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Message of Hope
Steve Belton
Alta Mesa Memorial Park
Palo Alto
August 13, 1999

Thank you all for joining us today. As you can imagine these last eighteen weeks have been a nightmare for us. You each have played a significant role in our healing thus far. Knowing that you hurt with us has been helpful to us and your calls, cards, visits, and prayers have been appreciated.

We have gathered here today for the purpose of taking yet another step on our journey of yielding ourselves as individuals and as a family to the fact of Missy's death. What we are about today is of course a big step in the process of saying goodbye to our beloved Missy, just as so many other steps have been along the way. It is now eighteen weeks since Missy passed into the presence of the Lord, and it at once seems like just yesterday and also forever. There is a great gulf or chasm that exists between our life before Missy died and now, and in that sense it seems like an eternity has passed since her death. Yet at the same time the feelings of sadness and loss are so great and still so fresh every day that it seems like only yesterday that we received the news.

Today as we commit Missy's ashes to the ground we want especially to express the hope we feel in the resurrected life that Missy is experiencing now, even as we take this somewhat ritualistic step of committing her physically to the earth. I have come here to this place several times in the last few months, and have found solace and comfort even amidst the sadness and feelings of separation from Missy. On one of those occasions I looked around and was struck by the history of this place, the grief that so many who have come before us have felt and expressed just as I was doing myself that day. As I sat here, those thoughts became a poem that was recorded here in the sun and wind just as we are here now. Listen as I read to you the words that were written that day:


One by one they have come
to rest their life-worn bones.
In peace they lay -
in wind swept peace
while we the living come
to connect our love once again -
in thought, in prayer,
in our own futile attempt at peace.
Each one has a story,
each one has a grief.
This place should surely sink
under the weight of sorrow here,
save the lifting of our spirits
by the peace from God on high.
Although Missy we lay tenderly here,
an eternal home is hers above,
with God the Father watching,
for her and us He cares.
The peace we seek is His alone,
the wind His Spirit blows.

Yes, it is God's peace that we seek. God's loving spirit does carry the day, even in the sad times, as we experience that darkness and depth of despair that is referred to as yearning or pining away: An overwhelming sense of separation and a strong desire that takes over our whole being to have Missy back in our arms, even if it were for just a few seconds. Even now we cry out to God to have mercy and return Missy to us. We weep and sob as we tell our Lord that "We want Missy back with us!" We can't help ourselves from these feelings and these times. They come upon us unannounced and unstoppable. That is yearning. That is pining away. And that is where we are living even now.

But even in the midst of those sad thoughts and emotions we can look to God for peace and comfort. Even in the midst of this despair we can know that God cares, we can trust that God is on the throne, and we can believe that God's everlasting love is still present. Even as we have been feeling separated from God, we have also felt His touch and presence in our lives. As Job stated, "I know that my redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth." (Job 19:25) He also looked at his own loss and said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (Job 1:21) We can trust that God's will is not blocked in our lives or in Missy's life. In the letter to the Ephesians we read, "In him we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." (Eph 1:11) and as Job said to God "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2) We are confronted with God on the throne and we take the advice of the Scripture that was on a card we received early in our grief: "Be still and know that I am God." (Ps 46:10) Yes, indeed. God is God. We have in our pain asked the Why question many times in many ways. We have asked Why Missy? Why now? Why our family? Are you sure this wasn't a mistake, Lord? But as it turns out we don't need an explanation from God, we need an encounter with Him. As Job has said, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes see you." Job 42:5) Our prayer is that our suffering will not be wasted; that in the midst of it we will truly see the risen Lord.

We also take comfort in knowing that Missy had a great life - a charmed life almost. She was loved deeply by many and it was not a hidden love - she was well aware of the love we had for her. And maybe more importantly for her own sense of wellbeing was that she loved and cared for others deeply - she was a participant in life - she had learned the important lesson that it is more important to be interested in others rather than being interesting yourself. And she had learned about loving her sisters. In these last years we were blessed to see Sarah, Missy, and Julie developing the special sister relationships that books are written about. For Wanda and me part of the extreme sadness in Missy's death is realizing that Sarah and Julie are missing a beautiful relationship with a beautiful sister.

She was also successful: Most things Missy attempted, she mastered. Whether music, skiing, schoolwork, art, or a host of other things - Missy succeeded.

And Missy was fun - she was fun to be around, and added much to the gatherings she attended without needing to be the center of attention. Remember the story Laura told at Missy's memorial service - the one about a teacher passing out an assignment in class and all the kids except Missy groaning about the work. There was Missy, smelling the paper! Umm - this smells good! That was Missy - approaching life in her own beautiful way. Oh how we will miss our sweet Missy.

Missy had accepted Christ as her Savior at an early age. Now as she finished high school and started college she was dedicating herself to the Lord more deeply. Service projects in Ecuador, Mexico, East Palo Alto, and with Child Share were one evidence of her commitment. Another was her diligence in her Bible classes at Biola. She worked hard to "get it" and understand some deeper spiritual truths as her first year progressed.

Now, of course, she really gets it. She is in the presence of the Lord in heaven, rejoicing and praising Him. As it is written,"Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of any eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality." (1Cor 15:51-53)

Missy has heard the last trumpet. Missy has put on the imperishable, and Missy has had the mystery revealed to her. Remember Paul's words in First Corinthians 13, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1Cor 13:12) We accept the promise of God when he says, "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." (1Thess 4:14) As to the timing of Missy's resurrection we can look to Jesus' own words to the thief on the cross at Calvary, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43) This knowledge, this hope of the resurrected life for Missy, and also for us to be with Missy again, brings comfort and peace to our souls. As Paul has told us, this knowledge of our eternal life together with other saints allows us to grieve "not as the rest who have no hope." (1Thess 4:13) We can truly say, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory?" (1Cor 15:54-55) Now, of course the next part of that same passage asks, "O death where is thy sting?" (1Cor 15:55) And we have felt deeply the sting of missing Missy, but if you'll allow me the distinction, we have accepted the sting of her death, realizing Missy's eternal homecoming to be a very real event.

Of course, the only reason we have this hope is the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection after the third day. We all recognize that we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23) We all know the wages of sin are spiritual death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:23) We also know that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8) And God has given us a promise that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Rom 10:13) Christ's atoning work on the cross has given us the ability to think these great thoughts of eternal life, to claim the promise of eternal life for ourselves and for Missy. It is Christ's gift of taking our sins onto himself which allows us to presume God's mercy and grace. Our hope is based on the truth of Christ's resurrection. The apostle Peter said it this way, "In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1Peter 1:3) We have a living hope because we have a living Savior!

And so now we want to remember our Lord, just as He told His disciples. We want to share communion with you our brothers and sisters in Christ in remembrance of our risen Lord, in whom we have hope, in whom we have placed our trust, and in whose care we have entrusted Missy. As Jesus said at the Last Supper with his disciples, "This is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me. This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood." (Luke 22:19-20) We will distribute the bread and wine and in the quietness of your own thoughts please remember our Lord and his great gift of eternal life. We can't help thinking of our Missy there with Him in the heavenly places. Feel free to take the bread and wine, as you are ready. Shortly Ken will come and lead us in worshipping our risen Lord. Please, as you think of our family in these coming weeks and months, pray that we will hour by hour and day by day be filled more and more with the hope set before us. As Paul says, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Rom 15:13)

And all God's people said, "Amen."

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