Monday, November 03, 2008

TheRedemption of Remembering

Sermon preached at Evensong on All Saints' Day at the Church of St. Luke 7 St. Simon Cyrene (joint celebration with St. Stephen's Church): Wisdom 3:1-9

Their departure was thought to be a disaster… [but] their hope is full of immortality.

The part of All Saints’ Day that is remembering those who have gone before us, the saints of our own lives whose physical presence we longer have, is hard. Each of the names we will read in a few minutes is someone who is missed, who was once a part of one of our lives, who left a whole when they departed from us.

The Wisdom of Solomon recognizes this reality.

In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster…

Well, we are fools, and when some of those whom we name tonight died, it was a disaster. For some of us, it still is.

Remembering is hard. My grandmother Leah died thirty-seven years ago and when I think about her, I still feel it in my gut. Something seems wrong.

Remembering is hard. It is hard because it is trying literally to “re-member” someone, to put them back into the present, in the place they belong. But, of course, we cannot do that.

It is no wonder that we do things to try to forget. Who wants to be in pain; who wants to feel perpetual loss?

So we tell ourselves we must let go, move on, and “get closure.” But these things can never mean “forget,” and I think some of us get trapped into thinking that they do. Have I, in a sense, “moved on” since my grandmother’s death? Sure. I’ve continued to live and live as well as I could. Have I “let go?” No, and I think that is perfectly fine.

It’s perfectly fine because God never lets go. That is our hope, the rock-bottom of our faith. If we thought we really did have to “let go” then we would never say, “I believe in the communion of saints.”

All Saints’ Day is a day to remember, and remembering is hard. But it is also a day when we proclaim the redemption of remembering. The hardness of remembering is tempered by our faith “in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the live everlasting.”

So as we remember this evening and feel again that twinge of loss, we also believe that nothing is lost to God. As we remember and recall the sense of disaster we also proclaim the hope that continues to make life worth living. As we remember and wonder what has happened to those we love, we hear the amazing good news that God has made them and us “worthy of himself.”

Remembering is hard, but we are people for whom remembering has been redeemed, and so we can dare to keep on doing it.

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