Summary: loss of a loved one
A gravestone in a churchyard bears these words:
‘The cup was bitter, the sting severe
To part from her we loved so dear.
Our loss is great we’ll not complain
But hope in heaven to meet again.
Not gone from memory not gone from love
But gone to her Father’s home above.’
For some of us the loss of a dear and cherished loved one is still like a fresh wound; it’s painful, raw, and there for all to see. For some of us, the passing of time has meant that we are beginning to live with (yet never forget) our loss, realizing that we will never be the same again; and for others a very visible scar remains.
I am sure that many of you will be familiar with C.S. Lewis, author of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.
Lewis was good friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, author of ‘Lord of the Rings’, and he was a Christian; a follower of Jesus Christ. What you may not know is that after the death of his wife he wrote a short book called ‘A Grief Observed.’ He was trying to make sense of the variety of different thoughts and feelings that he was experiencing.
Early on in the book he wrote this: “I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t” (P.11). As the days and weeks went by C. S. Lewis wrote this: “I see the rowan berries reddening and don’t know for a moment why they, of all things, should be depressing. I hear a clock strike and some quality it always had before has gone out of the sound. What’s wrong with the world to make it so flat, shabby, worn-out looking? Then I remember” (P. 31).
There is no simple answer to handling grief. We miss our loved ones desperately. We love them endlessly. We will always love them dearly, and so the fact of their absence will not go away. (from Sermon Central). Yet, as Christians there is some comfort to be found in knowing those who went before us are now God’s Saints.
Most often when we think of saints, we think of people whom the Catholic Church has deemed as Saints, or perhaps, we think of the people like the apostles or Paul, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Oscar Romero. We might think of Mother Theresa of Calcutta or the young girl from Columbine High School who is reported to have declared her faith and then was killed for it. We might even include a grandmother or grandfather, aunt uncle, or Sunday School teacher. But, in the Bible a saint isn’t an individual singled who did extraordinary things and thereby given a special honor. Sixty nine times the word “saints” is used in the Bible; but it is never used to designate any particular person. It is always used in the plural tense to describe all of those, living and dead, who belong to Christ. Saints are the saved sinners, the holy ones as redeemed by God. And in today’s scripture, John shares with us from his vision a glimpse of what the life of saints in heaven is like.
Thus, it is the souls of the righteous who have gathered around the throne of God. Notice, it says a great multitude, a number too great to even count.