That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:10-11
The season of Lent and Good Friday in particular always reminds me of my grandfather, Clarence Edward Greenwald.
In the spring of 1991, I was scheduled to attend a 21-day mission trip to Eastern Europe with a group of Methodist youth from 11 states. Our purpose was visiting with Methodist churches in Austria, Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia to offer them encouragement and support. The walls of Communism had just come down and the fledgling churches were experiencing new freedom to worship.
My grandfather had been so supportive of my participation. He died on the morning of Good Friday, just three days before I left for the mission trip, yet my family still encouraged me to go. The following Thursday I was worshipping with a small group of Methodists in Prague at 5 p.m. We held a service of singing, prayers, and devotions in both English and Czech. It was a powerful time of celebrating God’s presence even though we could not fully understand one another’s languages. After arriving back in the hotel, I realized that (due to the time difference) we had been worshipping at the exact time of my grandfather’s funeral halfway around the world in western New York. I knew that God’s presence was not limited by time or distance, and that my own sadness could also be a time of joy.
The sadness of death is overcome by the celebration of the gift of life. We know that Jesus’ death and resurrection is a reminder that we too can be raised up with Christ to be present with God for all of eternity. While we grieve when someone dies, we are also reminded that life continues in the presence of God. Just as God allowed me to be present in Czechoslovakia with other Christians, God surrounds you and me with loved ones in our family of faith to offer us strength and encouragement and support. We are not alone because God is with us through good times and hard times.
As you look back on the past year and remember special people who are now in the Kingdom of Heaven, be assured that God’s love for you and for them is just as real as it was for His Son! In the midst of death and resurrection, we know the hope of heaven is real and we can look forward to the day when all of us are united in God’s eternal love.
Rev. Phil Greenwald, Executive Pastor of Administration