Wednesday Nov 1
All Saints Day, transferred to Sunday, 5 Nov 2017
Psalm 34:1-10, 22 (9)
1 John 3:1-3
I have booked our flights. Right after worship on November 19 Jackie and I will fly to Germany to dissolve my mother’s household. My brother and his partner will be there also. On October 12 it was a year that my mother died.
Our father died in 1999. He died of a brain tumour. I went to visit three times that year. In the summer all of us went, we took out a loan to be able to go.
On the day after my last visit my father fell into a coma. He died three days later. I remember our last exchange. He said to me, ‘Get home safely,’ to which I replied, ‘You, too.’
He knew he was dying and he had made his peace with God and with people as much as he was able.
I loved my parents, though was more attached to my father. My parents had lived a hard life and found happiness only apart from each other. Our father died a happy man, our mother, I think, was still searching, which made the dying so much harder.
My parents’ sickness was loneliness. They were lonely because they could not be together, something that changed for my father later on.
We all come with different memories of loved ones and friends.
What all our memories have in common is that we mourn because we loved. We miss because there was a relationship, often a deep relationship. Sometimes we label our grief selfish, for we may say that our loved one is in a better place and we are sad only because we wish we were still with them. But selfish is not the right word for we mourn not just something we had but we mourn something that was mutual, that belonged to the one we lost and to us together.
I remember after my father died, thinking on my days off that sometime that day my father and I would talk on the phone, only to remember that he was not going to call. That was a source of sadness but also a strange comfort, for the sadness reminded me of our love.
The ones we mourn have made us richer and better. We mourn them in thanksgiving but we also mourn them because we are made for community.
The Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson says,
“What makes death the Lord’s enemy, and fearful for us, is that it separates lovers. Were my death simply my affair, the old maxim might hold, that since my death will never be part of my experience, I have no need to fear it. But death will take my loves from me and me from them, and that is the final objective horror, for it decrees emptiness of all human worth, constituted as it is by love. Having no more being would be no evil were being not mutual.”
“Having no more being would be no evil were being not mutual.”
Being is mutual, because mutuality is the very character of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And so we are not surprized to read in Revelation that “there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.”
Being is mutual and so is our life with God, so is the resurrection. In our reading from St Matthew we hear the Beatitudes in which God lays out a different vision than we could imagine on our own. Grace is clearly present here, for the blessings God bestows are not reward. This vision climaxes and finds its fulfillment in the next chapter when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for God’s Kingdom to come. God’s kingdom is mutual, communal, not only for me but also for you.
Years ago I read a piece by Miroslav Volff in Christianity Today. He began by telling the story of his Cuban neighbour who said that if Fidel Castro was to be in heaven, she would not want to be there.
Yet being is mutual and God’s salvation is for the whole world.
And so as I think about my parents I know that their loneliness will be lifted, and their inability to be with each other will be redeemed, not for them to be together but because salvation is for the whole world and being is mutual.
That God is about mutuality, about community we see from the beginning when God made us in God’s own image. We see it in God’s faithfulness and persistence toward God’s people. We finally see it in Jesus who emptied himself for our sake. He is the lamb into whose presence the Saints appear.
And so our grief is not selfish but anchored in the grief of God. Our grief is even expression of our being created in God’s image, for God, too, mourns. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and the parables proclaim that there is rejoicing in heaven over every sinner who repents. CS Lewis says that God is relentlessness in seeking what is God’s. And God’s relentless determination to have us in life, suggests that God will not be deterred by death.
We who are gathered today to remember the Saints who have gone before us remember in the Creed and in the gathering around the Lord’s table that through God’s great mercy God has gathered us together, even now, even today, For all of us are God’s beloved.
It is no coincidence that in our funeral liturgy we remember Paul’s words from Romans:
“When we were baptized in Christ Jesus,
we were baptized into his death.
We were buried therefore with him
by baptism into death,
so that as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
It is a remembering and holding fast to God’s promises. It is also the assurance that the risen life is mutual, even as God is the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.