day (by this I mean my arthritis was really bad and my mobility was wobbly!) Well, my son asked me for a £1 to give to a man sitting outside the Co op and to a woman outside Iceland. I was so self obsessed that I’d missed both these people. Have you ever been so self centred that you miss the needs of people around you. If by now you are reaching for the anti depressants, please pause – the world is in a mess in so many ways as are we and all nations BUT; that’s why Jesus came all those years ago to enter our stories, your story, and to say ‘we can do better’. If we turn to Christ, ask for forgiveness for our sins (and yes, sorry, but we all have plenty of them!) and then try to forgive other people who have hurt us salvation will be ours. Forget what you’ve heard or read or been told – what is needed to be saved (this is a question people have asked me for decades as they reach the end of their lives) is:
1st Be sorry, truly sorry for ones sins. Whatever they are, Jesus promises us forgiveness from His cross.
2nd Accept Christ as your Lord and Saviour – He loves you.
3rd Start to have a couple of chats with God each day, be honest with Him. (we call this praying)
There are many reason why people don’t go to church from laziness (this was me for years) to being hurt by a church community or by feeling unloved. This November why not try coming to church again, not simply to make up numbers but to teach us from your story and to realise a church is a group of sinners who are trying to live a better life in the love of God. But most of all come to the church which should be a place of respectful inclusion and feel the deep love of God for you and all your loved ones living and dead.
Finally, my philosophy has always been everyone is welcome and everyone has something to offer the community and everyone is deeply precious in the sight of God.
Remembering you and your loved ones this November.
Stephen Monk (Revd)
It’s a fact that financially, like many charities, our churches are not as safe or stable as we’d like. I say this not because I want to see lots of money in our accounts but so that we can serve our communities and preach the Gospel of Christ. Often people think we ‘get’ lots of money from the church of England. The fact is we don’t. Each parish has to pay money to the Diocese for the services they provide. AND YET, lets be honest, in our society there are more and more people falling through the cracks, more needing our foodbanks, drop ins, and our young people need breakfast clubs so they can be in a position to learn. All these things we support but in Advent, from the 3rd of December, I’d invite you to take a bag from the back of our churches to prepare for a charity in Chesterfield which serves and supports homeless men and women. The list of the requirements will be advertised in the coming weeks. But we call them dignity bags for a reason – in the eyes of Jesus everyone has a precious dignity. If anyone would like to sponsor the bags please drop me an email or speak to your treasurer or churchwardens.
A Couple of prayers to use in November
Bless those who mourn, eternal God, with the comfort of your love that they may face each new day with hope and the certainty that nothing can destroy the good that has been given. May their memories become joyful, their days enriched with friendship, and their lives encircled by your love. (pause) Amen.
(A Jewish Mourning Prayer)
Those who are worn out and crushed by this mourning, let your hearts consider this:
this is the path that has existed from the time of creation and will exist forever.
Many have drunk from it and many will yet drink.
As was the first meal, so shall be the last.
May the master of comfort comfort you.
Blessed are those who comforts the mourners.
Finally, a prayer for those who feel overwhelmed at this time.
O Lord, we call upon You in our time of sorrow, that You give us the strength and will to bear our heavy burdens, until we can again feel the warmth and love of Your divine compassion. Be mindful of us and have mercy on us while we struggle to comprehend life’s hardships. Keep us ever in Your watch, till we can walk again with light hearts and renewed spirits. – Author Unknown
Stephen Monk (Revd)