It's wonderful to welcome so many of you here today for this very special In Loving Memory service. Of course you are all here because you have suffered a loss, a bereavement. In many ways I suspect that you are continuing to suffer your loss, because death is always painful, and loss is hard to bear. When someone dies a hole is left and the way we experience life changes.
When a loved one dies, we don’t stop relating to them, but we do start to relate differently. We relate through our memories. Memory is an important human and biblical concept. Before Jesus died he implored his friends to keep on meeting together, and eating, to gather ‘in remembrance’ of him. Jesus asked his family and friends to learn the art of remembering well.
Remembering well, remembering with love, is all about a healthy and continuing relationship. Remembering well accepts the pain of separation and death whilst also giving thanks for the qualities, and the impression on your soul, that the person you miss has left behind and passed on to you. Loving memory’s concern is a commitment to keep living as though love matters and as though love, as St Paul rightly insists, is the final word: ‘now these three remain, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.’ So can I encourage you to live well, as people of love, even though you have suffered the pain of loss. May your loving memory be a very active and transformative way of honouring those who have gone before.
As a Christian I believe that the notion of Loving Memory is best animated through a sense of faith and hope. This intermingling of faith, hope and love is captured beautifully in our readings and hymns. The twenty third psalm comes to its epic conclusion with the suggestion that God really does walk with us ‘all the days of our life’ and, that we truly shall ‘live in the house of the Lord forever,’ whilst the hymn that we are about to sing anticipates that God will ‘be there at our sleeping,’ gracing us with us ‘peace in our hearts...at the end of the day.’
For me such sentiments are very real; they reside at the core of my faith. At the beginning of most funeral services that I take I read the words of St. Paul where he says that he is ‘convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,’ (Romans 8, 38-39).
These verses get to the heart of things, they are a statement of faith, written in a spirit of hope, expressing an eternal truth: love can never be defeated, not even by death. Faith and hope, animated through love, are the virtues that have the capacity to transform our memories into eternal treasures.
So even as you continue to suffer the pain of loss and to bear its scars can I encourage you to keep remembering well, to remember in the spirit of faith, hope, and love, in the sure and certain knowledge that the transformative power of love, your love and God’s love, never comes to an end; it is an eternal treasure.