Sermon for All Souls Sunday, 3 November 2019

Follows the Gospel of John 6: 37-40 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but one of the many things that challenges me is, is when people say, “I know how you feel.” Do you recognise that? The moments when you have been the victim of some tragedy, perhaps a bereavement, and people around you, usually trying to be helpful and supportive, tell you that they know how you feel.

They really don’t – and they shouldn’t let these words trip off the tongue. Someone like me who is unintuitive, needs to be aware that they really don’t have the first idea how that feels.

And perhaps second on the list of unhelpful comments made around bereaved people is probably “it will get better.” Again, almost always said out of love, and I am quite sure that I have been guilty of saying that to people myself, but almost certainly unhelpful, and in at least one sense untrue.

As we know Bereavement doesn’t get better.

It gets different.

All of us gathered here this morning on all souls Day, are carrying with us a particular set of memories, thanksgivings, of regrets, and of hurts.

The first thing we need to be honest about is to acknowledge that I don’t know how you feel. I know how I feel. And you don’t know how I feel.

I don’t know how you feel, but Christ does. And what is offered to us in this service is the promise that we are never alone. Those fears and dreads that we experience in the small hours of the night are natural and real, and they have to be faced, but we do not face them alone, ever.

This service is without doubt a difficult one. And it is right that it is a place where we can be ourselves, perhaps cry, where we can sit quietly with our feelings of loss, whether they are terribly raw, or maybe no less real but have been changed and made different, by time.

But this service is also pregnant with hope. Because the sort of God who does know us, who does know you, who knows how you feel, also says to you, not “this will get better”, but this will get different.

That hole that is left in your heart by the loss of the person or people named aloud, or silently on a card on the tree of life this morning, that hole is not filled, of course the person is not exactly replaced.

But running alongside, above, below, and through this hole is Christ. Who has himself been to the depths, goes with us to the depths and promises that we are never alone.

Jesus is risen from the dead.

This is not a phrase to say glibly. It is earth shattering. It is world changing and life transforming. 

He will raise us up at the last day.

If he has risen from the dead, then so will we be.

Dwell on that for a moment.

This life is not all there is.

Jesus promises he is always with us. And where he is there is life.

The task for us this morning, and the task for us every day, is to begin to dare to believe that that is true.

And it is better if we do that together. But we do it together, not knowing how each other feels, but knowing that we are together on the journey, of which our pain and sorrow is a vital part.

This is a journey that leads to a garden, and an empty tomb, and light so bright that the darkness can never overcome it.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Father Matthew BUCHAN