Sermon for the “Loved & Lost” All Souls memorial service on Sunday October 30th 2022, from Canon Rachel

The readings for All Souls were Wisdom 3.1-9 and John 6.37-40

Watch the service on YouTube here

“It’s wonderful to see so many of you here today – those who we have had recent contact with us here at St Peter’s and those whose relationship here goes back now for many years.

My colleagues and I have had the privilege of serving many of you here when your loved ones and family members have died – and many of you have heard me speak in the past of the reality of God’s promises to us when someone we love dies.

God does not promise an easy ride through life to those who believe.  God promises to walk with us through life – to lead us to good places, and to stick by our side when life finds us in challenging places. 

Yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me. 

Scripture tells us that at the end of our lives we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever – and that Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us – specially for each one of us – and that when our time comes Jesus will come and take us to that special place.

So far so good – and often this is as far as we get at a funeral. 

We need reassurance of God’s presence with us, and with the person we love.  Nobody wants a vicar who’s into long sermons.

But there is more to it – more to what the church teaches about living and dying. And today is a day to remember that for all of us.

The Church communicates what Christians believe in Creeds – essentially poems that we say together sometimes in services, to remind us, and I wanted to share just a little of what is called the Apostles Creed with you now.

The creed says: I believe in the Holy Spirit

Jesus tells us before he ascends into heaven that he will send us a ‘comforter’ – that we will see and know and sense God at work in our lives as we follow Christ’s way of love. God’s spirit offers you comfort and moves in your life.

The creed says: I believe in the holy catholic Church

The church is not a Sunday club or a place for the self-satisfied and the self-righteous to pat themselves on the back.  The church is all God’s people, gathered together, in good times and in bad, supporting one another and making God visible – Christ has no body now but ours – our hands and feet will try to show God’s love to one another – and to you.

The creed says: I believe in the communion of saints

Every time we gather in worship, to pray, to sing God’ praise and to share at this table we connect – at the deepest level – with the mystery of God. And when we do that we can see, feel, experience our connection to one another as children of God, and our connection to all those we have loved but see no more. 

In the act of remembering Jesus, in the blessing bread and wine and sharing it, we know ourselves connected to those we can no longer see. And Jesus calls everyone to the table – Jesus calls you.

The creed says: I believe in the forgiveness of sins,

Jesus offers us all forgiveness.   Not because we deserve it, or because we have earnt it through the bartering of supposedly good behaviour, or prayers said every day, or church attendance. Jesus asks us to turn to him freely, with open hearts, offering us grace – forgiveness and unmeasurable love unearned.  Although we may respond defensively to the idea that we or anyone we have loved may require forgiveness – I don’t think it would take any of us long to think of things that we have said and done which have damaged other people, damaged ourselves, and separated us from the love of God. Jesus offers you grace today.

Finally the creed says: I believe the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  One step beyond. 

One step beyond the comfort of knowing God has walked beside us. One step beyond knowing that God has prepared a place for us. The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. 

Some of you may have heard me say that I don’t care what happens after we die – as long as I can just trust it to God.  And that’s fine.  But on days like today – and on days when we stand at the kitchen sink, or are driving to work, or are watching TV and we’re suddenly blindsided again by grief – by the longing to know more about what really comes after for our loved ones and for us – our faith can take us one step beyond. 

Jesus took one step beyond  – beyond death – and came back to tell us that in him we can do the same.  Our bodies will be raised – crazy though it sounds – because his body was raised.  And when it came back it was not broken by the cross and nails – it bore their marks but it was transformed. 

I ask you to think of your loved one transformed – with a risen body – with no pain of cancer – with no confusion or personality change wrought by dementia – with nothing in them that is not them, their true and whole selves.

This is the Christian faith – that Jesus broke the power of death – that we might truly live in this world, and in the next. 

So let us now remember.”

(The names of loved ones were read and candles were lit.)

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