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Memorial to Brian Reid

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A Hard Life

Life wasn’t meant to be easy. At least that’s what they tell us.
I only met Brian quite briefly about a month before he passed away. He came along to the Baptist Church, and I had a chance to sit down with him following the service.
Regrettably, it was a conversation that was constantly interrupted, largely due to the fact that it was the day before I was due to head off on a 2 week holiday. So we agreed that once I returned I would catch up with him, but sadly, shortly after my return, I learnt that he had left this earthly realm.
You see, it was the day before
And so I’ve only had the barest glimpse into this man’s life, but in that brief glimpse I saw a man who had gone through a lot of torment.
We know that life isn’t meant to be easy, but surely it should be easier than this?
We get to the end of Brian’s life, and our reflection can be hard. I understand that the memories are not all happy memories. I suspect that some of them are quite painful in fact.
And so, what do we make of it all?
And dare I ask it, but where can we find God in all of this mess?

Reflections on Ephesians

Just a moment ago, we had a passage from the Bible read for us, which comes from the book known as Ephesians. This was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to one of the early churches in a city called Ephesus.
If we look at the letter as a whole, what we find is a very encouraging letter. You see, it talks about God blessing us first. He didn’t wait till we had our lives together, but instead poured out his love in some exceptional ways.
His love is such that, even while we are still sinners, Christ died for us.
Now I want to come back to that thought shortly, but I just want to share the beautiful thing that happens when we start to look at the third chapter of this book.
You see, despite Paul talking about the many blessings that can be received as a child of God, he reveals that he is also a prisoner.
Indeed, Paul is writing this letter while locked up in chains. While he knows how to count his blessings, he does not deny that life is hard.
Regardless of whether you are a Christian or not, you will come to some tough times in your life.
When we come to verse 13 of chapter 3, which is the verse that came immediately before what was just read, we see Paul saying:
Ephesians 3:13 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
Now I don’t want to pretend that the apostle Paul’s sufferings are equivalent to Brian’s suffering. They are quite different, both in the cause and the nature of them.
That being the case, the same truths that Paul then offers to help us get our heads around this sort of suffering, can also be applied to Brian’s life.

Prayer for the Ephesians

You see, Paul offers a prayer to the Ephesians where he acknowledges the power and strength that come from the risen Lord Jesus.
He tells them how he kneels before the Heavenly father, who is not just the father of Christians, but the creator of all mankind, and of whom we can find glorious riches.
But his prayer is that, knowing how much you are suffering, you may be strengthened with the power of His Spirit in your inner being.
He then says how his prayer comes out of the glorious riches that God offers.
Now in his prayer, you might think that Paul would then pray for an end to all the suffering - however this is not what he does. He asks for something quite different.
He asks that as Christ dwells in you, you may be rooted and established in love, and then you may begin to grasp how wide, and how long, and how high and deep the love of Christ is.
What this can do is offer a paradigm shift, and one that I believe is ultimately helpful as we reflect on the life of Brian.
You see, it is possible to get completely stuck on Brian’s suffering. Some of you may even reflect on the extent to which his sufferings were self-inflicted or not.
But in light of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians, I believe we can look at this from a completely different perspective.
We can look at it from the perspective of a God who loved this man far deeper than we can ever comprehend. So deep in fact that we need the help of God’s Holy Spirit just to begin to comprehend it.
But the question still remains - if God loved Brian so much, then why did he have to suffer all that he did?
The truth is, there isn’t a nice simple answer for that.
But what we do know is that despite all of the choices Brian made, God always stood there beside him ready to help him out.
We don’t have a God who promises us an easy life, at least, not this side of Christ’s return, but we do have a God who promises to help us through it.
This was never better demonstrated for us then when Christ died on the cross for us.
You see, this is the ultimate demonstration of love. It is true that Brian didn’t deserve that love, but it is also true that none of us deserve that love. But Jesus didn’t die for those who deserve it. He died for those he loved - and that is all of humanity.

Conclusion

Afterwards as we gather over lunch, we will have much opportunity to reflect on the life that Brian lived.
My prayer is that as you do, you reflect on how God loved Brian, exactly the way he was. And as you do, I would invite you to reflect on how God loves you exactly the way you are.
The reality is, that one day each of us will meet the same end as Brian. One of the few sure things in life is that we will face death. We can do so worried about all the suffering that we face before that death, or we can do so, knowing that we have a God carrying us through.
I hope that you can leave here today knowing that with God, we can face this all in a new light - one that is characterised by love.
Let me just leave you now with the beautiful words that Paul concluded this little passage:
Ephesians 3:20–21 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
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