A sermon for All Saints in a time of war.
I just deleted a comment that literally said "shame on you, Nadia" - so a gentle reminder: If you feel the need to leave a scolding comment to me or anyone else, please know that the entire internet is available to you. But not this corner. Here you will be kindly escorted out and offered a blessing...and a refund.
It’s funny, I skipped church today because I was having my occasional “bad anxiety days” (PTSD) and messaged Chris, our organist, begging him to forgive me that I couldn’t make it to our little fledgling Lutheran congregation.
But when anxiety shows up like this it’s like I get spooked and become obsessed with death. Like, “what was that twinge?”
“Is this it? Is this how I go?”
And then I remember to eat something and I feel it ease off and end up feeling foolish. It’s like, “Fred. You’re not dying. You’re hungry and that makes you anxious.”
It just makes me wonder, after worry about it so much, that after we die - are we gonna be on the other side of it saying, “Was that what all the fuss was about?”
Sort of like when the hero finally meets the villain in the movie and says, “I thought you’d be taller.”
Anyway, Spc. Joe Price. Sgt. Lossie Brown. Gone but never forgotten.
As a hospice nurse, I see death more than most. But it became different when I began working at a hospice house. I struggled with guilt when I would be asked about a patient from 2 weeks ago and I would have to really think to remember. We loose about a patient a day so between them, all their family, and sometimes the drama involved, it is a-lot to physically and emotionally bring it back up to remembrance. I had to learn to compartmentalize, much like your idea about the suffering in our own village. I’m sorry about your nephew, I empathize for everyone of you who has a name to speak today. And it will never “be okay” on this side, but there will be a day.
My name spoken today is Ashley Kidd
Thank you Nadia for searching out these words of life and bringing them here for those of us who regretfully don’t always have the strength to do it ourselves.
Dear Nadia - I just lost my 3 year old niece almost 3 weeks ago. We thought she had a stomach bug. Five days later, a trip to the ER and transfer to PICU revealed a cancer diagnosis. Just five hours after that, her heart stopped beating and nothing could bring her back. Last night, I had dinner with my 25 year old daughter who was railing against the injustice of the Palestinian slaughter, with less compassion for the Israeli victims. I told her I didn’t have the bandwidth right now to dig into details and feel the same rage - I can only mourn with *all* humans who have recently lost a beloved child. The day Nika died is a day when you posted something about our grief being sacred. It’s interesting to me that, once again, your sermon is so timely in my life. Thank you so much for your wonderful insights and sharing them with the world. I find comfort from your honesty, doubts, and faith.
I’ve had reason to think about my own death quite a bit in the last two+ years. After two brushes with death in the OR (brain tumor removal...then two post-op bleeds), my heroic neurosurgeon saved my life twice. And he now calls me his miracle baby, even though he is younger than I am. I had gone over instructions with my loved ones in case something like this, or worse, happened.
One of my instructions was to play the song “Jordan” by Rival Sons at my memorial service. Here are a few of the lyrics. Truly a beautiful song.
“Jordan” - Rival Sons
I'd rather see you go in the arms of your angels
Than to stay right here with me
I'll meet you on the other side of the Jordan
Now let your soul go free
You did it all with feeling
And failure, you took it gracefully
You said, "Third star to the right, straight until morning
When you need me, you know that's where I'll be"
Now the rest of my life without you
Right now it's hard to conceive
You said, "Don't cry for me now, you've got to remember
There is no death for those that believe"
Since cheating death twice, the same band has released another song that will also be played when I pass...but maybe at the celebration part of the service, as it’s a pretty rockin’ tune. Words are also appropriate, given Nadia’s post today.
“Nobody Wants to Die” - Rival Sons
Nobody wants to die
But they know they're gonna have to
X's and O's, ribbons and bows
Ain't nothin' gonna save you (hey, hey)
Silver and gold, people you know
Ain't nothin' gonna save you
But whatever you do
Whatever you do, it's coming after you.
In sum: it’s important to think about one’s own mortality. It is inevitable. But there is no death for those that believe.
Did several hours of church on All Saints’ Day, (the episcopal way) we had 9 baptisms, a full house and our Eucharist service was joyful.
The reading of the names was done later that day and I did not attend.
Your observation about the end ( death) could also be reported as a transition or new beginning.
For me life has been a series of new beginnings . As I look in the rear view mirror I have lost count of the people that have influenced and redirected me in a positive way and can’t remember at all the negative ones.
I have experienced miracles and believe we already have scientific evidence of other life in our universe.
I am a follower of Jesus and acknowledge the power of prayer.
My sense of gratitude is present most of the time.
I am a free and loving man walking and listening in Gods light, endeavoring to help others along the way.
My wish for humanity is to learn to deny EVIL, love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
No matter our religion, we all are accountable to to the same higher power
My 22-year-old daughter died on All Saints Sunday 22 years ago. Death details involved sickness, and I watched her die unable to breathe anymore with an enlarged heart and weak lungs. She said to me, “I think either God hates me or he trusts me a lot to give me all this to deal with. What do you think, Mom?” My answer was and is that God doesn’t cause the evil and hurt and sickness in this world. He is there with us as we suffer, and he is there to carry us through- one way or the other. I believe that with all my heart and soul. Her answer always was, “I know I’ll be ok no matter what happens. It’s you I’m worried about, Mom.”
But I’m still here. It’s never ok. But it will be. The love is real. The tears will be gone. God be with you, Nadia. Thank you for you.
I was reminded of my own mortality when in 1996 I "woke up" in ICU to the sound of an overly cheery male nurse; why are they "still" cheery when delivering news like this:
"...Mr. Swenson, you had a respiratory arrest..."
I freaked for a half second, then realized that HE was hovering over ME, TELLING ME this.
Which meant that I was, for lack of a better term, "okay", even if I still was in the ICU.
My "opinion" on Death changed at that point, not that I was going to die or not, thanks for the reminder Nadia! But my view on Death as a conceptual framework...changed.
I realized that Death, more than likely, is not going to come with a Herald of Trumpets, or excitement...or probably even be realized by me at the time. Hollywood is "wrong"...apparently. Who figured?
I am...and then (I know horrible grammar) I am NOT am. I stopped FEARING Death, not to worry, I'm not chasing after it either. But I realized in that fractional moment, a lot of things that were important, no longer were, and a lot of things that weren't important...ARE.
My sister Beth.
septic dead at 38.
Never did make time
to apologize for calling her fat.
Dangit, Nadia! And here I am, weeping at my desk.
Also, thank you. I needed that. Much love to you and your family. May we all use our own griefs as the means to understand and hold tenderly the griefs of others. Amen.
This truly touched me, reminding me, each of us are known by name, by Father, and loved, thank you Pastor Nadia.
I am grateful for your words today, also the sharing of the community. I remember and call out Oma, Ralph, Fred, Susan, Nancy, Charles.....mother, father, siblings.....my family, all traveling on to what is beyond. During one of my last conversations with my mother I thanked her for praying for me, as she did for all family members, as part of her morning devotions. I will miss your prayers, mom. She paused and then said in her 93 year old voice, “Joe, I will still pray for you, it will just be from a different place.” Her care comforts me every day. Before my sister Susan died a year ago we shared memories of always eating supper together as family, seated around the table, enjoying happy talk. We pictured where each one sat. We imagined sitting at that table once more when we pass over, looking forward to the reunion, being reunited with family. Susan assured me my place would be set for me waiting for my arrival. It is difficult to know what will be....but the love is real that binds ....a place is set....
"Never really understood the appeal of spending eternity in a place that looks like it was decorated by Liberace": (laughing)
Thank you for that Nadia.
Remembering Adriann, the mother of two of my children, and the most beautiful woman I have ever known.
Having made it to my 70s it's like I think about death All. The. Time. But it's not like I have a reason to. God has gifted me with good health and recently I was told by a friend, who volunteers in one of those programs where they try to find things for bored old people to do, that I'm having more fun in retirement than anybody she knows.
Even so I think about it (death) approximately as much as I thought about sex when I was in my 20s. I'm a guy who is in church every Sunday, more even, sings in the choir, takes the Eucharist, etc. but I can't escape the conclusion that if God is truly merciful, like everyone says, then when we die it's lights out. When I think about how long I might live I think, "What if I made it to 93? That would be 30 more years. I don’t want to drag this out THAT long!" So what would I do with eternity? Plus the abstract unification-with-God scenarios like the one you describe, well, that wouldn't be the ME, so what difference would it make? It's a beautiful conception, but why should I care?
That's my dilemma, my question, my problem. I can only pray that God takes me before things get bad.
To me, understanding death is like understanding how far away Mars is. We can see it, and we can look up the numbers about it, but we cannot really imagine 237 million miles in our head.
But when somebody close to us dies, it's like we're being told, suddenly, that we have to go to Mars.
This Sunday was so hard. Writing Willy’s name in the book of the dead was like I was in the book, too. The Sunday before, was his birthday, the first since his death. It’s been a gloomy week. Thanks for reminding me of the hope.