Sermons from St Faith's     


'For All The Saints...'

Revd Denise McDougall, Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, 2nd November 2012

This evening we gather to remember and give thanks for the lives of our loved ones who have departed this earthly life and now rest in peace with God. We aren’t here to be morbid or over sentimental but to acknowledge the space which now exists in our lives. I expect you have all been told at some point that time is a great healer; I’m not certain about healing but I know that in time we do learn to manage our grief and see our precious memories as gifts to be treasured.  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a great Christian theologian who was executed by the Nazis, had plenty of time to think about death in his prison cell and in one of his famous letters he wrote,

“Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love .......  it is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; God doesn’t fill it but on the contrary, God keeps it empty and so helps us keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain  ..... the dearer and richer the memories, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude changes the pangs of memory into tranquil joy. The beauties of the past are borne, not as a thorn in the flesh, but as a precious gift in themselves.”

So as we treasure our precious gifts we can be grateful that our loved ones are now a part of the Communion of Saints, fellow members of the holy family of God who now enjoy their place with all the saints and angels in the heavenly kingdom. Some of my favourite words of reassurance come from the Book of Wisdom which say, “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.” 

Jesus died so that we might all have eternal life, Jesus knew that he was destined to die and rise again three days later, and so made the way clear for all to rise to eternal life with God; This is the foundation of our Christian faith.  For the faithful, yes, life is changed by death but not ended and the bond of union in the Body of Christ continues to unite us.

Tonight as we remember those who hold such a special place in our hearts and who now share their heavenly life with God let us also remember the life they shared with us here on earth. That very special person whose love and example influenced us in such a massive way and made us the people we are today.

Let us remember them with thankful and joyful hearts. Jewish advice on death suggests that we do not ‘say in grief that he is no more but in thankfulness that he was.’ How privileged we have all been to share our lives with those whose memories we treasure, those we still love dearly but no longer see and may we also give thanks for God’s goodness, God gave us the love, laughter and the tears of those who have died and in some way left their indelible mark on us. Those who hold such a special place in our hearts probably weren’t famous celebrities or people who made headline news but they did leave us with a great legacy to sustain us in years to come. I’m sure we will continue to pass on their countless stories with pride, their good deeds, their faux pars, their successes and their disappointments; their aims and their mission in life.

Soon we will be invited to light a candle as a sign of prayer for those in our hearts. Let those lights also radiate God’s infinite love and be our sign of hope for the future and we pray that in time our pain will turn into thankfulness and joy.

Through our prayers I also ask that we are filled with fresh hope and a hunger to be led into a deeper union with God through our loved ones. So as churches the world over celebrated ‘All Saint’s Day, to remember Holy people who have inspired us over centuries, tonight we bring before God the saints from our own circle of family and friends. They are Holy Souls who have already travelled their earthly journey and who are now at peace and part of the Communion of Saints in the heavenly kingdom. We remember especially our own dear brothers and sisters in Christ from the family of St. Faith’s who served you and us so faithfully and who have died during the last 12 months. We remember particularly our dear sister in Christ Joan Jones who was a long and faithful member of St. Faith’s who was laid to rest on Tuesday.  All whose memories we treasure form a part of our spiritual backup and will continue to help us by their example, encouragement and love.  
They are now in good hands and our personal experiences tell us that death need not isolate us, it does not make us inaccessible to each other.

Love not only continues but often deepens after death because spiritual love does not recognise separation. How often have we felt the presence our loved ones among us, or that they are somehow still influencing us when we have choices or important decisions to make? How often have you experienced a very real feeling that they are near? Perhaps because of a certain smell, a song, a particular piece of music or a treasured memory, these experiences come back to remind us of a love that was so special. They help to create wonderful images in our minds.

The words of the prophet Gibran help conjure up a lovely picture when he says,

‘And when earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.’ I find it very comforting to think of our loved ones dancing in joy and total happiness and finding true fulfilment. The mystery of death points to a possibility of joy and glory so immense, so exciting and so infinitely beyond anything we can ever imagine or dream of.

We all face the same task and that is to continue loving and praying for those already in the heavenly kingdom, indeed just as they still love and pray for us. With all the saints and angels we pray that we too may lead faithful and Godly lives in this world and finally share everlasting joy with them in the next.


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