Summary: For Remembrance Sunday, when we honor the memories of those who have died in the previous year: Those who suffer loss go to a better place emotionally when they cast off unproductive patterns and allow themselves time to receive unconditional love. They

There is something we say to console ourselves when

someone dies. It is a phrase I have heard over and over.

We say,“I know she is in a better place.” My friend, my

parent, my spouse has passed away, but it feels good to

think of one truth: “He is in a better place.”

By that, of course, we mean heaven; we are thinking about

what it must be like to be in a place where there is neither

sorrow nor sighing, neither sickness nor disease. In a better

place – one that is better by far than this earth, where

violence takes some, wars take many, diseases take more,

new scares like SARS intrude, and where eventually time

takes us all. We are comforted by thinking of those we love

as “in a better place”.

But my question to you today is, “Are you in a better place?”

“Are you in a better place than you were a month ago, six

months ago, a year ago, when you suffered your loss?” My

question is not about your physical location. My question is

about what sort of emotional and spiritual place you are in.

You suffered a loss; for some of you it was the loss of a

loved one. For others maybe the loss of a job. For still

others the loss of a significant relationship – a marriage that

broke up, a child that rebelled, a friend that grew cold. All

of these are huge losses that for a time disabled you and put

you down. Are you in a better place, now, after your loss?

Or it might be that your loss is more interior, something

inside your own mind and heart. You are aging, and you feel

that you are losing some of your powers; you don’t

remember things as you used to. You have been working at

your job for a long time, but it doesn’t mean much any longer;

it’s stale. You’ve lost.

Or you’ve lost out in the pecking order. You thought you had

good buddies at your school, but all of a sudden they are not

as interested in you as they once were. That’s a loss too. I

remember my daughter bursting into the house, when she

was eight or nine years old, and announcing that she had

figured out that some of the other little girls on the street only

wanted to play with her when she had a new toy. When the

toy got old, they weren’t interested in Karen any more. It

was a loss to discover that.

When you have experienced loss, how do you get into a

better place? Are you in a better spiritual place than you

were? How do you get there?

I don’t know how you picture the apostle Paul. You probably

have in your mind’s eye the image of a prolific preacher and

a profound professor of the Gospel. And you would be right,

but only half right. Because Paul, you see, was not only

preacher and teacher and missionary and author, he was

also a real human being. He had feelings and problems.

And in the course of all of those very human situations, I

believe he clued us about how to get to a better place when

we suffer loss.

I want to take you back to the beginning of what we know as

the second missionary journey. Paul had been in Jerusalem,

and life there had been good. His point of view was heard

and adopted by the Council of the church; he was riding

high. From Jerusalem Paul was sent to Antioch, along with a

delegation of others, to teach and build up the believers

there. Paul felt like he was in a very good place indeed.

But, feeling that the time had come to move on, Paul

proposed to Barnabas that they undertake another

missionary journey. That is when good things began; it is

also when some very bad things began. Paul was about to

experience some successes; but he was also about to suffer

some serious losses. Let me review these, in quick


First, Paul and Barnabas could not agree about whether to

take with them the young man Mark, who had flunked out on

a previous missionary journey. So, as a result of their

disagreement, Paul and Barnabas came to a parting of the

ways. They separated. Rather like a divorce or an

estrangement between family members. They just went their

separate ways. Paul felt that loss.

And then, as Paul and his new partner, Silas, went on their

way, they found they couldn’t do anything they had expected

to. They went to the places they intended to go, but – and

this is one of those things that is very mysterious, but here is

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