All Saints and All Souls 2018
In my fifteen years with you we have been through a lot together and I do not think that there is anyone here in the room who has not been to a funeral that I have conducted. These are meaningful moments and it is a privilege to share in those moments with you. I think intellectually we know that death is a part of life but there is something about losing someone we love which can be absolutely devastating. Also while there is something in the immediacy of a funeral which is important, at the time of death we can be overwhelmed by it all and just because the funeral is over does not mean we have accepted our loss or even processed what has happened to us. This is why I like our All Saints and All Souls observances, because it is a time in our common life when we can gather together and reflect upon death and its impact on us in a less immediate manner.
At a funeral two things really happen. The first is an act of remembrance, we remember the person we love and reflect upon their legacy. The second thing is we ask questions, and let go – asking God to care for the one we love. This is a complex process and I think it continues on much after the service. As the days, months and years unfold we reflect upon the ones we love and we continue to wrestle with their death and ask God to care for them. Our service today helps with this process because we have had the luxury of time and in that time I know we have all reflected upon those whom we love which are no longer with us. I also like that within our tradition, we reflect within the context of a service because it allows us to reflect in a manner that we all do, with our head, our hearts and our hands.
As far as our heads are concerned, there are wonderful reflections in our scripture. From the book of wisdom we hear about the struggle of death but that the dead are cared for by God. In our gospel we hear an exchange between Jesus and Martha about the death of Lazarus, Martha’s brother and Jesus’ freind. They are struggling with it. Martha gives whae one might call “pat” answers, they have meaning but are cliches – her brother will rise on the last day. Jesus challenges her on this and makes her make a statement of faith. This shows how we think and wrestle with death and how we continually search for meaning and answers. It is an age old quest, because the truth is we do not have all the answers. Then there is the heart. We come and say our prayers today. We feel for our loved one, we ask God about our struggles and we do this together. For we know that how we feel, and what happens in our heart is not singular to us but something that we go through together. We grieve together, we lose together and we can heal together. And when we come together and pray, sing and reflect it does help our hearts. Then there is our hands, most notable when we eat our bread and drink from the cup we are reminded of God’s eternal promise to us. A promise where death is not the final victor, where death is fleeting and where we have that promise of new life as seen in the action of Jesus. Where he said eat my flesh, drink my blood and invited us into his eternal kingdom.
Death is profound, it is challenging and it is something we struggle with our whole lives. Take today’s service to think and reflect in a way which allows your head, your heart and your hands to come before God. To ask for peace and understanding and to come to a place of faith where we can trust God with those whom we love that have gone on before us.
So for God’s eternal care. Thanks be to God. Amen.