Where hope irrevocably gains the upper hand (Rose Garden Ceremony)

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
    and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.
    But you would have none of it.”

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him
    so he can show you his love and compassion.
For the Lord is a faithful God.
    Blessed are those who wait for his help.

– Isaiah 30:15,18

Every Palm Sunday, right after worship, it is our tradition to plant roses bushes to honor the memory of those who passed into eternity during the previous year. Wake Forest Presbyterian Church meets on a beautiful campus, and we have a lovingly tended garden. There, the roses have captured the spirit of what we understand as “a thin place”, balancing life, and eternity, and love, and promise, and transition, and memory.

We may be a young church, but we still lose far too many people – and 2020 was no exception. Maybe it is because I have grown to love these folk so dearly, but this year’s Rose Garden Ceremony seemed more poignant, more beautiful, and more difficult.

Rebekah – as always – spoke from her heart. But she included some words I had written at the time of her sister Rachel’s death in January. Here is a short excerpt:

But we do not grieve, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4, as people who have no hope. Because death is not a period so much as a semi-colon. We are not at the end of our experience of what it means to be living beings created in the image of God, we are at a way station on the journey.

It is a difficult way station, to be sure, and it is a hard road at times. But this is a journey we do not have to take alone. This is the beauty of faith; not that God makes our lives easy or even numbs the pain, but that God is with us, accompanies us, steadies us, prepares us, and loves us with a love that not even death has the power to interrupt.

from “Another Epic Story Moves From this Life into Eternity”

The photographs document not only the occasion – Palm Sunday 2021 – but also, I very much hope, the serenity of spirit that comes from both being in our garden and around the wonderful folk who worship here.

Today is Wednesday, the middle of Holy Week. May our reflections, our prayers, and our love for one another bring us closer to the God who loved us (who loves us still) so completely that Easter became the fulcrum of history, the balance point where hope irrevocably gained the upper hand. – DEREK

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