For the Departed
Today is All Saints Day on the Christian calendar. For many Christians, this is the day when they remember loved ones who have (in the words of the Apostle Paul) gone on "to be with the Lord."
I get asked all of the time what I believe happens to us when we die. I could write for pages on my thoughts and hopes about that topic, but I'll try to capture some of what I believe in today's devo...
The Christian departed, I truly believe, are in a state of restful happiness, with God, at one with God, completely content, joyful and awaiting the complete renewal of all things.
Do they dream? Do they experience the creative imagination of God, the connection of God to the world and to their loved ones? I have no idea--I would like to think they do. I'm going to claim that, to be honest.
N.T. Wright explains that state of restful happiness and waiting like this: "God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again." I love that. So our loved ones---they are so good. They are so good it defies all imagination.
The big question for those of us who are left behind is, "What do we do in the meantime? How do we cope with the loss, the grief, and the pain?" I have a story that might help us find a way forward.
I was officiating at a funeral, and it was a particularly sad one. A beloved husband and father died, and his grieving widow and daughters were in pretty bad shape. I looked down at them on the front row of the sanctuary, holding on to one another, weeping, broken.
A friend of the family got up to sing Amazing Grace. And the person was tone deaf beyond all measure. I am not sure exactly why it was they thought they should have been singing. But it was bad. So bad that everyone was kind of wincing and recoiling at every rotten, sour note.
Then I saw the faces of the mother and her daughters. They softened. Then they began to smile through their tears. Then they started to laugh behind their Kleenex. They held each other, shaking and laughing--everyone I am sure thought they were weeping. The widow told me later that it was just like her husband was there with them, playing a prank on them like he always did.
They knew at that moment that God was with them and that their loved one was with God. All because of some poor tone deaf person singing Amazing Grace.
For those of us who have been left behind--the signs of our loved ones at rest are all around us.
Maybe you hear them in a phrase they used to say all of the time--a gentle breeze blowing at the right moment with the right fragrance on the wind--a memory or a moment that sends chills down your spine like you can almost feel them.
Because in an eternal way---they are... right now, not just someday.
So, go out and live.
Live as though death has no power over you.
Live as though Eternal is now because God is now all around you.
Live as though you belong in life and death to God.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.