Shaped by Death & New Life

My life has been shaped by death. My faith has been shaped by New Life. 

This week many will celebrate Halloween. A wonderful holiday filled with candy, costumes and all things scary. I must confess, I am a big fan. I loved Halloween as a kid, I loved Halloween as a parent, and now love Halloween as a homeowner that sees over 200 trick-or-treaters. And while it is now completely commercialized, Halloween’s origins are part of the Allhallowtide of All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. This three day observance provides a focus for us to remember the saints, the martyrs and the faithful departed.

My life has been shaped by death. My faith has been shaped by New Life. 

As some of you may know, my father suddenly died when I was 13 years old. Between that time and my high school graduation, I had six friends die in a variety of tragic circumstances. As you might imagine, each and every one of these deaths had a significant impact on me. As my life narrative was beginning to be written, it became clear that death would  play a major role in my story.

Those early premonitions have proved true. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles  and far too many friends have gone on to God’s greater glory. As well as being a long time pastor, I have spent a good portion of my life walking with those who are in the last days of their earthly life, and with those family and friends who surround them during those last days and beyond.

My life has been shaped by death. My faith has been shaped by New Life. 

The night my father died our priest, who I had spent significant time with during Confirmation preparation, lovingly shared with me that God was grieving too. To hold fast to my faith in the boundless love of God for both my father and for me. While completely grief stricken, the caring words from my priest gave me both comfort and a sense of assurance that God and others would walk with me.

It was this prayer from the Burial Service in the Book of Common Prayer that my priest shared with me that I found particularly consoling:

“O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our brother (sister) N. We thank you for giving him to us, his family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

My life has been shaped by death. My faith has been shaped by New Life. 

As we lean into the next three days, may our prayer continue to be,

“Father of all, we pray to you for N., and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

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