Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
I walked downstairs yesterday and spent time at our offrenda in the chapel area as well as the one assembled during Christian Education last Sunday, reading each name or loved one whose treasured memory has been placed upon that altar. Some of those names have recently departed from this life, others have been gone for many years.
Yet each name was lovingly inscribed by someone who knew and loved them. For myself, one of the names I placed on the offrenda was the name of my dad, who on November 14 would have been 96 years old. It is in the fall that I miss him the most– especially during the end of baseball season and the midst of football season, since that is when we would often talk on the phone and watch a game together.
It seems impossible that my father has been gone for nearly thirteen years. Sometimes it seems as if he has just walked into another room. To this day, the smell of Old Spice and tobacco brings back the sound of his voice in the ear of my heart. Coming on top of the heinous murders of faithful people at prayer in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the losses seem to pile up in my heart, and I know I am not alone in this swirl of remembrance and sorrow.
Perhaps that makes our celebration of the memories of our departed loved ones even more necessary. Even though November 1 is officially All Saints’ Day, and November 2 is All Souls’ Day, it is common to join the two days together and to celebrate them on the nearest Sunday after November 1. This Sunday, therefore, we will read the names of those who have departed this life in our St. Martin’s community this year, the names of those who are interred in our columbarium, and the names that have been sent to us for remembrance from among us.
We will also, just before our Prayers of the People, replace the Nicene Creed with the Baptismal Covenant. Even though we have no baptism scheduled, our re-commitment to our shared baptismal identity as disciples, as those who share in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Death is a part of life, a mysterious part of it, yet even at the grave we make our song, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!” For we know that our Redeemer lives, and calls us to new life in faith and assurance of the unbreakable love that God has for each of us.
The offrenda will remain in place to the end of next week. If you still wish to add a name there, please do. And let us remember that love heals and surpasses all things, even death and our own sorrow. God is with those who wait and weep. This is our assurance.
Give rest, O Christ, to your servants with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting. (Book of Common Prayer, 499)