Isaiah 25:6-9, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, John 5:24-27
Today we celebrate All Souls. This feast was added in the tenth century to remember all the dead, not simply those deemed notable saints down the centuries, and to particularly remember deceased family and friends.
We remember the dead with thanksgiving: for how they touched us, for who they were and are to and for us, for relationship, influence, nurture, and the gift of their life. These “whom we love but see no longer.”[i]
We remember the dead with confidence. As in the Letter to the Thessalonians: We do “not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.” And from Isaiah, God will “swallow up death forever. … and wipe away tears from all faces.”
We remember the dead with expectation. Today’s gospel says: “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” We each die broken and incomplete. We need and receive more beyond the grave. The dead will live, not simply awake but continue to grow and heal.
As we listen to many names of our beloved dead read aloud:
Pray with thanksgiving. What are you most grateful for from them? What memories or teaching or inspiration do you treasure?
Pray with confidence. Remember and claim Jesus’ victory over death, trusting that “life is changed, not ended.”[ii]
Pray with expectation. Ask for more healing where they died wounded and incomplete. Ask for more light and love and life for them and for yourself.
Grace abounds, even in the grave. Let us celebrate and pray.
[i] From Burial of the Dead: “Father of all, we pray to you for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” The Book of Common Prayer, p498
[ii] From Eucharist preface for Commemoration of the Dead: “For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.” The Book of Common Prayer, p382
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