In the last week, two very beloved saints from Mt. Hope passed into their boundless eternal reward in God’s presence. Late last week, retired pastor and beloved Walter Agnor passed peacefully; on Wednesday of this week, Delrae Dorrell also passed peacefully surrounded by family and some from our church. No date has been set for Walter’s memorial; a date for Delrae has been set and noted below. I’ll tell you much more in Deeper Thoughts below…
But first… a handful of important items:
· This Sunday—something special for middle schoolers and a bit of PG-13 content: We’ve been planning to pull aside our 6th-8th graders for some separate content and experiences, and this Sunday’s message suggests it would be a great week to try it out!
o In my teaching this Sunday, we will be studying Romans 1 which includes certain topics that if addressed fully and honestly, may be worth parents considering the readiness of their younger students to absorb.
o SO… at the regular message time, both Kids Connect and Middle School will be invited to join Chris Bowen and Jess Sauder downstairs for a moment of joint worship and then separate age-appropriate content experiences.
o Parents, if you feel your middle schooler would benefit from an adult discussion of the topics in Romans 1, they are certainly welcome to continue to attend with you.
· A memorial service for Delrae Dorrell will be held NEXT Saturday, February 10 at 1:30 p.m. at Mt. Hope. All are welcome to attend and share in the celebration of this dear woman of God who has graced our church these past two years.
· Ladies: Mark your calendar for our next women’s event, Saturday, February 24. Details to come!
· We are a praying church…so let’s engage a NEW function: If you would like a prayer need shared with the church family via this Friday email, just email your need to my personal Gmail account listed in my signature line by Thursday of each week. I’ll include a listing of those prayer needs at the end of our weekly Friday email.
o AND… don’t forget that we have a weekly prayer meeting every Sunday morning, 9:15 – 9:40 a.m. in the sanctuary. All are welcome to come storm the gates of heaven on behalf of our church family!
OK…that’s it today for you email skimmers and you who must avert your eyes from a beloved’s passing. BUT…
Some Deeper Thoughts…
There are no two ways about it. The death of a loved one is just simply hard. And yet, the Lord calls it a precious thing… and simultaenously a curse. It can all be very confusing.
I’ve had the immeasurable privilege in recent months to be present with their families while two saints (Donald Beall and Delrae Dorrell) passed into glory, and to be in close conversation with saint Walter Agnor’s daughter shortly after his passing. To have a family’s trust to be part of these incredibly sensitive and personal moments is very meaningful.
In all of these situations, long and productive lives had been led. Their individual passing came late in life and their families could celebrate decades of health, love, presence, and joy with their beloved. But so much more importantly, all three of these saints led lives of undivided devotion and faithfulness to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have noticed something common to all three of their stories: While it has been incalculably painful for each family to release their beloved to the next life, there has also been an unmistakable peace that is found nowhere else in all of human experience.
The scriptures record that “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). We certainly don’t feel it as such a precious thing. But we do not “grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope”. Rather, “we believe that Jesus died and rose again and… that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep [died] in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Their transition to God's unfiltered presence is precious to God because they get to fully experience Him in all of His reality.
This hope changes everything.
God considers death an enemy, just like we do: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death,” Paul reveals in 1 Corinthians 15:26. We hate death for its inflexibility, its finality, and for how it takes our loved ones away from our immediate presence. We also hate it for the fear it personally brings each of us “…who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15).
But in each of these scriptures, God reveals not only His identification with our hatred and fear of death; He also reveals His victory over it.
Consider: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Consider: “According to the Lord’s own word…the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise…and so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Consider: “Listen, I tell you a mystery…in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.” …Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).
Consider: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He [she] who believes in me will live, even though he [she] dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26).
Friends, these are not just idle promises to recite at a funeral as “feel good” platitudes to ease our pain of loss. No! These words are the revelation of God—a revelation of reality that is far more stunning, far more real, far more concrete than anything we perceive in this life.
So, let us “therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Oh…and does it strike you that I keep calling Donald, Walter, and Delrae “saints”?
If you grew up in a more traditional church, you were likely taught that “saints” are a special breed of Christian—someone who has lived a life of absolute purity, performed miracles, led the Church, and been someone entirely abnormal in their faith. But this is not what the scriptures teach at all. Each of us who surrender our lives to Jesus Christ are “called to be saints” (Romans 1:7).
So…are you standing in your sainthood in Jesus Christ? Are you prepared to “meet the Lord in the air?” Are you rejoicing in the security of your adoption into the Family of God through Jesus Christ? Are you filled with hope, peace, and joy—even while we mourn the present absence of our beloved?
Let’s meet this Sunday and continue our study of Romans— “Uncharted Territory: Taking Life Where You Have Never Been.” Spend some time in chapter one beforehand. We’re going to learn a lot about how we got in this mess in the first place!
Can’t wait! Much love to you all…
Mt. Hope Pastor
Some additional prayer needs for the Family of God at Mt. Hope… Please stand in biblical faith for:
Randy House has a co-worker whose son has been missing in Stafford for many days. His parents are pastors from Ghana leading a church here in Northern Virginia. Click here for a news article on the situation.