Category : Death / Burial / Funerals

Max Lucado–“The Easter miracle, in other words, changed everything”

From there:

When asked the question, “What will we be after we die?” The human race has conjured up four answers.

  1. Nothing – we will decay and/or disintegrate. Death is a dead end. Our works and reputation might survive, not us.
  2. Ghosts – Phantoms of what we once were. Pale as Edgar Winters’ beard. Structured as a morning mist. What will we be after we die? Spectres.
  3. Or, hawks. Or, cows, or a car mechanic in Kokomo. Reincarnation rewards or punishes us according to our behavior. We come back to earth in another mortal body. Or,
  4. As part of the universe. Eternity absorbs us like a lake absorbs a storm. We return to what we were before we were what we are… we return to the cosmic consciousness of the universe.

According to some folks, we bury the soul when we bury the body like a wrapping with a hot dog, never expecting to see either again. Other people propose that the spirit abandons the body as a butterfly escapes the cocoon. Christianity, on the other hand, posits a new startling, surprising idea. What you had before death, you’ll have after death, only better, much, much better. You will go to paradise: heaven, but not home. Then, upon the return of Christ, you will receive a spiritual body and inhabit a restored universe. This is the promise of God. This promise hinges on the resurrection of Christ. The Christian hope depends entirely upon the assumption that Jesus Christ died a physical death, vacated an actual grave and ascended into heaven where he, at this moment, reigns as head of the church.

The Easter miracle, in other words, changed everything.

Posted in Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

C H Spurgeon on Easter–“come with me to the tomb of Jesus”

“Come, see the place where the Lord lay,” with joy and gladness. He does not lie there now. Weep, when ye see the tomb of Christ, but rejoice because it is empty. Thy sin slew him, but his divinity raised him up. Thy guilt hath murdered him, but his righteousness hath restored him. Oh! he hath burst the bonds of death, he hath ungirt the cerements of the tomb, and hath come out more than conqueror, crushing death beneath his feet. Rejoice, O Christian, for he is not there—he is risen.
    “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
    One more thought, and then I will speak a little concerning the doctrines we may learn from this grave. “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” with solemn awe for you and I will have to lie there too.

 

“Hark! from the tomb a doleful sound,
Mine ears, attend the cry,
Ye living men, come view the ground
Where ye must shortly lie.””Princes, this clay must be your bed,
In spite of all your powers.
The tall, the wise, the reverend head,
Must lie as low as ours.”


It is a fact we do not often think of, that we shall all be dead in a little while. I know that I am made of dust, and not of iron; my bones are not brass, nor my sinews steel; in a little while my body must crumble back to its native elements. But do you ever try to picture to yourself the moment of your dissolution? My friends, there are some of you who seldom realize how old you are, how near you are to death. One way of remembering our age, is to see how much remains. Think how old eighty is, and then see how few years there are before you will get there. We should remember our frailty. Sometimes I have tried to think of the time of my departure. I do not know whether I shall die a violent death or not; but I would to God that I might die suddenly; for sudden death is sudden glory. I would I might have such a blessed exit as Dr. Beaumont, and die in my pulpit, laying down my body with my charge, and ceasing at once to work and live. But it is not mine to choose. Suppose I lie lingering for weeks, in the midst of pains, and griefs, and agonies; when that moment comes, that moment which is too solemn for my lips to speak of, when the spirit leaves the clay—let the physician put it off for weeks, or years, as we say he does, though he does not—when that moment comes, O ye lips, be dumb, and profane not its solemnity. When death comes, how is the strong man bowed down! How doth the mighty man fall! They may say they will not die, but there is no hope for them; they must yield, the arrow has gone home. I knew a man who was a wicked wretch, and I remember seeing him pace the floor of his bedroom saying “O God, I will not die, I will not die.” When I begged him to lie on his bed, for he was dying, he said he could not die while he could walk, and he would walk till he did die. Ah! he expired in the utmost torments, always shrieking, “O God, I will not die.” Oh! that moment, that last moment. See how clammy is the sweat upon the brow, how dry the tongue, how parched the lips. The man shuts his eyes and slumbers, then opens them again: and if he be a Christian, I can fancy that he will say:

 

“Hark! they whisper: angels say,
Sister spirit, come away.
What is this absorbs me quite—
Steals my senses—shuts my sight—
Drowns my spirit—draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?”

We know not when he is dying. One gentle sigh, and the spirit breaks away. We can scarcely say, “he is gone,” before the ransomed spirit takes its mansion near the throne. Come to Christ’s tomb, then, for the silent vault must soon be your habitation. Come to Christ’s grave, for ye must slumber there. And even you, ye sinners, for one moment I will ask you to come also, because ye must die as well as the rest of us. Your sins cannot keep you from the jaws of death. I say, sinner, I want thee to look at Christ’s sepulchre too, for when thou diest it may have done thee great good to think of it. You have heard of Queen Elizabeth, crying out that she would give an empire for a single hour. Or have you heard the despairing cry of the gentleman on board the “Arctic,” when it was going down, who shouted to the boat, “Come back! I will give you £30,000 if you will come and take me in.” Ah! poor man, it were but little if he had thirty thousand worlds, if he could thereby prolong his life: “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath, will he give for his life.” Some of you who can laugh this morning, who came to spend a merry hour in this hall, will be dying, and then ye will pray and crave for life, and shriek for another Sabbath-day. Oh! how the Sabbaths ye have wasted will walk like ghosts before you! Oh! how they will shake their snaky hair in your eyes! How will ye be made to sorrow and weep, because ye wasted precious hours, which, when they are gone, are gone too far to be recalled. May God save you from the pangs of remorse.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Joel Garver on the 20th century’s greatest Theologian of Holy Saturday

From here:

Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday is probably one of his most intriguing contributions since he interprets it as moving beyond the active self-surrender of Good Friday into the absolute helplessness of sin and the abandonment and lostness of death.

In the Old Testament one of the greatest threats of God’s wrath was His threat of abandonment, to leave His people desolate, to be utterly rejected of God. It is this that Jesus experienced upon the Cross and in His descent into the lifeless passivity and God-forsakenness of the grave. By His free entrance into the helplessness of sin, Christ was reduced to what Balthasar calls a “cadaver-obedience” revealing and experience the full horror of sin. As Peter himself preached at Pentecost (Acts 2:23-24; 32-33):

[Jesus] being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you, by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; who God raised up, having abolished the birth pangs of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it…This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He pour out this which you now see and hear.

We ought to pause and note the passivity that is expressed here. Christ experienced what God was doing through Him by His purpose and foreknowledge. Jesus was truly dead and fully encompassed within and held by the pains of death and needed God to abolish them. He was freed from death by God, not simply by God’s whim, but because for God it was impossible that death should hold Christ. Christ Himself receives the Holy Spirit from the Father in order that He might pour out that Spirit. Balthasar writes:

Jesus was truly dead, because he really became a man as we are, a son of Adam, and therefore, despite what one can sometimes read in certain theological works, he did not use the so-called “brief” time of his death for all manner of “activities” in the world beyond. In the same way that, upon earth, he was in solidarity with the living, so, in the tomb, he is in solidarity with the dead…Each human being lies in his own tomb. And with this condition Jesus is in complete solidarity.

According to Balthasar, this death was also the experience, for a time, of utter God-forsakenness—that is hell. Hell, then, is a Christological concept which is defined in terms of Christ’s experience on the Cross. This is also the assurance that we never need fear rejection by the Father if we are in Christ, since Christ has experienced hell in our place.

–S. Joel Garver on Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)

Posted in Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Holy Week

God knows our Dying From the Inside

Jesus dies. His lifeless body is taken down from the cross. Painters and sculptors have strained their every nerve to portray the sorrow of Mary holding her lifeless son in her arms, as mothers today in Baghdad hold with the same anguish the bodies of their children. On Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, God is dead, entering into the nothingness of human dying. The source of all being, the One who framed the vastness and the microscopic patterning of the Universe, the delicacy of petals and the scent of thyme, the musician’s melodies and the lover’s heart, is one with us in our mortality. In Jesus, God knows our dying from the inside.

–The Rt. Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Rowell

Posted in Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Holy Week

A Prayer for Holy Saturday (II)

O God, whose loving kindness is infinite, mercifully hear our prayers; and grant that as in this life we are united in the mystical body of thy Church, and in death are laid in holy ground with the sure hope of resurrection; so at the last day we may rise to the life immortal, and be numbered with thy saints in glory everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Holy Week, Spirituality/Prayer

The Transition

Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death the Christ continues to effect triumph.

–Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983)

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Holy Week, Theology

Canon J John on the death of Argentinian evangelist Luis Palau

Let me share with you three things about the life of Luis that I celebrate.

First, there was Luis’ energy. He was a man who, astonishingly, preached as an evangelist for nearly seventy years. In 2015, at the age of eighty-one, he held an outdoor service for 60,000 people in New York’s Central Park and lamented that planning laws hadn’t allowed more attendees. Indeed, when he received news that he had lung cancer, one of his main regrets was that he might have to cancel some of his preaching events. In part, that energy came from his own natural strength but I’m sure a lot of it was asked of God and given by him. Theodore Roosevelt once wrote,

There wasn’t much rust on Luis.

Second, there was Luis’ enthusiasm. One reason that Luis was so good as an evangelist was that he was so openly and wonderfully enthusiastic about the gospel. As anyone who heard Luis will testify, there was joy in what he said. With him the good news sounded good news!

Third, Luis was effective in his evangelism.

Read it all.

Posted in Argentina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(GR) Richard Ostling–Inspiring feature idea on Christianity near Holy Week sent aloft by (what are the odds?) producers at MSNBC

This got The Guy to thinking about how much we’re missing on TV and religion. Leave aside fictional entertainment, which when religion turns up in the plot too often causes anybody who knows anything about religion to cringe. And let’s not get into the fare transmitted by paid-time preachers.

Eastertide or Christmas may bring seasonal documentaries, often over the years sensationalized attempts to debunk the church or the Bible. David Gibson’s 2015 archaeology series on CNN, “Finding Jesus,” was an exception.

But what about intelligent treatment throughout the year of news and ideas in the world of religion, which interests masses of today’s viewers just as it has gripped imaginations across human history?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Holy Week, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Archbishop of York) Stephen Cottrell: Covid-19 has brought us to our knees – now I pray we rise up

Even though our poorest communities have suffered disproportionally, there can be no ‘me and you’ or ‘them and us’ with Covid. It must be we. Covid will not be dealt with anywhere until it is dealt with everywhere.

The most obvious sign of this is the vaccine programme itself. It is wonderful that our country is taking the lead. But we won’t get beyond Covid until the whole world is vaccinated.

This rediscovery of a most basic human truth, that my well-being is tied up with my neighbour’s well-being, should now be the guiding principle for all public policy as we move forward.

Secondly, and flowing from the realisation that we belong to each other, we have learned to appreciate the real dignity and value of people’s labour: especially those whose jobs we may have considered menial and unimportant a year ago.

Who would have thought that alongside the heroes of the National Health Service’s inspiring example of selfless care, we would have also come to value those who stock the supermarket shelves or drive the delivery vans or volunteer in food banks?

We used to measure each other’s worth by the size of their salary. Now it must be the size of their heart.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

Archbishop Justin Welby’s reflection on Radio 4’s Thought For The Day on the first anniversary of the UK’s national lockdown

One of the great songs of lament to God in the bible begins “by the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept.”. An anniversary is a time to lament, to mourn, to sit and weep for what could have been and is not. Pause for a while today, remember what has been lost, above all who has been lost. Lament – for to do so is to honour and treasure. As a Christian I follow and love Jesus Christ who loved and mourned his friends, his country, suffering.

Anniversaries are also moments of new beginnings. It is just a day. But it is also a moment. And one of the signs of being human – of being spiritual as well as material – is that we make moments that pass into moments of significance. The anniversary calls on us to ask where we are going?

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, History, Religion & Culture

A Rowan Williams sermon on the life and ministry of Oscar Romero on Archbishop Romero’s Feast Day–‘Life has the last word’

And so his question to all those who have the freedom to speak in the Church and for the Church is ‘who do you really speak for?’ But if we take seriously the underlying theme of his words and witness, that question is also, ‘who do you really feel with?’ Are you immersed in the real life of the Body, or is your life in Christ seen only as having the same sentiments as the powerful? Sentir con la Iglesia in the sense in which the mature Romero learned those words is what will teach you how to speak on behalf of the Body. And we must make no mistake about what this can entail: Romero knew that this kind of ‘feeling with the Church’ could only mean taking risks with and for the Body of Christ – so that, as he later put it, in words that are still shocking and sobering, it would be ‘sad’ if priests in such a context were not being killed alongside their flock. As of course they were in El Salvador, again and again in those nightmare years.

But he never suggests that speaking on behalf of the Body is the responsibility of a spiritual elite. He never dramatised the role of the priest so as to play down the responsibility of the people. If every priest and bishop were silenced, he said, ‘each of you will have to be God’s microphone. Each of you will have to be a messenger, a prophet. The Church will always exist as long as even one baptized person is alive.’ Each part of the Body, because it shares the sufferings of the whole – and the hope and radiance of the whole – has authority to speak out of that common life in the crucified and risen Jesus.

So Romero’s question and challenge is addressed to all of us, not only those who have the privilege of some sort of public megaphone for their voices. The Church is maintained in truth; and the whole Church has to be a community where truth is told about the abuses of power and the cries of the vulnerable. Once again, if we are serious about sentir con la Iglesia, we ask not only who we are speaking for but whose voice still needs to be heard, in the Church and in society at large. The questions here are as grave as they were thirty years ago. In Salvador itself, the methods of repression familiar in Romero’s day were still common until very recently. We can at least celebrate the fact that the present head of state there has not only apologized for government collusion in Romero’s murder but has also spoken boldly on behalf of those whose environment and livelihood are threatened by the rapacity of the mining companies, who are set on a new round of exploitation in Salvador and whose critics have been abducted and butchered just as so many were three decades back. The skies are not clear: our own Anglican bishop in Salvador was attacked ten days ago by unknown enemies; but the signs of hope are there, and the will to defend the poor and heal the wounds.

Read it all.

Posted in --El Salvador, --Rowan Williams, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Preaching / Homiletics

(C of E) Bells to toll and thousands of candles to be lit for National Day of Reflection today

The words Reflect, Support and Hope will be projected in yellow on the front of Lichfield Cathedral, while Blackburn and Leicester cathedrals will light thousands of candles to mark lives lost, to mark the National Day of Reflection.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral will suspend two hundred tear drops above the altar and Chelmsford Cathedral will be transformed into a vibrant space of colour and light.

In Portsmouth churches will deliver more than 50 boxes of chocolates along with cards to GP surgeries, care homes and schools in the area as a gesture of thanks to key workers for their contribution during the pandemic.

Area Dean of Portsmouth, Revd Canon Bob White, said: “We are very aware of the stresses and pressures they have faced over the past year and want to thank them and let them know that they are in our prayers.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

(ISCAST) Physicist John Pilbrow writes a nice tribute article about the late John Polkinghorne

Theologically, while John held a very orthodox Christian position, he had a capacity to engage with people from across the broad Christian spectrum. Another rare gift. In my opinion his book that expresses that orthodoxy most eloquently is Science & Christian Belief: Theological Reflections of a Bottom-up Thinker based on his 1993–1994 Gifford Lectures. Here John reflects on the Nicene Creed both theologically and scientifically in the light of the best of modern science. As well, he placed much emphasis on the centrality of the resurrection as a strong basis for hope. Aspects of his thought here may be found in Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope.

John was also able to engage with other faiths without compromising Christian faith. He often reminded us that different faith traditions actually make rather different truth claims. But for him that was a reason to keep dialogue open.

John’s other books are all, of course, excellent in their own way. They are all deliberately relatively short and address one or more specific issues. This makes them readable and accessible resources.

After 1979, John focussed on encouraging and enabling good conversation and dialogue amongst and between scientists and theologians. Establishment of the ISSR was consistent with this and he served as its first President.

John certainly believed in the the unity of knowledge and one reality: the world of our experience that we seek to describe scientifically. Further, he was a critical realist believing that truth, whether scientific or theological, needs to be carefully assessed. This is a big theme and there is not space to deal with it in any detail here.

In the following we get a taste of some of his key insights.

If we are seeking to serve the God of truth then we should really welcome truth from whatever source it comes. We shouldn’t fear the truth. … The doctrine of creation of the kind that the Abrahamic faiths profess is such that it encourages the expectation that there will be a deep order in the world, expressive of the Mind and Purpose of that world’s Creator. It also asserts that the character of this order has been freely chosen by God, since it was not determined beforehand by some kind of pre-existing blueprint … As a consequence, the nature of cosmic order cannot be discovered just by taking thought … but the pattern of the world has to be discerned through the observations and experiments that are necessary in order to determine what form the divine choice has actually taken. (Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship, 2007).

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Science & Technology, Theology

The Rev. Canon Dr John Polkinghorne RIP

From Queen’s College, Cambirdge:

“It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of our former President and friend, The Revd Dr John Polkinghorne.

To say John had an exceptional life would be an understatement. Born in 1930, he touched many lives as a highly respected physicist, theologian, and priest. The author of a number of influential books, he was admired for his important research and insights on religion and science.

Building on his important academic accomplishments, he was ordained in 1982 and elected as our President a few years later. He served Queens’ in this capacity in an admirable and impactful manner for eight years. Knighted in 1997, he went on to win the prestigious Templeton Prize, donating the proceeds to endow College positions…..

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Science & Technology, Theology

(TLS) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: An air that says ‘go it!’–A poet’s huge but brief popularity

This biography hints at some possible reasons for Longfellow’s fascination with the hidden and obscured, such as his commitment to translation, and it also reveals a number of other ways in which his printed poems worked like icebergs: small blocks of text that emerged from the blank space of the page while hinting at much larger concerns under the surface. These include Longfellow’s methods of composition, which created paper trails of notes and drafts, and also the role played by his second wife Frances in helping him assemble works like The Poets and Poetry of Europe (1845), the first anthology of its kind to be published in America and further evidence of Longfellow’s conviction that lines of poetry should be viewed as bridges rather than barriers, forever reaching out for new human connections.

But as the title of this biography suggests, not every poem could find what it was looking for. In 1861, Longfellow’s wife died shortly after a horrible household accident in which her dress caught fire, and he was unable to smother the flames in time to save her. His own hands and face were so badly burned he was unable to attend her funeral, and the trademark bushy beard he later grew was partly an attempt to hide his visible scars. Yet the memory of his wife remained an open wound, and in a sonnet entitled “The Cross of Snow”, found among his papers after his death, he tried to put it into words. The inspiration for this poem was probably a comment from a mourner who expressed the hope that after his bereavement Longfellow would be able to “bear his cross”. His brother Samuel reported Longfellow’s response: “Bear the cross, yes; but what if one is stretched upon it!” Written eighteen years later, “The Cross of Snow” gave this feeling a permanent literary shape:

There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

In his Table-Talk (1857), Longfellow had pointed out that “Some sorrows are but footprints in the snow, which the genial sun effaces”, but in this unpublished poem he offered a chastening alternative. Some sorrows were as deep and lasting as permafrost.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Marriage & Family, Poetry & Literature

Wednesday Food for Thought–Tim Keller on the Holy Spirit as our Second Advocate and a story from the 18th century Welsh Church

” … your defense lawyer may have hard and challenging things to say to you, yet always in order to help you case and cause. And he or she does not merely speak to you – but also speaks to the powers that be for you. This is why the translations of John 14:16-20; 25-27 that call the Holy Spirit the Advocate are also, I believe, on the right track. That’s how God’s Spirit is defined, or described, in the word Jesus uses to talk about him. But we must notice also that Jesus calls the Spirit another Advocate or counselor. Who, then, is the first Advocate? The only other place in the New Testament where the word paraklete is used is in 1 John 2:1-2: ‘If anyone does sin, we have an advocate (paraklete) with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ So Jesus is the first Advocate, and the Spirit is the second. And I want you to know that in this word – advocate, counselor – we have the key to understanding not only Jesus’ work on the cross but also the Spirit’s work in our hearts. Indeed, I’d argue that unless you know that Jesus was the first Advocate, you won’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit as the second Advocate at all….”

“The first Advocate is speaking to God for you, but the second Advocate is speaking to you for you. Throughout the Farewell Discourse, Jesus keeps saying that the job of the Spirit is to take all the things Jesus has done on our behalf – all the things that the apostles had still not yet grasped – and to ‘teach you’ and ‘remind you’ and enable the apostles to finally understand all that Jesus had taught them about his saving work (John 14:26).”

“I love the fact that the Holy Spirit is not merely an instructor, but an Advocate. Though he is ‘the Spirit of truth,’ he does not merely teach and inform us; he calls us to live according to what he is telling us. He convicts us and challenges us (John 16:8-11). He says in effect, ‘You are a sinner – are you living with the humility and dependence on God that results from that fact? Yet you are also righteous in Christ – adopted and accepted into the family. Are you living with the boldness and freedom that should accord with that fact? Are you as free from the need for worldly power and approval and comfort as you should be?’ He argues with us, he exhorts, beseeches, and entreats us (all good translations of parakleo), to live lives in accordance with the accomplishments and realities of Christ’s love. And this is why Jesus says that through the Holy Spirit he will finally ‘show’ himself to his friends (John 14:21). They will finally see him and know his loving presence. … it’s natural for us to believe that it would have been better to have lived during the time of Christ and to have actually met him and heard him with our ears and seen him with our eyes. You might believe that you could know him better that way than you do now – but you would be wrong. Before he died, the Holy Spirit had not been released into the world in this powerful way, and you can only know Jesus fully through the Spirit’s influence, as he shows you in the shadow of the cross how high and long and wide and deep his love is for us. In other words, right here and now, through the Holy Spirit, you can see Christ and know his presence and his love better than the apostles could in that moment in the upper room.”

“This week, somebody criticized you. Something you bought or invested in turned out to be less valuable than you thought. Something you wanted to happen didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Someone you counted on let you down. These are real losses – of your reputation, of your material wealth, of your hopes. But what are you going to do, if you’re a Christian? Will this setback disrupt your contentment with life? Will you shake your fist at God? Toss and turn at night? If so, I submit that it’s because you don’t know how truly rich you are. You are not listening to the second Advocate about your first Advocate. You are not living in joy. You are forgetting that the only eyes in the universe that matter see you not as the ‘phony little fake’ you have sometimes been, but as a person of captivating beauty. If you’re that upset about your status with other people, if you’re constantly lashing out at people for hurting your feelings, you might call it a lack of self-control or a lack of self-esteem, and it is. But more fundamentally, you have totally lost touch with your identity. As a Christian, you’re a spiritual billionaire and you’re wringing your hands over ten dollars. It’s the job of the second Advocate to argue with you in the court of your heart, to make the case about who you are in Christ, to show you that you’re rich. And it’s your job to listen. How can you listen better? That’s a big subject, but if you are a believer, then the Holy Spirit will do his work as you use the ‘means of grace’ – reading and studying the Word by yourself and in community, prayer, worship, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper….” 

“I once heard a story of an eighteenth-century Welsh preacher who, when he was just a teenager, was standing with his family around the deathbed of one of his aunts. His aunt had been a strong Christian, but she was slipping away. Everyone thought she was unconscious and some said out loud, ‘It’s a shame; she’s had such a hard life. She’s seen two husbands die, and she’s often been sick, and on top of it all she has died poor.’ Suddenly she opened her eyes, looked around, and said, ‘Who calls me poor? I am rich, rich! And I will soon stand before Him bold as a lion.’ And then she died. Understandably, that had quite an effect on the young man. This woman had the peace that Jesus spoke of because she had listened to the Advocate. She was saying, ‘I’ve got the only husband who can’t die. I’ve got the only wealth that can never go away. And my Savior dealt long ago with sin – the only disease that can really and truly kill me. How can you call me poor?’ The second Advocate had told her about the first Advocate, so she could say in the face of great loss, as the hymn writer did, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.'”

–Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus (New York: Penguin Books, 2013), pp.34-147, quoted by yours truly in this past Sunday’s sermon

Posted in --Wales, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

A Portion of the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp for his Feast Day

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!” No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to thy old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], “Swear by the fortune of Cesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.” Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;” Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”

The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, Chapter IX.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Polycarp

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who didst give to thy venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Saviour, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, after his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Spirituality/Prayer

Gail Thornton RIP

Agnes Gaillard Thornton, 83 of Summerville, SC passed away January 25, 2021 at Life Care of Charleston.
Daughter of H. Reed Joyner and Agnes L. Gaillard. After the death of her father in WWII, in Belgium, at the Battle of the Bulge, her mother remarried the Reverend George Lenhart Jacobs, who in turn adopted mom. Her name was changed to, Agnes Gaillard Joyner Jacobs. After marrying our father, Reuben Thomas (Tommy) Thornton, III she became known as Agnes Gaillard Thornton.
Mom was a lifelong member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church where she sang in the choir. She was a voracious reader, lover of the theater and loved traveling the world especially Paris!
She was predeceased by her parents, her husband of 37 years and her youngest son Geoffrey.
She is survived by her brother, Adam (Rachel) of Ravenel, SC; and sister Georgia (Jerry) of Johns Island, SC. Sons Tommy (Cathryn) of Indian Harbour Beach, Fl and Clay (Sandy) of Summerville, SC. Grandchildren: Elizabeth, Ben, Cameron, Clayton. Great grandchildren: Nicholas, Jack, Timothy, and Charlotte.
The family would like to give a special thank you for the awesome, loving care she received at Life Care of Charleston and especially her special nurses: Candace and Nina.
In lieu of flowers, if a memorial would like to be given, the family ask they be made to: Flowertown Players, 133 S. Main Street, Summerville, SC 29483.
During this period of COVID 19, the family is having a private graveside service (Courtesy of Dyal Funeral Home).

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals

(CBS 17) Sunday afternoon Inspiration–A 93-year-old veteran takes 3 buses almost every day to visit wife’s grave

“Ted Richardson is well-known up at the Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl — because he’s there so often.”

Watch it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Marriage & Family

Sally Ann French Weber May 27, 1935 – February 1, 2021

Sally was born and raised in Woodstock, Virginia, the youngest of eight children of the late Warren Ballinger French and Lena Belle Sheetz French. Sally was a graduate of the Woodstock High School Class of 1953. She was 85.

Sally received her Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia in cooperation with the Medical College of Virginia. She worked as a medical technologist up until her retirement just last year, enjoying warm relationships with fellow staff and her patients. Sally took time off from work while raising her family of four girls, welcoming their friends, and volunteering for many organizations including the Girl Scouts, the Winnetka Children’s Theater, and the Winnetka Children’s Fair. Sally could also be found as part of the “kitchen witches” for the Winnetka Community House Antique Show and volunteered with Meals on Wheels, the Women’s Club of Winnetka, and the Crow Island PTA and Resale Shop. She was an active member of the Winnetka Presbyterian Church and a life member of the Chicago Botanic Garden….

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A greatly loved friend of my mother's extended family. She will be missed.

Posted by Kendall Harmon on Saturday, February 6, 2021

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals

(RNS) Funeral directors survive ‘surreal’ year with creativity and faith

There are no signs in front yards hailing the men and women who sometimes wryly call themselves “last responders.”

But for funeral directors across the country, like medical professionals, this has been a year like no other.

“There is no way to explain it,” said Stephen Kemp, 61, director of Kemp Funeral Home & Cremation Services of Southfield, Michigan, which borders Detroit. “I will never forget it as long as I live. In terms of sheer volume, it was surreal.”

In a normal month, Kemp estimates, he handles arrangements for about 30 bodies. In April, said Kemp, he did 152, mostly African American men. Now, even as his monthly toll has settled to about 40, he’s seeing people with comorbid conditions succumbing to the long-term effects of the disease.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Japan

O God our Father, who art the source of strength to all thy saints, and who didst bring the holy martyrs of Japan through the suffering of the cross to the joys of life eternal: Grant that we, being encouraged by their example, may hold fast the faith that we profess, even unto death; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Japan

(DW) Coronavirus: Sri Lanka’s forced cremations spark anger among Muslims

Zeenat-ul-Razaniya has no news about the body of her deceased husband Mohammed Hilmi Kiyasdeen, who suffered from kidney failure and died on November 30 last year.

The family had taken him to the hospital, where he was due to undergo a dialysis procedure. The family was shocked to learn that Kiyasdeen would be cremated as per the regulations for those who die of coronavirus-related complications.

“We were not shown any reports to prove the status of his infection. He showed no [COVID-19] symptoms. He was in close contact with us in his last days,” Zeenat told DW, adding that she and her three children all tested negative for the virus.

“How is it possible that he had the virus? They just forcibly took away the body,” she said.

Zeenat sought a court intervention, but judges ruled in favor of Sri Lanka’s coronavirus cremation policy.

It has been a distressing experience for the family.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Islam, Sri Lanka

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the [four] Dorchester chaplains

Holy God, who didst inspire the Dorchester chaplains to be models of steadfast sacrificial love in a tragic and terrifying time: Help us to follow their example, that their courageous ministry may inspire chaplains and all who serve, to recognize thy presence in the midst of peril; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Spirituality/Prayer

(Chichester Observer) Bishop of Chichester reflects as UK passes grim milestone of 100,000 Covid deaths

In an interview on BBC local radio on Wednesday, Dr Warner said that the nation ‘will obviously want answers to some of the pressing questions’ posed by the death toll so far but said it was also a day ‘to thank God for those who have kept us going’.

It came after the UK recorded a total of 100,162 deaths with Covid-19, becoming the first European nation to pass the grim milestone.

The Bishop paid tribute to NHS staff, those working in schools and universities, shopkeepers and workers and all those good neighbours who had stepped up to the plate to help others.

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Posted in CoE Bishops, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Coronavirus: Archbishops invite nation to pause, pray and remember 100,000 people

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are issuing a call to the nation to pause and reflect to remember the more than 100,000 people across the UK who have died after contracting Covid-19 and all those who know and love them.

In an open letter, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell invite everyone across England – whether they have faith or not – to pause, reflect on the “enormity of this pandemic” and to pray.

Death, they insist, does not have “the last word”, and the Christian faith promises that one day “every tear will be wiped away”.

God, they write, knows grief and suffering and “shares in the weight of our sadness”.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Funeral directors speak of physical and mental exhaustion

Funeral directors in the UK have spoken of the “heartbreak” of watching hundreds of mourners grieve alone, and of their own physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion under an unprecedented workload, as deaths from the coronavirus continue to rise at catastrophic rates.

The Assistant Curate of St Peter’s, Stockton-on-Tees, and St John’s, Elton, in Durham diocese, the Revd Daniel Ackerley, has experienced all sides of the crisis. He has just been through a family bereavement. He is also the principal funeral director at John Duckworth Funeral Directors, in Sunderland.

“The last months have been the toughest and most challenging yet in my ten years as a funeral director,” he said. “Throughout the pandemic, funeral workers have gone about their vital work supporting the bereaved and taking care of those who have died, often with very little recognition.”

He, like many of his colleagues, had undertaken “record numbers of funerals” over the past nine months, all under the strain of meeting strict government limitations.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Tribal Elders Are Dying From the Pandemic, Causing a Cultural Crisis for American Indians

The virus took Grandma Delores first, silencing an 86-year-old voice that rang with Lakota songs and stories. Then it came for Uncle Ralph, a stoic Vietnam veteran. And just after Christmas, two more elders of the Taken Alive family were buried on the frozen North Dakota prairie: Jesse and Cheryl, husband and wife, who died a month apart.

“It takes your breath away,” said Ira Taken Alive, the couple’s oldest son. “The amount of knowledge they held, and connection to our past.”

One by one, those connections are being severed as the coronavirus tears through ranks of Native American elders, inflicting an incalculable toll on bonds of language and tradition that flow from older generations to the young.

“It’s like we’re having a cultural book-burning,” said Jason Salsman, a spokesman for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in eastern Oklahoma, whose grandparents contracted the virus but survived. “We’re losing a historical record, encyclopedias. One day soon, there won’t be anybody to pass this knowledge down.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine

([London] Times) Rise of funerals to give pets a fitting farewell

More and more Britons intend to give their pets an individual send-off, according to the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria. It noted a 10-15 per cent increase last year in owners requesting cremations at a time when, because of Covid-19, people have spent more time with their pets.

Owners spend up to £400 for a service and an animal-shaped urn. This contrasts with the service provided by vets, where remains, which are classed as waste, are typically sent to a third party to be cremated en masse for a fee of about £50.

Vicars and spiritual leaders may also be called upon to help grieving owners who choose to go to pet crematoriums. “Sometimes people contact me for a conversation, while others prefer a full order of service,” says Ms Hellings, whose parish covers Crondall and Ewshot in Hampshire. “It’s such a privilege to help owners who are feeling sad. My job isn’t to tell people what to think.”

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Posted in * General Interest, Animals, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Religion & Culture