October 28, 2014
All Saints Sunday, Plymouth gives space for remembrance of loved ones who have died and even more, for their place now among saints gathered in God’s presence.
This year, I am especially aware that loss comes from many places, not only death. Loss comes at us from many sources.
It comes in leave-takings, as we depart for a new job or college and leave friends and colleagues behind. It comes as you slowly lose a loved one to Alzheimer’s.
It comes in the loss of employment or dignity.
It comes from struggles with illness both of body and mind.
It comes from the exhaustion of caring for a loved one and the occasional recognition of all the things given up in order to offer that care.
It comes from disappointment at home or work or school, of dreams deferred or hopes dashed.
What losses have you experienced and seen others experience over the past year?
When we are in the midst of grief or loss, there is little capacity to imagine, let alone move toward, a future not dominated by our present circumstances. This is why promises can be so vitally transformative. Promises don’t just describe things; promises set things in motion. Promises have the capacity to actually create the reality they name. When I promise my daughter I will pick her up from college for the weekend, my words set actions in motion that culminate in our being together.
Jesus promises, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give. Do not let your hearts be troubled nor be afraid.” To those of us who struggle to find hope and healing, these words of promise set in motion a future undefined by the past or present.
During his three-year ministry, Jesus blessed all kinds of people, especially the kinds of people who weren’t normally seen as blessed, the kinds of people few noticed. Just as few notice many of our silent losses and grief, can it be that we are blessed–even now, even here? How? Blessing doesn’t mean we get through this life unscathed. Rather, blessing is that sense of fullness, contentment and joy that is like, but also transcends, ordinary happiness. And like love, we can’t simply force it or will it into existence; blessing is response, a response to the promises of another.
Even though you may struggle, you are not being faithless; you are not letting God down. Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, believed that where there is faith there is also always struggle. Struggle, doubt, feeling overwhelmed, wondering if God is out there – these aren’t signs of failure or lack of faith, but a testament to profound faith as we wrestle with deep questions and so take God seriously.
When we feel at our lowest, and wonder if we have lost our faith, God names us among the most faithful. Blessed are those who struggle. God sees you! God knows the grief that weighs down your heart, the depression, the addiction that oppresses you, challenges you face and uphill struggles you are contemplating. God sees you, honors you, blesses you and accompanies you. Thanks be to God. —Rev. Brigitta Remole