Sermon for All Souls Day (Commemoration of the Faithful Departed)

(a cracked vase is used as a ‘visual aid’)

We are Easter people.  We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him to be Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

We believe in God’s promise to us that we will be granted a share in his eternal kingdom.

Themes of resurrection, joy, eternal peace and a love stronger than death are woven through our service this evening and, of course, it’s right that they should.

But our service holds other themes:

In our prayers of penitence at the start of our service we heard these words:
God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Christ”.

And the next line reads:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels … “

In this life, like this vase, we can be cracked or broken leaving us with jagged edges and even greater vulnerability.

And these themes of broken-ness, sorrow, guilt, regret and grief that are also woven into our service.

We ask God to
bring pardon and peace to the broken in heart”;
to “make one …. the torn and divided”.

As we commemorate those who have departed this life we ask that they will be given rest
where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing

And with these expressions of sadness and suffering we hear God’s loving responses in the words of Jesus:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you ….

Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”.

There may be many things that trouble our hearts this evening when we remember someone we love and still miss.  Perhaps we remember things we did or said that we now deeply regret but can’t say sorry.

There might be things left unsaid because we didn’t know we would have so little time to say them.

We might be hanging on to feelings of anger or bitterness towards one who wronged us or hurt us badly.

Only we know what’s in our hearts – or rather only we and God.  And God, knowing what we need better than we know ourselves and loving us beyond our understanding, holds out his hands so that we can place into them the person we are remembering and our relationship with that person.

Placing someone into God’s hands may not be easy.  We might only be able to do it gradually over a period of time or we might only be able to say
“I want to forgive but can’t yet”.

Our relationship with someone doesn’t end when they die.  We carry it with us and it can change, grow and heal.

We are greatly blessed if, after someone we love dies, we have no regrets at all about our relationship with them except that it has been cut short.  We can grieve for their loss but also feel deep gratitude that our lives have been enriched because they were part of it.

This evening as we light candles and place them on the cross we might want to say something of what’s in our hearts.  We can say it quietly or just in our heads.  We can address it to the one we remember or to God.

We can be open to receiving God’s new peace and healing into our remembering.

We can ask for God’s grace in helping us to live better for the time we have left in this life.

Whether we say:
“Thank you”,
“I’m sorry, please forgive me”;
“I forgive you, go in peace”
or a simple “I love you”
let’s continue to hold in our hearts
words we will hear later in the service:

God has “given us new birth into a living hope
and “the joy of resurrection fills the universe”.

Let’s remember that we cannot be separated from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.  And that this cracked vase can still hold flowers of great beauty.