Saturday, November 3, 2012

All Saints 2012

The Burial office in the Book of Common Prayer includes these words:

In the midst of life we are in death; of whom may we seek for succor, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? 

Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, 
O holy and most merciful Savior, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death. 

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, 
O holy and merciful Savior, thou most worthy Judge eternal. Suffer us not, at our last hour, through any pains of death, to fall from thee.


All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

He that raised up Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in us. 
Wherefore my heart is glad, and my spirit rejoiceth; 
my flesh also shall rest in hope. 
Thou shalt show me the path of life; in thy presence is the fullness of joy, and at thy right hand there is pleasure for evermore. 

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 484 - 485)

In the name of God, merciful Father, compassionate Son, Spirit of wisdom. Amen.

Jesus said to her,  
Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? 
 (John 11:40)

Martha and Mary’s brother was restored to life: was yours?
Marriages have been rescued from the rocks: was yours?
Children have been saved from car wrecks: was yours? Was your neighbor’s?
How about those we cannot see, do not know?  Is there glory there?

Yes, but it is the glory of the perseverance of the saints, of the faithfulness of God’s people through the ages, who abide with him in love, even should disaster strike.

Some of us have been through earthquakes, fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, blizzards; others have been through war time or famine; and private bereavements come to us all, friend or family – or stranger, or neighbor down the road.

We share in the grief of others. Because we believe in God, a God who is with us in Christ, we, as the Body of Christ, share in the grief of others, in our church, our town, and our world.

This past Sunday our sister church St. Hilda – St. Patrick suffered the loss of its pastor Cynthia’s husband. Bob Espeseth was killed in a traffic accident in Portland. Cynthia was in a rowing competition and Bob was on a bridge looking down on the race.  As Cynthia's boat went under the bridge, Bob crossed the road to see her on the other side.  When he did, a car on the bridge struck him, and he died instantly. A pastor is left without a husband, the children’s father is taken from them, and a church – not just one congregation – grieves for the loss.

Hurricane Sandy strikes the Caribbean. Cuba, Haiti, and other island peoples, suffer. Then it travels north to clobber the east coast of the North American mainland. Forty or more people die in New York and elsewhere along the Eastern seaboard.

May be there was something that could be done; may be there is something that can be done before next time – but the hurt remains.

And the faith remains; the faith that gives the courage to clean up, move forward, carry on; to comfort the downhearted, to begin to rebuild.

St. Paul’s churchyard, in downtown Manhattan, witness to so many disasters, epicenter of devotion after September 11th. Centuries old, it witnesses another bereavement – this storm – and remains faithful, mute witness to the saints who have gone before, endured trials in their time – petty trials or savage. Slave or free, subject to the Crown or new citizens of a new Republic, those buried in that ancient yard testify of God’s presence. These are saints among us: the first witnesses, the ongoing witnesses, the witnesses yet to come, all witness to the glory of God: because they know in Christ victory over death.

Death is not the end; it does not have the last word. We even laugh at death: mock it with ghostly costumes on the eve of All Saints – we call it Halloween.

Because Christ is risen, because he is raised, and we are called to him, we are alive in Christ. Death is not the end. But what happens after that is in the hands and heart of God.

What we know, now, we the living, is that we have a mission to carry on, to carry forward, and it is not our own plan, our own agenda. Our true gift to the future is our legacy of hope – hope in the resurrection – and joy in the life lived to God’s glory.

May we as we conduct ourselves with others, those near us, and those we know only through the news, begin in charity and complete humility, as we approach the Table of our Lord, knowing that his throne is not far away, and that we have his assurance, that his mercy always overcomes his wrath.

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
                  slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is loving to everyone
                  and his compassion is over all his works. (Psalm 145:8-9)

May the judge of the world, judge us in the light of Christ. May we his servants serve him in the world. In the hungry, to give them food; the thirsty, drink; the naked, clothing; the homeless, shelter; those in prison or sick or lonely, in visiting; those in terror of judgment, assurance mercy; in the hope of glory, may we find joy.

The Lord bless 
you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you 
and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon 
you and give you peace. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 501)

1 comment:

John Leech said...

his infinite Mercy will not let thee be overcome with Wrath.

Psalm 145:8-9

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.