Posted by: District Evangelist Arnaud Martig
As we are about to experience the second divine service for the departed of 2020, we propose to pause a moment and reflect on the meaning of such a service and how we can help our Lord fulfil His mission.
A divine service for the departed may trigger many memories, many emotions, as we remember our loved ones who have already gone into the beyond. We may still feel the void created by the separation. And as years go by, the number of our connections in the beyond continues to increase.
But a divine service for the departed is not a sad moment. As we all rejoice when a young couple brings their newborn child to be baptised in the congregation, or when an adult decides for the Lord and is sealed by an Apostle, similarly a divine service for the departed is a joyful celebration of life!
The divine service for the departed was not invented by the New Apostolic Church…
The Scriptures provide multiple insights which form the foundation of our faith; here are just a few:
May the peace of the Risen One be with you!
- The 12th chapter of 2 Maccabees already refers to prayers and sacrifices brought on behalf of departed souls and imploring God for His grace. Before even the activity of Christ on earth, some believers shared the conviction that the dead would one day rise again (cf. CNAC 9.6.1).
- Apostle Peter then describes how Christ went to the realm of the dead to proclaim His gospel and show the path to salvation, immediately following His death on the cross (1 Peter 3: 18-20, 4:6).
- The early Apostles already dispensed the sacraments for the dead (1 Corinthians 15: 29), like our Apostles do today.
There may be many souls in the realms of the departed which feel discouraged and without apparent perspective. They must come to terms with their new reality, even accept the separation with loved ones they left behind. Despite this condition, they can taste peace and joy through faith in Christ.
Remember, after the Lord Jesus died on the cross, the disciples gathered in Jerusalem: they felt depressed and lost. But as soon as the Lord Jesus appeared in their midst and shared His peace with them, they were suddenly filled with joy; they had found a new perspective.
Apostle Leibfried from France explained recently that our brethren in the early church managed to live in the Lord’s peace despite constant persecution. We can read in the scriptures that “the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”
(Acts 9: 31). It is precisely at a time of much uncertainty that the peace of the Risen One filled their hearts. This peace was the result of their trust in the Lord and their outlook of sharing a future with Him, in His glory; their natural circumstances had not changed.
We can draw a parallel with our current situation: we too are exposed to a high level of uncertainty caused by the current pandemic. We know that there will come a time when a cure will be found, and this situation will end. But we do not need to wait until then to experience joy and peace; we can experience the peace of the Lord today: we draw our peace from our trust in the Lord and from the confidence that we will soon be with Him, upon His return. Thanks to our faith and trust, Christ makes us free from fears (2 Timothy 1: 7) and fills our souls with His peace.
Our Chief Apostle expressed it beautifully when he served on Easter Sunday: “He who believes in Jesus Christ and follows Him can already taste today the strength and the joy of the world that is to come”.
Similarly, souls in the realms of the departed have an opportunity to be filled with the Lord’s peace, despite their current circumstances. We can help and guide such longing souls in the beyond towards Christ. May our prayers radiate the peace of the Risen One into the beyond.
Let us persevere!
We may have been praying for years for some souls and wonder, what is the impact of our prayers?
Let us not be discouraged because the effect of our prayers is not visible. Chief Apostle Schneider explained recently that “each time we pray, it is like a seed that we sow: we entrust it to our God, and then God begins to work. Quite often we see just nothing and maybe we get upset and say: “God did not listen to me; He is doing nothing.” But let Him do, He is already at work. Trust God: the seed is growing. And if we pray in the right manner, i.e. if we pray with faith, with the fear of God and with trust, God will hear our prayer and He will answer it.” We will see the result of our perseverance and our many prayers on the day of the Lord!