Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Sunday's Scripture ~ John 15.
Devotional Scripture ~ Psalm 62:8.
This week Rev. Dave Owsley, one of South Shore UMC's retired pastors, will offer our sermon rooted in the rich text of John 15. I will be present in worship, and am glad for Pastor Dave's leadership and partnership in ministry, especially as I will have just returned from serving on the pastoral staff at a Conference retreat for 8th graders and their parents and/or guardians on the intersections of faith and sexuality.
Pastor Dave, thank you for serving South Shore, serving with South Shore, and serving alongside me. Blessings to you as you prepare and lead this week!
Content Warning: this devotion includes a story about the death of a child. Please take care of yourself while reading this devotion, or if it rings too near to your heart and/or life experiences, please skip it in its entirety. If you would like to speak with me for pastoral care and support, please connect me via email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently I received a call from a colleague in ministry - one of our area's local funeral home directors - and she asked if I would preside at an upcoming memorial service. This is not an unusual request; many clergy offer this service in the greater community. While I have served families through this funeral home before, this service would be and was different. This service celebrated the life of a sweet baby girl who died at eight months gestation following complications with her mother's pregnancy.
As you can imagine, the family was lost in their grief. As my gaze met their own, there was a sadness I had not ever seen the likes of - it was numbing, and yet still so enmeshed with pain.
I remember my colleague asking me what I would say at the service. And I said one word - hope. I intended to speak words of hope.
Today is another day of feeling like the world is falling apart. This is not right. You should not be here. The day should be filled with laughter and snuggles; instead, it is filled with brave hugs and tears. This was not the way that things should be. This was not the plan.
A life you love has been torn from you. Expectations the years once held have vanished. The question, “Why?” is deafening to your ears and a crushing weight upon your hearts.
I want you to know that God sees your pain. That God hears your cries. That God grieves your loss. That as deeply as you are holding Baby M in love, so God is holding you in love deeper still. No mortal life that God has made is without eternal meaning. Baby M's life has eternal meaning. She was created out of love. She is received by your family in love. Her life and love will continue to shape you all your days. Right now that shaping may feel more like vacancy, and aching loss. In time, I hope that shaping feels like the tender reminder that every day is precious, every person is precious, every opportunity to hold and to be held is precious. May that, and so much more, be Baby M's eternal gift to you.
Our Christian faith teaches us that God’s grace can do far more than we can think or imagine. And so on this day of things feeling like they are falling apart, may this also be a day of things falling together, for both you and Baby M, that she and you will strengthen your relationships with God and together fulfill your purpose that reaches beyond time and death.
May God give you strength for each day, and to do God’s will. May God enable you to see beyond the things of this world and towards the promise of the eternal. May God lighten your darkness with love – both of Baby M, and from her.
Our devotional text reads, "Trust in [God] at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us." Our God sees, hears, and grieves our deepest sadnesses just as our God sees, hears, and rejoices our deepest joys. This is the gift of Emmanuel. We are not alone. We are not lost in the crowd or another face among many. We are not unheard. We are God's precious ones. We are the ones God's seeks, protects, and saves.
Each day is an invitation for us to invest our trust in God. This is absolutely easier to do when 'all is right with the world.' And this can absolutely feel insurmountable when the world is on your back and your heart is breaking. No matter the circumstance or season, God invites us to trust. To cry out. To find and experience refuge. To lean on the Almighty until we are sure we can stand again, and when we find ourselves standing again, to give thanks to the Lord and walk forward in faith, hand in hand.
Into the world's deepest sadnesses, our God invites us to tell our stories - to ourselves and to one another. God invites us to speak words of hope, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, they may illumine each and every darkness. God invites us to invest in trust - especially in the moments we feel like everything is falling apart - so that in those moments we fall ever-more securely into God's arms.
Reflection: Take action - do what this verse says and 'pour out your heart to God.' In what ways is God your refuge?
Prayer: "I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless; ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness. Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still, if thou abide with me." Amen.
*”Abide With Me,” The United Methodist Hymnal 700. **Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal