Tomorrow morning members of our church and community will gather for a memorial service, what our Book of Common Worship calls “A Service of Witness to the Resurrection.” During our time together we will remember the life of Annette Compton, surround her family with prayers for comfort and peace, and declare our “sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.”
In our tradition memorial services and funerals are always worship services. We gather at heaven’s gate and before the throne of God above. We sing hymns and spiritual songs. We laugh and we weep. We hear the Word and give thanks.
The service ends with a part of the liturgy called “The Commendation.” The prayer includes these words:
Into your hands, O merciful Savior,
we commend your servant.
Acknowledge, we humbly pray,
a sheep of your own fold,
a lamb of your own flock,
a sinner of your own redeeming.
Receive him/her into the arms of your mercy,
into the blessed rest of everlasting peace,
and into the glorious company of the saints in light.
I always pause when I pray these words. As a younger pastor I was sometimes tempted to modify the prayer just a bit. I wondered if it wouldn’t be better, in this time of offering comfort, simply to ask God to acknowledge a sheep of his own fold and a lamb of his own flock.
The line about a sinner of his own redeeming is jarring. Does the grieving family need the reminder of their loved one’s sin? Why not speak only of the Savior who, shepherd-like, attends to our souls?
Despite those long ago hesitations, I have always prayed the prayer as the Book of Common Worship offers it. Sometimes it is a prayer prayed with great confidence and sometimes not.
Tomorrow morning the prayer will be prayed in quiet joy and confidence. Annette’s death has been hard. But our hope in her sharing in the resurrection to eternal life is sure and certain.
Three Easter Sundays ago, Annette shared with her LPC family a little bit about her life with Christ and the story of how she came to know his redeeming love. Her testimony was recorded and may be viewed here. The video is twelve minutes long; find a place and time to be alone with it and with Annette’s words. A sinner of God’s own redeeming.
See you Sunday – and maybe tomorrow