Hope In The Midst Of Grief
On March 3, four Royal Canadian Mounted Police were shot dead in a raid on a marijuana farm. The killer, James Roszko, turned the gun on himself. All of Canada was shocked, and at the funeral service in Edmonton on March 9 thousands of Mounties in their traditional broad-brimmed hats and scarlet tunics marched in the funeral procession. The service was broadcast throughout the nation. One of the four men was Peter Schiemann, a professing Christian, his father, the Rev. Don Schiemann, a leader in the Canadian Lutheran church, paid a moving tribute to his son at the service:
“The pain of our loss is beyond everything we could have ever imagined. Over and over again people tell us that they could never begin to understand the depth of our loss, and this is true, but we know of One who does understand and feels our pain because he lost his Son too. It happened when God gave the sinless life of his Son at the cross to redeem sinful lives and to purchase forgiveness for us all. Three days later he raised his Son from the dead and conquered death. It is through this event where human history was intersected by divine grace and mercy that we have hope. This hope – that is what’s sustaining us. It’s not an idle wish, but a certainty based on the promise of God. And this hope fills us with eager anticipation and a longing for the time when we shall be forever with the Lord. It is this hope that will ease the pain of our loss as the Prince of Peace comes to our hearts and says, ‘be still and know that I am God.’
Then the following sermon was preached by Ralph Mayan, the president of the Lutheran Church – Canada.
May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
“I’ll be with Jesus in heaven!” Those words Peter shared with his father on one occasion as they talked about the risks and dangers associated with service in the police force. “If something should happen, you won’t need to worry, I’ll be with Jesus in heaven!” That was Peter’s faith and conviction, a conviction based upon the solid foundation of God’s Word, and promise made sure in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Today, gathering in this house of God, with tears in our eyes, we share that same faith and conviction with one another. Peter Schiemann is with Jesus in heaven. And our confidence and boldness is not based upon who Peter was, but upon who Jesus Christ is, upon His Word and promise made sure in His death and resurrection, a promise given to Peter and to all who believe in Jesus Christ, who put their trust and confidence in Him.
But, oh, does it hurt! Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. We gather together this Tuesday afternoon to remember and say farewell to Peter Christopher Schiemann, a dear son, a loving brother, a friend, a colleague. We gather to give thanks to God for his life, for the vibrant faith he was given that made him who he was; for the joy he brought to his family; the care and respect he gave to friend and colleague alike; for his commitment to his chosen vocation; and now for laying down his life with his three colleagues in the service of our country as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
But most important we gather today in this house of God because “Oh, does it hurt.” We seek comfort in the midst of our sorrow, peace in the midst of our inner turmoil and hope, a sure and certain hope in the midst of our grief – a peace and hope that can come only from outside of ourselves, from a good and gracious God who is more powerful than the evil that is in us and around us and yet continues to love world so much that He gave His one and only Son.
A word of God which gives such hope and upon which we shall reflect in these moments of meditation is Peter’s confirmation verse. It’s a prayer of the apostle Paul for the believers in Thessalonica. It became a prayer of the church for Peter, and in a sense, we might think of it now as a prayer for us as we grieve. From II Thessalonians 2:16-17, these words: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
“But oh, does it hurt” Whenever death strikes, it leaves in its trail, brokenness, heartache and pain. And when that death comes to one so young and vibrant as the result of a terrible evil that has transpired, the pain and brokenness we feel is magnified a hundred fold and we are left with feelings of shock and helplessness. How could this happen? Who is to blame? We want answers; we try to fix blame; we try to rationalize the reality of it all, the evil that has transpired. We struggle with God. We cry. We grieve
One reason I am attracted to Scripture is because it fits life so well. It doesn’t try to gloss over grief as if it were not real and say, “Buck up and smile.” It doesn’t say that everything is really all right, that it’s all God’s will. Rather, it tells us that much of what happens in this world is against God’s revealed will. That the kind of thing which happened to Peter and to the other constables last Thursday is but a horrible reminder of just what this world is like as it lives in rebellion against its Creator and His will for life; in a world where men would be gods unto themselves, doing their own thing rather than His; where hatred and cruelty, brutality and even murder so often seem to be the course of the day. Jesus saw it, He experienced it and we are told, He grieved too. He wept bitterly. I’m talking about the reality of sin, a reality that has infected the whole human race, a reality that has derailed humanity’s walk with God, a reality that showed its demonic head in what happened that Thursday.
Everything is not all right! We sense it. We know it. And so does God. He knew it back at the time of creation when the human race rebelled in their desire to be like God. Anyone of us would have given up on that creation, but not our good and gracious God. His love is beyond our human love. He is good and gracious and abounding in mercy. He would redeem His creation; He would save His humanity. That was His good and gracious will and in His good time, He made good on His promise. He sent His one and only – a Son to bring His love to bear on a fallen humanity.
But look what the world did to that Son. They took him, they mocked him, they scourged him; they hung Him on a cross to die. But horror and evil, sin and death were not to win the day. That was not God’s good and gracious will. On the third day, God raised Him from death and He used this evil perpetrated on His Son, and then His glorious resurrection on the third day, as the means to bring judgment upon sin and death itself “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory” Sin is now forgiven; new life has been given! Thanks be to God who gives us victory in our Lord Jesus Christ!
“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope encourage you . . .” God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ has loved us and by His grace given us eternal encouragement.
He showed His love for Peter on that cross of Calvary when He paid for His sins and declared Him to be forgiven. And what He did for Peter, He has done for you and for me.
You can believe that and cling to that Word and promise of our gracious God.
And by His grace, He gave to Peter that eternal encouragement and good hope. In the church he was baptized. He was nurtured and strengthened through Word and Sacrament. Eternal encouragement and good hope gave him the confidence to say, “I’ll be with Jesus in heaven.” The Lord did indeed teach him as we sang in the preceding hymn “Teach me to live that I may dread the grave as little as my bed, to die that so I may rise glorious at the awesome day.”
Yes, what happened to Peter and the others was horrific, sin run rampant – but horror and evil, sin and death did not win that day. Jesus Christ already has triumphed, and now Peter has triumphed with Jesus Christ, awaiting that great day of resurrection. That same eternal encouragement and good hope given to Peter is there for you. It’s the kind of eternal encouragement that brings comfort in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of our inner turmoil and hope in the midst of grief. It’s there for you too in Jesus Christ, made sure for you in His death and resurrection.
“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope encourage your hearts and strengthen you.
May He encourage and strengthen you Don and Beth, your children Mike and Julia and all who mourn you. The days ahead will not be easy. There will be times when the grief you feel will seem overwhelming – but know that you are not alone. Your family of faith is here to encourage. But most important your Saviour is always by your side.
Though you do not see him, He is walking beside you, He has enfolded you in His arms and in those moments when you feel no strength at all, He will lift you up as on wings of an eagle and He will carry you. So good and gracious is our Loving God who has loved us and by His grace has given us an eternal encouragement that will weather all the storms and the heartaches and pains of life as we journey forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting in His presence. Amen.”
Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan, president, Lutheran Church, Canada
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