Celebrating Life

by | Nov 15, 2021

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep..

Romans 12:15

Tomorrow evening we will have our last Presbytery meeting of 2021; please register if you haven’t already. We will all be on Zoom, which has worked very well for our presbytery meetings, especially for night meetings. We will celebrate with Arcadia Community Church and welcome their new pastor, Rev. Dr. John Scholte; we will welcome new Inquirer Jae Yang; and we will hear from Inquirer Tiffany Ashworth as she seeks to move to candidacy.

As is customary with our November meeting, we will plan for the future with the election of next year’s leaders and the approval of next year’s budget. We will also consider whether to be listed as a Matthew 25 presbytery, showing our support for the efforts of the national church to encourage all our churches and presbyteries to commit to follow Jesus’ call in Matthew 25:31-46 by embracing and telling our stories in addressing one or more of the three focus areas:

  • Building congregational vitality
  • Dismantling structural racism
  • Eradicating systemic

We will also give thanks for the people who have completed their terms of service, and we remember loved ones who have died this past year through our necrology.

As the dark and coolness of the night seem to be coming much earlier now, and we look ahead to the holiday season, I have been thinking about the saints who have gone before us, especially these last two years. Though sometimes it feels like it’s been a lost two years, much has happened—and we have lost many loved ones. The horrible winter surge of COVID hit a year ago, and I remember how Monte Vista Grove, which was so careful and had been weathering the pandemic very well, suddenly saw ten residents die within a matter of weeks. The holiday season always brings up memories of the loved ones who are no longer with us, and I can feel the sadness of missing friends like Ross Kinsler, Mary Hamburger, Dick Hettish, Sandy Shervington, Don Hawthorne, Clayton Cobb, Bill Van Loan, and so many others as we give thanks for their lives.

This Saturday, November 20, at 11 am, the memorial service for Rev. Barbara Stout will be held at Claremont Presbyterian Church. Barbara died on February 27, 2020, right before COVID hit all of us. I remember when she passed away, and many of us wondered how we would be able to celebrate her life if we could not meet in person. We now have the opportunity, 21 months later. Of course memories of her life, and the impact of her decades of faithful service, have not dimmed, so I am grateful that we are at a point where we can now safely gather to grieve, and give thanks. For those who were not blessed to know Barbara, she was a long-time Christian educator and pastor for several churches, most significantly with Claremont Presbyterian Church and Trinity Presbyterian Church.

She was also on the committee that produced the hymnal that continues to be in the pew racks of many if not most of our churches, the one some of us refer to as “the blue hymnal.”

As the weight of grief bears down on us, paradoxically amidst the joy of the holidays and the relief that maybe, just maybe, we will reclaim a little bit of normalcy in our lives, we take comfort in our strong belief in life eternal, thanks to the grace of Jesus Christ. And we give thanks for the memories.

Rick Hamlin was executive editor of Guideposts magazine, and in his book 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without, he wrote:

The people you sing with become a part of you.  After they’re gone, you can still hear them. I think the sound of everyone who has ever sung at our church is buried in the walls of the place, and all their “alleluias” come echoing back whenever we sing. They make up that “great cloud of witnesses” the Bible talks about. If you’ve sung harmony with someone, you especially miss their part when they’re gone.

And Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet:

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. . . .
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

As we gather—on Zoom, in worship, at Christ’s table—however we gather, let us feel whatever we feel, knowing that whether we weep or whether we rejoice, our hearts can be filled with the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:7)

See you tomorrow night,