Will we see our loved ones again?
It has been a tough few weeks for those living in the East End of the island. There have been a large number of deaths, some of which have been tragic and unexpected, and this left the community reeling to the extent that an act of remembrance was held in the Smith’s Parish community field. Together, we tried to make sense of what had happened to our loved ones, and to provide support and comfort for one another.
The inevitability of death and the reminder of our fragile mortality cause us to reflect on our own lives and futures. What will happen when I die? Will I see my loved ones again? Where is God in all this?
Different Christian denominations and churches hold different beliefs about the afterlife. Some preach that unless the departed were in Christ and we ourselves are in Christ that we will never see our loved ones again. But what if our salvation does not depend on us at all? What if God’s love is bigger and better than we can possibly imagine? What if God knows we are messed up, broken human beings that need saving? What if God Himself breaks through the barrier of death once and for all and for all humanity? What would that look like?
I think it would look a lot like Jesus.
The opposite of love is not doubt, it is fear. Therefore, it should never be fear that drives us to God — not fear of death, nor fear of destruction, nor fear of never seeing our loved ones again — because God loves us with a love that is unbreakable and unquenchable, and if we could only grasp how deep and high and wide that love is, then we could only be drawn towards it.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing. Nothing. Not our broken selves. Not what we believe or do not believe. Not the amount of faith we have. Not even death itself. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing.
Every year the church tells the whole story of Jesus Christ and this Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent where we begin the story all over again. Advent means ‘coming’ and in the lead up to Christmas we wait for God’s love to be poured out — the coming of Jesus into the world — however, we also wait for Christ to come again in the world, when the world will be fully redeemed, restored, and renewed, a looking-ahead, if you will, to the summation or consummation of all things.
Right now we live in the now and not yet. Christ has come into the world, but the world has not yet been fully made whole. We live with brokenness, hurt, pain, and yes, death, however, the good news is that Jesus is coming, and better than that, you can meet him in the here and now.
Turn to God, not because you are afraid you will never see your loved ones again. Turn to God because you will see your loved ones again and it is God, through the outpouring of his limitless and all-powerful love, offered through his beloved Son Jesus Christ, that has made this possible. He made you, he knows you, and he loves you, and nothing will ever break that bond of love. Nothing.
This Sunday, at St. Mark’s we will sing the well-known advent hymn, O Come O Come Emmanuel. Emmanuel means ‘God with us’ and God is indeed with us. I hope and pray that over the coming weeks, those of us who have lost loved ones will know the very real, comforting presence of God; that God will pour into our hearts, through his Spirit, his joy and his peace; and that God will reassure us of his unquenchable love.
And may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you and all those you love — those who are with you and those you have lost — now and forever. Amen.