Life in the Midst of Death – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Romans 8:35-39
John 14:1-7

We begin the first of five Tuesday evening sermons in Lent focused on “finding God amid all that troubles us in our lives and in the world.” This evening we explore the ultimate terms of life: “Life in the Midst of Death.”[i] I’m going to start with eternity and then move back-from-the-future into the present. First, a disclaimer. My own experience of life after death is limited. I’ll come back to that.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus said he was going away to prepare a place for us, where he invites us to follow. [ii] This place in heaven is a “mansion” according to the King James Version of the Bible, which is what I learned from as a child. Maybe also you? However the Greek word that was translated into English in the 1500s as “mansion” does not mean what the word “mansion” connotates for us today. For us today, a mansion is like a small palace, like the oceanfront mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. But the Greek word used here is actually much more modest and far more intriguing. The Greek word is simply a temporary dwelling place: an inn for overnight lodging.[iii]Along the ancient Roman roads, travelers’ inns were placed about a day’s journey one from another where travelers would spend the night.

The Greek word for this inn that Jesus prepares for us implies a journey, an ongoing development. Rather than imagining eternity as something static – where we are installed in a private palace – imagine eternity as an adventure in the company of heaven, with travelers’ inns being prepared for us, both for our heavenly rest and for our heavenly adventure, as we move from light to light, from one inn to the next. Read More

In the Midst of Death

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In the Midst of Death

Br. James Koester


 

It’s not unusual for me to get something in my head, convinced that I have it correct, only to discover that I have it wrong. Recently I have found myself repeating in my mind a phrase, which I was positive I had right: In the midst of death, we are in life. The phrase comes to us from the Prayer Book burial rite, and we Brothers sing it at the midday service on Holy Saturday.

The problem is, I have it backwards. What the text actually says is, “in the midst of life we are in death.[1]

Yet I think that the trick my mind has played on me has some merit. These past years seem to have been one long, long season of death. While the pandemic might seem to some a distant memory at this point, it surely remains achingly present to the minds of those who have loved and lost one of the 1,151,435 people who have died in the United States from this disease.[2] In the midst of death.

Nor may it surprise you to hear that since the beginning of the year, there have been 565 cases of mass shootings.[3] In America, we lose 121 people every day to gun-related violence, which has taken the lives of 35,000 people so far this year, and is the leading cause of death for American children.[4] In the midst of death.

We see unfolding in the news every day reports of violent death: police brutality and racial violence; wars in Ukraine and the Holy Land; and hate crimes on the rise in the United States. In the midst of death.

With so much practice, you might say we are good at dying. We know what to do in the face of death. We know what’s expected, even when gripped by shock and grief. In the midst of death.

In this way, we are no different from the three women who made their way to the tomb, that first Easter morning. They, too, knew what to do when confronted with death, even a death as horrific as the one Jesus had suffered. “When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.[5] They had the supplies, they knew how to perform the rituals, and carry out the customs that went with a death. They came prepared, with the necessary spices. They knew what to anticipate, and at least one of them was practically inclined in her expectations, for we read that “they had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’[6]

Like us, these women had seen death. They had lived with death, and they knew what to do, what was expected of them, how to behave. Death, it seems, is simply part of living. In the midst of death.

You might imagine that these three women, even when numb with grief, were beyond shocking. Death, even a horrific death, could not shock them. Yet Mark is quite clear that when they reached Jesus’ tomb, these women were so alarmed, terrified, amazed, afraid, and speechless that they fled, probably dropping the spices, “and they said nothing to anyone.[7]


It was life that terrified them;
it was life that made them speechless.

 

 

 


What is significant here is that it wasn’t death that frightened them. No, what shocked them was life, and the possibility of life. It was life that terrified them; it was life that made them speechless.

Whether it comes quietly, after a long life, well-lived; suddenly, in a blaze of bullets; shockingly, dragged from your home and killed by terrorists; tragically as bombs rain down from above; agonizingly, with a knee at the neck; or slowly, gasping for breath, alone in a hospital room, death no longer shocks us. Yes, we may grieve, but no, it does not shock.

What shocks, alarms, terrifies, amazes, and makes us afraid and speechless is life, and especially the kind of life Jesus offers us in the resurrection.


A life given away is a life given back.

 

 

 


SSJE’s founder, Richard Meux Benson, reminds us that “our coming to Christ changes everything.[9] If, as Father Benson encourages us, “we live in the world as [people] who have been with Jesus,[10] then the risen life of Jesus is no mere abstract idea, but a concrete reality. Such a life is shocking, terrifying, and alarming, because it manifests itself not in some conjuror’s trick with a bag of missing bones, but in Spirit-filled lives which are unpredictable, risky, and reverse the ways of the world. A Spirit-filled life reminds us that life does emerge from death, joy can be found in sorrow, and a life given away is a life given back.

No wonder the women fled in terror: something told them that following the Risen Jesus to Galilee, even in the hope of seeing him again, would cost them their lives. And it did. And it still does.

Life is so much easier when we know what to do, what is expected of us, how to behave. But a life empowered and emboldened by the Spirit of the Risen Jesus is unpredictable and risky, for that life is no longer ours, but Christ’s, who lives in us.[12]

That life, that Spirit-filled life – Christ’s risen life lived in us – should alarm, terrify, and amaze us; it should grip us with fear and render us speechless. This is the life which will shock us back to our senses and rouse us from death.

In the midst of death, we are in life, because we are willing to take the risk that Jesus did, and give our life away, only to have God give it back in unexpected and unpredictable ways.


To Consider:

Does death still have the power to shock you? How so?

Where in your life are you in the midst of death? Where are you in the midst of life?

What steps can you take to embrace the Spirit-filled, unpredictable life that the Risen Jesus offers, even if it means taking the risk of stepping into the unknown?

To Try:

If you have never done this before, spend some time praying the Burial Office.

Where the Prayer Book provides space to add a name, add your own name. Reflect on the reality of your own death and what a life risen with Christ might look like for you.


[1] In Media Vita, Book of Common Prayer, 1979, page 484

[2] https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker; downloaded 3 November 2023

[3] A mass shooting is generally defined as an occasion when 3 or more people have been injured. (https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2023/10/u-s-hurtles-toward-new-record-for-mass-shootings-says-atf-director/)

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States_in_2023; downloaded 3 November 2023; https://abcnews.go.com/US/116-people-died-gun-violence-day-us-year/story?id=97382759; downloaded on 3 November 2023

[5] Mark 16: 1 -2

[6] Mark 16: 3

[7] Mark 16: 8b

[8] Mark 16: 6,7

[9] Spiritual Readings: Christmas, page 260

[10] Ibid, page 260

[11] SSJE, Rule of Life, Engaging with Poverty, chapter 8, page 16.

[12] Galatians 2: 20

[13] In the midst of life we are in death; of whom may we seek for succor, but of you O Lord,…

[14] For a slightly different take on this text, see The Unsettling Power of Easter by Esau McCaulley at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/opinion/easter-celebration.htmldownloaded 4 April 2021.

The Hour Has Come – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

John 12: 20-36

‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’. I find our Gospel reading today, on this day, this Tuesday in Holy Week, to be really moving.  We are in company with Jesus as he gets ready to die. He is fully prepared. As Son of God he knows that his death will bring life and salvation to the world. But he’s also Son of Man, he is just like us: flesh and blood. He is fearful. ‘Now, my soul is troubled he says’. We hear similar words in the other Gospels, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; (Matthew 26:38)

Each day of this Holy Week, Jesus draws closer to his death. We meditate again on his gracious words and actions, culminating in that glorious final commitment from the Cross, ‘Into your hands O Lord I commend my spirit’.  In doing so we can I believe be strengthened to prepare for our own death. Jesus was fully prepared for his death, and we should be too. There is something rather important being said in the Great Litany in the Book of Common Prayer when we pray to be ‘delivered from dying suddenly and unprepared.’ It is good to be ready, to be prepared for when our own death comes. St Francis of Assisi could speak of death as ‘Sister Death’, because she was for him a familiar and welcome companion. It is said of Pope John 23rd -good Pope John- that as he lay dying of a rather terrible stomach cancer, he told his secretary, ‘My bags are packed and ready to go.’  In the Rule of our Society we read, ‘We are called to remember our mortality day by day with unflinching realism, shaking off the sleep of denial.’ (Chapter 48).  Death for the Christian is no enemy, is not to be feared, but is rather a kind angel waiting to lead us into the presence of our heavenly Father. Read More

Behold, I tell you a mystery! – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

1 Corinthians 15: 51-57

Today we celebrate All Souls Day. We ‘celebrate’? How can we celebrate when shortly we shall be remembering by name before God our loved ones who have died, and whom we so miss?

‘Behold, I tell you a mystery! We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible.’  Those amazing, thrilling words from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. I can never read them without hearing Handel’s Messiah ringing in my ears! And they are words which tell us just what it is that we are celebrating today.  We are celebrating what lies at the very heart of our faith as Christians. Jesus truly died, and yet was raised to life by God. And all who have faith in Jesus, although we too will die, will also be raised to life by God.  Paul goes on to proclaim in ringing terms, ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’  The promise and hope of resurrection, of new life, IS our gospel as Christians. It seems to me that so much in life points to this. Just as winter leads to spring, so death and resurrection, loss and hope, seem to penetrate the very fabric of life itself. Read More

Bold, Brash, and Incredibly Audacious – Br. James Koester

John 11:32-44

I have always loved these two days, All Saints and All Souls. They evoke something deep within me, that I often have difficulty putting into words. This is especially true as I get older. Somewhere, deep in my soul, I feel as if I am letting out a great sigh, not so much of contentment, although I am content, but of consent, because these two days put into words, what I believe to be true in the very depths of my being.

The history of these two days is actually quite fascinating. It takes us from the earliest days of the faith to the magnificent Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, from the Pantheon in Rome to the trenches of France. Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have attempted to put into words not simply what we know from experience, but what we know in the very depths of our being, to be true.

What we know from experience is that death is real. Yes, we do our best to deny it, delay it, and pretend it didn’t happen. We mask it with make-up and hide it away with polite euphemisms. Yet in the end we cannot outrun it, and like Jesus, can only weep[1] when faced with it. Once however, our tears are dry, we are left trying to put into words another reality: having lived and loved on earth, do the dead continue to live and love in that place where they can no longer be seen?

For some the answer is a resounding ‘no’. Death is the ultimate disaster because it is the end of all things. All that is left are our memories, like the lingering scent of someone’s cologne. Anything else is wishful thinking.

For the Christian, the resurrection of Jesus challenges the notion that death is the ultimate disaster, for in Jesus, life is changed, not ended,[2] and death becomes not the end, but a door, not a wall, but a gate, not the end, but a new beginning. It is this which we proclaim on these two days, as we put into words our belief in the intercommunion of the living and the dead in the Body of Christ.[3]

We do so, not as wishful thinkers denying, delaying, and pretending that death does not happen. We do so with the stink of death in our nostrils. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord already there is a stench because he has been dead four days,”[4] or, as the King James Bible puts it, “Lord … he stinketh.” She says this, having just made her great confession of faith, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”[5]

Martha’s great confession that Jesus is the Messiah, is an affirmation that the long-awaited messianic age, when the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, [and] the poor have good news brought to them,[6] has arrived, with the coming of Jesus into the world.

In the face of so much contradictory evidence, such a claim is bold, brash, and incredibly audacious. Yet that is the claim we make as Christians. Evidence to the contrary, these are the very things we see happening today. The blind do receive their sight, the lame do walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf do hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. If these are not true, then Jesus is not who Martha claimed him to be, and we of all people are to be pitied, for if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.[7]

And we make this claim, not for ourselves alone, but for all those whom we love, but see no longer.[8] And that is the crux of these two days. We are making a bold, brash, and incredibly audacious claim, not simply for ourselves, but for countless women and men who have lived lives of faith, or even just attempted to, in ages past.

Like Martha, we too confess that [Jesus is] the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world. In making that confession we say something specific about the dead. We boldly, brashly, and with incredible audacity claim that the dead are raised to life. This does not deny the reality of death. After all, even Lazarus stinketh.

Such audacity claims for the dead, and for us, that death is not a disaster, nor a wall, nor the end. It claims that death is a door, a gate, and a new beginning.

And so, we come to these two days, All Saints’ and All Souls’. While the stink of death is in our nostrils, we say: I believe in the resurrection of the body.[9] In the face of overwhelming grief, whether it be from COVID, or the trenches of France, we say: I believe in the resurrection of the body. When someone we love dies, at a great age, or a young age, ripe in years, or full of unrealized promise, we say: I believe in the resurrection of the body.

I love these two days, not because I am a romantic, lost in wishful thinking, pretending that death is not real, but because I am a realist, who has smelt death. I am a realist who has smelt death, and who with Martha knows Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world, even while someone I love, but see no longer stinketh.

The world stinks right now, and the answer to that stench is not wishful thinking. The answer to the stench is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world, who cries out in the face of all the stench and grief of the world, “Take away the stone … Lazarus, come out! … Unbind him, and let him go.”[10]

Today and tomorrow, as we remember the countless saints and souls, known and unknown, who have lived lives of faith, or simply tried to, we do so with the echo Martha’s confession, and the sound of Jesus’ command, ringing in our hearts, as we proclaim boldly, brashly, and with incredible audacity, in the face of all the stench, I believe in the resurrection of the body, and once more Lazarus emerges from his tomb, and we take from him the rags of death.

I love these two days, because somewhere deep in my soul, I breathe out a long sigh of consent, as I say once again, I believe in the resurrection of the body.


Solemnity or Major Feast Day: All Saints’ Day (Transferred)

[1] John 11: 35

[2] Episcopal Church, Book of Common Prayer, Church Publishing Incorporated, 1979, page 382

[3] Episcopal Church, Lesser Feasts and Fasts, Church Publishing Incorporated, 1997, page 410.

[4] John 11: 39

[5] John 11: 27

[6] Luke 7: 22

[7] 1 Corinthians 15: 14 – 19

[8] Episcopal Church, Book of Common Prayer, Church Publishing Incorporated, page 504

[9] Episcopal Church, Book of Common Prayer, Church Publishing Incorporated, page 96

[10] John 11: 39, 43, 44

In the Midst of Death, We Are in Life – Br. James Koester

Mark 16: 1-8

It’s not unusual for me to get something in my head, and be convinced that I have it correct, only to discover that I have it backwards. For the last few weeks, I have been repeating to myself a phrase, which I was positive I had right, but was actually wrong.

In the midst of death, I’ve been telling myself, we are in life. The phrase comes to us from the Prayer Book burial rite, and we Brothers sing it at the midday service on Holy Saturday. The problem is, I have it backwards. What the text actually says is, in the midst of life we are in death.[1]

It seems however, that the trick my mind has played on me, has some merit. This past year, has been one long, long season of death. It will not surprise you to hear that the number of cases of Covid-19 in this country alone, will soon reach 31 million, with over 555,000 deaths.[2] In the midst of death.

Nor may it surprise you to hear, that since the beginning of the year, there have been 125 cases of mass shootings[3], with a total of 481 people wounded, and 148 others killed.[4] In the midst of death.

We see unfolding in the news, reports of anti-Asian hate crimes rising. The other day the George Floyd murder trial began. In the midst of death.

We are good at dying. This past year alone, we’ve had lots of practice. We know what to do in the face of death. We know what’s expected, even when gripped by shock and grief. In the midst of death. Read More

Dying to Live – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Mark 6:14-29

The scholarly journal, the “International Bulletin of Mission Research,” has for more than thirty years compiled an annual table of Christian martyrs. The journal defines martyrs as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” 

Martyr. The journal’s estimate: in the last 10 years, 900,000 Christians have been killed worldwide for their witness to Christ. That’s, on average, 90,000 Christians martyred each year during this past decade.[i]

The English word “martyr” comes from both Latin and Greek, the word “martyr” translated as “witness.” May we be spared shedding our blood as a martyr; nonetheless, there will be countless occasions to give “witness” to Christ. There will be more than a few opportunities for us to “lay down our life” for someone, another child of God, probably even today. The invitation may not be in an act of heroism – no shedding of blood – but more likely in a very mundane and rather hidden way.

Certain people who – as we say – absolutely “kill us,” we will have the occasion to show kindness or to forgive. We will be invited, undoubtedly, to offer the generosity of our tried patience; the withholding of our judgment; the readiness to be helpful and not hurtful, or retiring or rebuffing; the opportunity to bless and not to curse. Not everyone, we pray, will face John the Baptist’s fate; but all of us who profess Jesus as our Lord and Savior will be invited to die more than once, maybe more than once even today. To die. Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it will not bear fruit.”[ii] We’re to be fruitful. Something will need to die for us to be fruitful. Whether it be something great or something puny that we are sorely tempted to clutch at and save at all costs may need to die. It may be some image of ourselves, some impression, or decision, or resolution, or privilege, or fear, or time that we feel is our rightful possession. It’s going to get in the way of life, what Jesus calls “abundant life,” if we don’t let it go, don’t surrender it, don’t let it die.[iii] Today will probably be a “killer” in the working out of our salvation and in our claiming the “abundant life” promised by Jesus.

In the SSJE Brothers’ Rule of Life, we speak of our identification with martyrdom, not because we are monks, but because we are baptized. In our baptismal vows, we profess that we “have died with Christ and are raised with him.” Jesus promises us resurrection power. We have to die before we rise, before we can claim his resurrection power. Die, again, and again, and again, we must die.


[i] See the International Bulletin of Mission Research, 2018 studyhttps://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2396939317739833

[ii] John 12:24.

[iii] Jesus speaks of “abundant life” in John 10:10.

The Call of Being Human – Br. Lucas Hall

Br. Lucas Hall“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?”James and John respond to this in the affirmative, with no further questioning. I wonder if this is an example of loving faith, or naïve foolishness, or both. Regardless, it is reasonable for us to ask, “What is this cup?”

The most obvious answer is that the cup Jesus mentions is a reference to his own death. In the Garden of Gethsemane, in the hours before his arrest, Jesus refers to his impending death as a cup that he desires to pass from his lips.If this is the case, Christ’s assertion to the sons of Zebedee that, “The cup that I drink you will drink,” is a truthful one. James becomes a martyr, the first of the Twelve apostles to die, beheaded on the orders of King Herod in Jerusalem.John, the Tradition of the Church holds, lives on, the only one of the Twelve not to be martyred, instead spending his days watching his companions meet their deaths, each one a new nail in John’s own inner crucifixion. Read More

Let It Go – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Luke 18:18-30

I recently spent a day of retreat at Emery House.  I sat in a simple hut deep in the woods – and all day long I watched the gently falling leaves.  It was a beautiful and melancholy experience.  Those falling leaves seemed to pick up the feelings at this time of the year: a sense of letting go and of loss.  A time to remember.  In church we remember all Saints. We remember on All Souls Day our loved ones who have passed away.  This past week we have remembered those who lost their lives in war.

A couple of days ago in London at the Royal Albert Hall there was the annual Festival of Remembrance.  I love to watch it, because of what happens at the end.  After all the music and the singing, the huge crowd stands in silence as a million poppies fall, gently and silently – in remembrance of all who died in war – “we will remember them.”  I love that moment – with that strange mixture of sadness, yet of hope.  As the autumn leaves fall, and as the poppies fall there is sadness, but something else – a sweet sorrow.  Solomon in his wisdom, put it like this: “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.  In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction.  But they are at peace.” (Wisdom 3:1-3)

But there is I think more going on at this melancholy time of year than just remembering those who have died.  There is something about this season of falling leaves and bare trees which speaks profoundly to our souls and invites us to also experience a dying.  “For unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn 12:24)

What do those enigmatic words of Jesus mean?

I think there is a clue in the reading from the Gospel of Luke we have just heard: the story of the rich young man.  He comes up to Jesus and asks how he might inherit eternal life.  He rattles off all the commandments that he has kept: he’s full of self-righteousness, and full of money.  And Jesus looks at him in all his fullness and says to him, “You lack one thing – sell all that you have, and give the money to the poor.” (Lk 18:22)

The man asked for life – eternal life – and Jesus replied by saying – if you want life, you have to die first.  Just as the tree needs to let go of its leaves in order to have room for new life and growth – so the rich man had to first shed his self-righteousness and wealth, to leave room to be filled with the fullness of God.

And each season of fall reminds us again of Jesus’ invitation to us to an autumnal experience of letting go and of dying – if we want to truly live, and be filled with the fullness of God.

It is the pattern of dying and being reborn, of crucifixion and resurrection, which lies at the very heart of the Christian faith.  It’s the pattern at work in all the saints.  St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians wrote, “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things.” (Phil 3:8)

And so with the rich young man, Jesus was saying to him, with great love, that if you don’t empty yourself, I can’t fill you – there’s no room!

So when Jesus looks at you and me, with great love, and longs to fill us with his life, who does he see?  Does he see someone too full already?  It could be just too much stuff: possessions can suffocate us, possess us.  Or we may be so overwhelmed by busy-ness that we cannot attend to the things of God.

Or maybe God can’t find room to fill you, because you are filled with anger, or resentment, or an inability to forgive – emotions that can consume us and overwhelm us.  Imagine Jesus looking at you with love, and saying gently, “let it go, let it go.”  Let it fall away like the autumn leaves.

At times we may feel the burden of sin.  Things we have done or said in the past which still haunt us and fill us with guilt or remorse.  There’s a wonderful line in our Rule which says, “We cannot keep pace with the Risen Christ, who goes before us if we are encumbered by guilt.”  I love the image of Jesus running ahead of us and looking back and saying, ‘Come on!’  And we say, “I can’t keep up!  I’m weighed down by guilt, or my possessions, my anger, my resentment, my fear…!’

And Jesus saying, ‘Let me forgive you.  Let me take the weight off you.  Let them go, and become light and free … and come follow me.’

I love this time of year – the season of fall.  Things seem to be falling and dying.  But Solomon knew a deeper mystery: “In the eyes of the foolish,” he said, “they seemed to have died.”  And we who follow Jesus know a deeper mystery.  We know that those bare trees, which seem so dead, are just waiting silently and expectantly for the mystery of spring and the glorious bursting forth of new life.

And so with us.  Jesus calls us every day to live into that mystery in our own lives.  To let die all that does not give me life.  To empty myself of all that weighs me down: possessions, anxieties, resentments, sins: whatever it is that stops me following Jesus.

Let it go.  Learn from those gently falling leaves.  And let it go.

Amen.

All Souls – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

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. Read More