Rev. Rosemary Webb
3rd November 2013
Jesus is Waiting For Us

We are all gathered here together on this All Souls Day for the same reason, to remember with great love and with thanksgiving those whom we loved and still love even though we cannot see them. At their funerals we committed them to God’s care. Today we will remember them before God in the reading of names and perhaps the lighting of candles, sure in the knowledge that, whilst they may be out of sight, that love which bound us together on earth continues to unite us.

As we remember them we also need to remember that they are safe in God’s tender care Of course for many tonight’s service will bring back the great sadness felt at the time of their death, and perhaps not just sadness but anger at their death, at losing them, at having to watch their suffering. But Jesus does understand , we remember his meeting with Martha after the death of her brother Lazarus, she blamed him ‘If you had come earlier my brother would still be alive’. Jesus wasn’t angry at her outburst, he understood it, God is, I believe, big enough to take our anger and our hurt as well as our love.

However close we are to someone, death is that journey we cannot do with them or for them, it is that journey they, and we one day, had to do alone – but of course we are never totally alone for Jesus never left them, will never leave us – he is always at our side.

This morning we celebrated All Saints’ Day, a service for those who have been martyrs, done outstanding deeds in the name of Christ. When the two festivals were first celebrated on the same day I felt we were losing something but now I realise we are gaining something. For in the Gospel reading we have just heard, Jesus makes no differentiation – Jesus gives eternal life to all whom he wishes to give it, all who do their best to follow in Christ’s footsteps are promised the joy of salvation. As we know most Christians who have departed this life were not particularly righteous – they weren’t particularly distinguished by their death or indeed their life, they had just followed faithfully in the footsteps of Christ to the best of their ability.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who does not want to lose even one of his sheep (us) he wants to lead us all to salvation. For as we know, rather than an end; death is a new beginning; an opening into eternity; that door which opens to admit a soul into eternal life.

One of the problems with life today is that death is nearly a taboo subject. Sometimes when helping a family plan a funeral I feel it necessary to use the word dead, for the family may possibly keep saying they have gone, but they haven’t gone they are still with us – they are dead. When we are born there is only one certainty for us and that is we will die. Life and death are intertwined, and we know that death must be accepted as an integral part of life. Death is always with us, and as we face the loss of loved ones, each of us is being made to face our own mortality.

On this All Souls’ Day, the church pauses to reflect on the meaning of death, and through this I think the meaning of our lives, about the wholeness of God’s kingdom. For the whole church is always united – the living and the dead.

Today is a time to remember our role in proclaiming the Gospel, as we celebrate the triumph of God’s love over suffering. We are doing what the church has done since the time of Christ; we are celebrating God’s unconditional love for us, and giving him thanks for that love.

As we sit and remember those we love, those we no longer see; as we give thanks to God for their love, we must also re-affirm our trust in God. The basis of our hope is the Gospel, Christ’s teachings which assure us that those who die in the love of Christ are in God’s tender care – they are safe. For them there is no more suffering, no more fears, nothing can harm them – they are at peace.

Peter in his letter is assuring his readers that they, we, have been given a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. That, if we will only let him, God will give us the grace to overcome the sorrows and anguish caused by the loss of a loved one. Each day God will give us the grace to survive, for as much as we miss loved ones God will sustain and strengthen us. He sees our fears; he gives us grace each day to overcome, and he offers us the promise of hope.

Peter calls it ‘a living hope.’ What does he mean? Well obviously it is the opposite to a dead hope. Living hope surely is a hope that has power to change. It is a hope bought for us through the cross and the resurrection, it is that new birth. It is that promise made to us in our baptism. It is a sign of God’s love for us.

It can be hard for us to truly understand God’s love for us, what kind of a love it is. It is not fickle like earthly love can be, it doesn’t give way under pressure, it is solid and constant. To our earthly minds it can seem impossible that God knows us by our name, and loves us as sons and daughters, that we are not just a number, an anonymous being. We are all children of God, and he really does know each of us better than we know ourselves. He knows our fears and our worries, all our weaknesses but through it all God loves us.

So when we meet again those we see no longer we will see them as God sees them, because God knows us and calls us by name. I do not believe our love for each other will disappear, but that it will be transformed and strengthened by the source of all love, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In this service the whole church is once again in communion – the living and the dead. Celebrating the Eucharist is the most important way in which we can remember our loved ones, and be united with them through the bread and the wine. For those of us who still walk this earth, it is a foretaste of that loving embrace which awaits us all, as Jesus waits to take our hands at the gate of death and welcome us home. It is a foretaste of the life which is to come. May God’s peace sustain us and guide us as we journey on life’s path.

John 5: 19-25