(Video available here.)
This is the time of the year when the harvest reaches completion.
The tremendous abundance of the earth has been sown and grown to fruition and, now, through sweat and labor, has been harvested.
The first frosts have come. The trees are letting go of their leaves and sending their final burst of seeds into the wind. They are beginning to retreat into themselves. The days are getting shorter and colder, the seasons of growth and flourishing are beginning to come to a close, for now.
Yet the sun warms. There is still so much life at this time, such a wondrous ember glow of life-force smoldering. This is a time for creativity and clarity and change.
For many, this is a time when the realm beyond this earthly realm feels near –
A time when the “veil is thin.”
Many traditions have festivals of the dead at this time of this year. In the Christian world there is All Souls, All Hallow’s, All Saints, Dia de los Muertos.
This is a good time to pray and settle and to be still,
To feel the subtle presence as well as the absence of those we love who are no longer with us in this earthly realm.
This is good time to reflect honestly on death and our own mortality within the larger scope of life and death and life anew.
It’s a good time to reflect deeply on our own purpose for whatever measure of life and vitality God sees fit to entrust to us.
Our annual honoring of All Souls day is all the more important this year because of the tremendous scope of death due to this pandemic. In the United States we’ve lost 228,370 people; world-wide we’ve lost 1,178,059 people, as of October 29, 2020.
Who but God can know and hold the moments of all of those people’s lives, and the meaning of it all?
For our part we are going to have some time now to honor all those that you in our community of faith have named as your dearly departed.
So let me set our hearts to that sacred task with a word of prayer:
Your ways are not our own,
Your very being, the source of all being, is beyond our knowing,
And yet we know that you are with us
Pulsing through the cycles of life and death and life anew.
Stir us awake to your Holy Spirit, O God
So that Spirit may embrace the hearts of those who gather here.
May we trust that embrace, as we grieve the loss of those who are beloved to us, connected in our grief to all others who grieve at this time.
Help us to treasure and share the gifts we have received from our dearly departed
Assure us, O God, that all is well with their souls
That no ear can hear, no eye can see, no imagination can even conceive
The peace that you have prepared for those who love You.
Our video honoring our dearly departed is here.
(Delivered Sunday, November 1, 2020, for First Congregational Church of Walla Walla, by Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg)