Last week, two of my members died within days of each other. Both had slowly succumbed to the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease over the past few years. Both had been faithful members of the church for many years. I preached at both their memorials, held within days of each other.
I am very thankful for the comfort and encouragement found in God's Word at this time. I find that I need it just as much as the families. At one service, I spoke of how God never forgets us, even when minds fail to recognize our loved ones. Jesus calls his sheep by name, and in time, raises them to eternal life. At the other, I made the observation that when it seems like our loved ones are slipping away, they never slip away from our Heavenly Father. Nothing can separate us from his love in Christ Jesus.
I am also very thankful for the many members of our church who visited the families, attended the services and helped provide a meal afterwards. The time you spent with them and for them is a powerful message in itself. We're the body of Christ. When one part grieves, we share in that sorrow. And when we celebrate, we share the joy. This is so much a part of what it means to be the church.
At times I have been tempted to say that we, as Americans, just don't do death very well. But I have observed that when we do it as a church, we do it very well indeed. Gathered around the words and sacraments of a resurrected, living Lord, we look through the tears to our resurrection, reunion and rejoicing in eternity.
Yes, by the grace of God, I believe we do this very, very well.