Counter Cultural Calm and Comfort-All Souls
- All Soul’s Day – Isaiah 25: 6-9, Ps 27: 1-9,13-14, Romans 5:5-11, John 6: 37-40
Tuesday afternoon, I sat with a bedridden elderly woman. I was just beginning to introduce myself to some residents at a nursing home. I had no information about this woman other than a staff person suggesting she might enjoy a visit. So I asked, “How’s it going for you?”
Her eyes began to form tears. “Oh, my husband, he’s here, he has dementia, Alzheimer’s. He sits in a wheel chair and he just talks nonsense…he was never that way before.” She made no mention of it, but it was clear she had her own health issues too.
We talked for a few minutes about the strain of watching a beloved spouse’s health deteriorate. I asked her: would she like to have me read to her out the Bible. “Yes”, she nodded. So I opened to Psalm 103, and read of the goodness of God, about God’s love and faithfulness, compassion and mercy. She grew visibly calmer as I read. “Oh, thank you,” she breathed. The Bible I had with me was donated by the Gideon’s, and I left it with her. Those free Gideon Bibles have a well-deserved reputation for helping people who are overwhelmed by life.
It’s very easy, and entirely normal, to forget God’s love when crisis strikes. But in every section of the Bible, we can find reminders of the tender love God has for us, all of us. Today one of our reading is from Isaiah, a Hebrew prophet who lived some 800 years before Christ. It speaks of the Lord ending death and grief and tears on the earth, and offers assurance that the Lord will save us. Then the Psalmist writes, “The Lord is my light and my salvation……..wait for the Lord with courage.”
Years later, St. Paul declared with great certainty that we will not be disappointed by our hopes in God. Wearied by the sound bites of politicians, we need to be reminded of this! Paul says, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us…we are justified and saved through him…” Paul adds, “We also boast of God.” Now, if you have read much of St. Paul, you know when Paul says you can boast of something, he means it’s rock solid, without a doubt.
But if you might have any remaining doubt about hoping in God, our Gospel will dispel it. John quotes Jesus saying, “…Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”
All Soul’s Day is about remembering those who have gone before us; those we miss, those we will mourn for the rest of our lives. But this day calms us, and draws us back from the pain of loss to the comfort of God’s love. It is almost counter-cultural to remember that God didn’t make us disposable. We are eternal beings. It is absolutely counter-cultural to say that we are eternal beings, but we still don’t know very much at all about eternity. And it is probably close to anti-cultural to say that we don’t need to know more about eternity than we already know. What do we know? We know Eternity is real, prepared and waiting for you and me and those we love, and it will be beyond anything experienced in this life.
So, today we rejoice in life. We light candles to remind us of eternal life; their light breaks through the darkness of doubt. We delight in the memory of those who have been born into eternity, even as we remain here for a time, and we continue to share the love of God.