Remembering Hope – This sacred service moved me as I sat in the sanctuary watching people walk down the aisles to place flowers at the foot of a large wooden cross. Many were tearful; all were solemn, as they acknowledged the lives of their loved ones lost. This was my first experience seeing the annual Memorial Day tribute at Sligo church, yet this sacred ceremony felt strangely familiar. I looked into the eyes of those who were slowly parading down the aisles and I felt as if I saw deep into their souls. The words of the hymn, “We have this hope that burns within our hearts, hope in the coming of the Lord” were looping in the memory of my mental iPod.
There is no doubt that the last few months have been difficult for our church family. As pastors, we have comforted many hurting hearts due to the devastating death or debilitating sickness of a loved one. During this season of loss, we cling desperately to our hope and each other.
Yet we must ask ourselves, do we really live as if we have this hope? Or do we just recite the words of the hymn as a pacifier for our broken spirits? Some of us have not only lost loved ones, but we have lost our jobs, homes, marriages, financial status, or self-worth. We grieve past lives which can lead us to surrender our hopes and dreams.
It is reasonable and understandable to mourn for a season. However, some of us choose to live in mourning. Some of us walk through life slowly parading and masking our pain while drowning in despair. We are living in memoriam. The term “In Memoriam” is used as an epitaph to remember loved ones. It denotes death. However, in memoriam is a Latin phrase that directly translates as “into memory.” The weeping prophet Jeremiah knew the pangs of emotional, physical and spiritual pain. He knew the fear of death. God gave him a dire prophesy of punishment, death and doom to proclaim to his Israelite family. During good times he was called to bear news of the bad times. Trust me, he wasn’t celebrated as a hometown hero. Instead he became one of Israel’s most wanted! Nevertheless, Jeremiah chose to live paradoxically. His version of living in memoriam was not living solely in the depths of despair, but in the memory of hope!
In Lamentations 3:21 Jeremiah writes, “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”
We cannot live in death. We must live in memoriam. When we live in memoriam instead of mourning, we can count on the mercies of God. Living in memoriam is how we remember God’s hope is eternal and live in faith that the fear of death is fleeting. Despite the hurt and havoc we encounter daily, every morning we can recall to mind the hope of heaven that burns deep within. Jeremiah not only lived to see his horrible prophesies come true, he also saw the dawning of a new day. When we are living in memoriam, we live with an awakened soul. An awakened soul will know hardship and difficulty, however it is soothed and revived in the presence of God. It is a lifestyle that looks to the faithfulness of the Lord and keeps his mercies locked in memory. It is a lifestyle of restoration and not consumption. It is living in a memoriam that will never end.