Tag Archives: All Souls

All Saints 2017

Each year I am moved by All Saints Sunday, which for many Protestants is celebrated on the first Sunday of November. Names are read, candles lit and we remember. This year at First United Methodist Church we lit thirty three candles for each member that had died since November 1, 2016. Thirty three….members, that does not include all the family members and friends and others that have died and affected our congregation. We light a thirty fourth candles to include all those others, plus those who have suffered pregnancy losses.

Here is the link to today’s worship service. The music was wonderful, the candles beautiful, just being together to remember powerful.

Every year as I light candles I remember ALL those saints who have gone before, those family members and friends whom I still miss. I will continue to pray for those currently walking the fresh valley of grief, those who are transitioning from this life to next. Life is good, but sometimes it is hard and filled with ups and downs.

On this day, I grateful for all the saints, for that great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us, and the comfort and grace of God that goes with us on journey.

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All Souls Day

Part of this post was written three years ago. Our culture doesn’t know much about Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Some of what is shared in the next three paragraphs are from that blog, but I end with some new thoughts about this early church tradition.

Today, in Western Christian tradition is All Souls Day.  It is the third day of the “triduum of Hallowmass.”  Who knew that Halloween was a holy day?  The first day of the three, All Hallows Eve, October 31, was a day when early Christians believed that some how the space between this life and the next life was thinner.  They would don “masks” to keep former souls from recognizing them.  Of course in North America this became “trick or treating” through costumes and pranks and the offering of treats.

The second day was All Saints Day, November 1, which remembers all martyrs and official saints of the church both known and unknown.  The third day, All Souls Day, November 2, remembers “all the faithful departed.”  In most protestant traditions, these days are lumped together and often celebrated on the first Sunday of November.  A google search will give multiple hits on these traditions.

I, being who I am, love this history and the layers that surround these practices both from the Christian tradition and other traditions.  What I love most, is the remembering and the giving thanks.  Often in the U.S.A. graves are visited on the last weekend in May.  I always tried to avoid focusing All Saints on that weekend, because it is also the first three day weekend of the summer and consequently loses some of the religious significance that the first Sunday of November can offer.

Remembering those who have gone before is holy, sacred and spiritual work.  The act of remembering is a blessing on those who take the time to laugh, to cry and to tell the story of those who have made a difference in their lives.  After thirty plus years of ministry, the list gets longer each year for me.  The spaces around those memories grow more tender as I remember, as I grieve and as I smile through tears and give thanks that I have been so blessed by so many.

The holiness of these moments become more sacred in the midst of a time of great anxiety and fear. Next week, will be an election which has been filled with bigotry, hatred, lies and ugliness from both sides. The fear mongering has been almost overwhelming. Many, myself included, will be glad when the election is over.

Add to that another horrible shooting in Des Moines where two police officers were ambushed, another black church is vandalized,  and where the deaths in Syria mount, is it any wonder that many are just tired and afraid. It is important in times like these, to remember the saints and souls and spirits who went before us. We are NOT living in the first period of time fraught with fear and anxiety.

Those who went before us lived through wars and rumors of war, violence, hatred and natural disasters. The early Christians were persecuted and wondered if the end of the world was coming. In these days, we are hearing the same from both parties. Neither is speaking the whole truth. These elections and difficulties are part and parcel of being part of this world. The saints that have gone on before us, understood that whatever occurs day in and day out is not the kingdom of God. The reign God continues to challenge all of us “saints” to live lives of faith, of hope, of love and justice.

We keep eyes and hearts and spirits focused on the promise that the time is coming when we will experience something new and wonderous. In the meantime, we lean into each other for strength, and trust God’s Spirit to help us believe and God will make all things new in God’s own time.

And so, remembering I am “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) , these saints and souls of God, I am graced to serve.

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Gratitude and Grief

Today is All Soul’s Day. It is the end of the three-day period that begins with Halloween. Most non-Roman Catholic churches don’t honor or celebrate All Soul’s Day. This day is the catch-all for “all faithful who have departed.” The Roman Catholic (and Orthodox) traditions have a strict definition of saints, where other churches do not. So saints and souls and sinners don’t have to be divided.

Today allows me some time to ponder grief and gratitude. Since November in my religious tradition begins with remembering those who have died and ends with the cultural holiday of Thanksgiving, grief and gratitude seem tied together. In my understanding as a pastor, I have always put those two together as I work with families to plan memorial and funeral services. Those gatherings lend themselves to both expressions of the human experience.

Personally, the anniversary of my mother’s death falls between those dates as well. Facebook does a tremendous job of reminding me. Not that I would need reminding, particularly. Many small things come along that send my mind racing back to those final days.

Yesterday in worship, the gospel reading came from the beatitudes with this verse included:

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In the first moments of grief, it usually doesn’t feel like a blessing. It can, particularly if death took a long time and the loved one transitioned inch by inch. Sooner or later, grief comes hard and fast and with a deep ache. Then comes the moment and moments when it doesn’t hurt so much. The sadness is not a constant shadow that stalks day in and day out. THEN, then the blessings come and the gratitude.

At that time and season, the memories comes with smiles and laughter and not so many tears. Grief transitions to gratitude as we become able to say thank you again and again to the gifts our loved ones have left behind: stories and sayings, laughter and love, values and faith. Our grief and our gratitude becomes a witness, a tribute to our memories. On this All Soul’s day I continue to be thankful for the many saints and souls that have gone before me. Their memories, their laughter, their love and their unique and unrepeatable spirits continue to be part of my spirit.

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All Saints and remembering

The last three days have an ancient history of being sacred and holy. Today, in Western Christian tradition is All Souls Day. It is the third day of the “triduum of Hallowmass.” Halloween as a holy day has been more focused on tricks and treats than on its deeply spiritual roots. The first day of the three, All Hallows Eve, October 31, was a day when early Christians believed that some how the space between this life and the next life was thinner. They would don “masks” to keep former souls from recognizing them. Of course in North America this became “trick or treating” through costumes and pranks and the offering of treats.

The second day was All Saints Day, November 1, which remembers all martyrs and official saints of the church both known and unknown. The third day, All Souls Day, November 2, remembers “all the faithful departed.” In most protestant traditions, these days are lumped together and often celebrated on the first Sunday of November.

For many years in the different churches I have served, we have honored the tradition of All Saints. As protestants, the understanding of saints doesn’t rest in some official notification of who is a saint or not, it focuses on the original definition of saint as one being “in Christ” or in whom “Christ dwells.”

Last year, when I wrote a blog on All Saints Sunday, the church I serve West Heights United Methodist Church lit 36 candles of those had died. Just less than a week later, my mother died. And the season of death began.

This year, over 65 candles were lit. The altar at first was bare.

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Then one by one, the names were read and the candles were placed on the altar.

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Stunningly beautiful and almost overwhelming to read the names, hear the names and see the candles. It took ten minutes to read all the names and have the candles brought forward. More than a third came right out of our congregation and just a month ago we finished a run of 12 funerals in 12 weeks. Not one funeral a week, but three in four days and two in one in the midst of everything else. To say it was a hard year, is an understatement. It has been a year of deep grief, not just for those who have died, but loss of relationships and an uncertainty about the church itself and the future.

My own grief has gone mostly unnamed and unacknowledged in my own spirit. Sometimes grief will not be denied. So many candles and so many memories of those named and of my own mother. As we sang “For All the Saints” I cried, for the saints, for the memories, for the loss and for a deep thankfulness that I am privileged to be a minister and to give voice to all the longings, the grief, the joy and the thankfulness faith brings.

The candles lit, are not to point us back, but to point us, to point me to the future. A light is not lit to look behind, but to look ahead to the future and to the road and path that leads us on. Those who were named today leave their light in our hearts and spirits, but not for us to remain where we are. We are who we are because of their love, their lessons, their unique and unrepeatable spirits. We, who live on, are to carry that light into the world in the days, the months and the years ahead.

Jesus said that we are called to be “a light to the world”…that through the light we share that the world might see God in what we say and do. We have seen God in those we loved and lost, now we are the ones through who we are that point others to God.

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On this All Saints Sunday, I am deeply grateful for the light and love of those who have gone before and challenged to be the light for those yet to come. I am truly graced to serve.

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All Souls and being Thankful

Today, in Western Christian tradition is All Souls Day.  It is the third day of the “triduum of Hallowmass.”  Who knew that Halloween was a holy day?  The first day of the three, All Hallows Eve, October 31, was a day when early Christians believed that some how the space between this life and the next life was thinner.  They would don “masks” to keep former souls from recognizing them.  Of course in North America this became “trick or treating” through costumes and pranks and the offering of treats.

The second day was All Saints Day, November 1, which remembers all martyrs and official saints of the church both known and unknown.  The third day, All Souls Day, November 2, remembers “all the faithful departed.”  In most protestant traditions, these days are lumped together and often celebrated on the first Sunday of November.  A google search will give multiple hits on these traditions.

I, being who I am, love this history and the layers that surround these practices both from the Christian tradition and other traditions.  What I love most, is the remembering and the giving thanks.  Often in the U.S.A. graves are visited on the last weekend in May.  I always tried to avoid focusing All Saints on that weekend, because it is also the first three day weekend of the summer and consequently loses some of the religious significance that the first Sunday of November can offer.

Remembering those who have gone before is holy, sacred and spiritual work.  The act of remembering is a blessing on those who take the time to laugh, to cry and to tell the story of those who have made a difference in their lives.  After thirty plus years of ministry, the list gets longer each year for me.  The spaces around those memories grow more tender as I remember, as I grieve and as I smile through tears and give thanks that I have been so blessed by so many.

This Sunday, the church I serve will light 36 candles, will name those who have died this year, will light an extra candle for pregnancy losses and those unnamed, but are carried in the hearts of those who gather.  We will say thank you to God for lives who blessed ours and made a difference and we will shed a few tears, sing songs of faith and commit once again to being a saint who makes a difference.

Remembering I am “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) ,

I am graced to serve.

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