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Sermon from November 1, 2015

All Saints Day

"This is a Day of New Beginnings"

 

November 1st is a day that has long been marked in Christian tradition as a time to remember those who've gone on before and it is called All Saints Day. In thinking about All Saints Day and thinking about my message this week the words of a hymn came to mind.  The title of the hymn is "This Is a Day of New Beginnings".   

The lyrics are, "This is a day of new beginnings, time to remember and move on, time to believe what love is bringing, laying to rest the pain that's gone.  For by the life and death of Jesus, God's mighty Spirit now as then, can make for us a world of difference as faith and hope are born again.  Then let us with the spirit's daring, step from the past and leave behind, our disappointment guilt and grieving, seeking new paths and sure find. Christ is alive and goes before us, to show and share what love can do, this is a day of new beginnings, our God is making all things new."

As I thought about the first line, "This is a day of new beginnings," I thought that it is very appropriate that the author of those lyrics used the phrase, "this is a day of new beginnings," not that was a day for new beginnings, but this is the day. Tomorrow it will again be a day of new beginnings and the day after that and the day after that. 

Part of the struggle of having a time when we pause to think about those who have gone on before is that it can be a painful process.  There are two widely divergent approaches to the reality that life eventually brings us to the point of needing to say goodbye to some of those that we love.  I have known people who keep holding on to the reality that their life is no longer the same. The person they loved is no longer with them and focus for years on the absence. 

Then there are people who find remembering to be so painful that they choose not to remember and any time the thought of that loved one comes to mind that they put that thought out of their mind. Some even go so far as to remove everything from their home that reminds them of the one they have lost or even selling their home and moving to a different place because they choose to try to avoid the pain of remembering.

I think both of those approaches are less than helpful. This is a day of new beginnings, this is a time to remember and move on. In my mind it is like a journey.  Each morning of the journey I wake up in a new place, somewhere other than where I was yesterday and not quite where I'm going to be tomorrow.  This is a time of new beginnings the time of remembering what has brought me to this place and to celebrate that and then to move forward. Not back to the beginning of, "this was the day the loss, this is what is no longer true for me."  If it were, sometime late 1979 or early 1980, I would have taken the advice of those who say that I'm supposed to stop thinking about thinking my wife Nancy and put memories of her out of my mind.  And again in 1991 I would have come to the point of choosing to no longer let myself think about my dad.   Or in 1998 made the same decision concerning my mother or 2006 with my wife Dee.  If I followed that advice I would have closed those doors and not thought about them anymore. There are people who encourage you to do that.

I think that from time to time it is important to remember the joy and the love we have been blessed with. I remember the lessons my father taught me and the things I learned from my mother. In doing that I remember those people who have helped me get to this point in my life. And as I remember I celebrate those important people who have helped me become who I am today. Remembering is an important part of moving forward.  I don't believe that loss of a loved one is a door that should be closed never to be reopened.

You have probably all heard the saying, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." And that is true. But also one of the things that I believe very strongly about our Christian faith is that Jesus will move forward with you from right where you are today. You don't need to leap forward to some idealized way of being. Jesus is with you in your struggles, your doubts, your fears, your grief, your joy, and your celebrations. Jesus is with you now. And I think it is important to take time to remember all those times when God was present in your life, all those lessons of faith you have learned from Him, all the times when the relationship with the living Christ has been real to you. It is good to remember those times not as the good times that are of the past but as good days that have helped you get to where you are today. And in celebrating that progress you made, move forward, move on.

As I've shared my reflections of Nancy, my dad, my mom, and Dee I suspect that there are those who have come to your mind. Who are you remembering right now? What are you remembering about the way that they were a gift to you from God? What are you remembering about the way that God blessed you through them and the many ways that they were a good part of your life then and a good part of what has made you who you are today? Who are you remembering now?

When Dee and I got married she bought a set of key rings and on each one was half of a medallion.  When you hold the two halves together you can read what is known as the Mizpah prayer. It comes from Jewish tradition and is based on Genesis 31. It reads, "The Lord watch between me and thee while we are apart one from another." I am still carrying it.  When she first gave it to me it was a special gift both because it was from her and also because it was a prayer that God would be watching over us when we were apart.  It was prayer that God would be watching over us when we each went to work or when one of us would travel away from home. It was comforting to think that God would be watching over us until we were back together again.

Sometime after Dee died, I noticed the key ring and it took on a new meaning for me. The prayer was no longer about a separation of a few hours or a few days until we would be back together again. There was a greater separation between Dee and me and that prayer is still in place. Until we are together again God is still watching between me and all of those that I loved who have gone to be with Him.

Part of moving on is the realization that Christ died that we might have eternal life. Part of that realization is that Christ died so that we will be reunited again with those who have gone on before. It is just a little longer separation than we would like but it's not permanent. IT'S NOT PERMANENT! That is an important part of moving on, knowing that this separation is only temporary.

In Revelation 21, John said, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes.'" At the time of reunion we too will be living fully in the presence of God and in the presence of all those who have joined Him earlier than us. John went on to say that at that time, "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." The scriptures and our Christian faith encourage us in so many ways to look beyond the realities of this life and to look to the life that is coming. He who is seated on the throne said, "I am making all things new." Then He said, "Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true."

Then John relayed Jesus words, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." Jesus was with you at the moment of your conception. Jesus was with you at the moment of your birth. Jesus has been with you all of your life. Jesus will be with you to bring you safely through to that reunion with those who have gone on before. God is watching between you and them.

This week I was going through some old files and I found this little saying.  I have no idea who the author was. "Death is not the extinguishing of the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come."

From our human viewpoint we tend to think that the end of this life is the end. But it is not.  The author of those simple words captured a very powerful truth. When we go to be with the Lord, the dawn has come. 

The time will come when the lamp that is my life will no longer shine because my dawn has come. When it does, I hope those I leave behind will be able to remember and move on.

             

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