Sermon Archives

Sunday, November 1, 2020
All Souls' Requiem
The Reverend Walter Brownridge, Associate
First lament what we have lost

May I speak in the name of our ever-living, ever-loving and ever-leading God. Amen.

“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, prevent the dog for barking with a juicy bone. Silence the pianos with muffled drum, bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. Let aeroplanes circle, moaning overhead, scribbling on the sky the message, he is dead. Put crate bows round the white necks of the public doves, let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. He was my North, my South, my East and West. My working week and my Sunday rest, my noon, my midnight, my talk, my song. Let that love will lasts forever. I was wrong. The stars are not wanted now. Put out everyone, pack up the moon and dismantle the sun, pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods for nothing now can ever come to any good.”

Those words written by the British and American poet, W.H. Auden in 1936 deals with his own personal grief and loss of his most beloved. And in this year, this season, that famous poem made even more famous in a movie from about 25 years ago may represent what many of us feel today. We come each year to the service, particularly those who have lost a loved one, a friend, a family member, a beloved, a child, a parent. This year our lament is even deeper for it is permeated with the miasma of COVID-19. As of today, over a million people globally have died, in our own nation over 225,000 have lost their lives. In this state over 7,500 and in this region over 3000.

My wife and I know at least 10 people who have died from this disease and others who fighting for their lives even now. It seems to me that many of us will be even more particularly mournful and more particularly frightened. And so as many people will come to this service of All Souls with an even greater dread of this public health pandemic, others will mourn the names of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey, George Floyd, and many more. And yet, why do we do this?

Well, the Gospel of John today we heard gives us a clue, for our savior, our God, our Messiah, our Christ, our Emmanuel, meaning God with us, He lamented, He grieved as deeply as outlined in his tomb at the loss of His friend, Lazarus. That may be of some assurance, I hope it is to those who are particularly mourning those who are close to them. But if not, the words we heard in the first lesson from Lamentation and the second from Romans also maybe will give us a ray of hope and light. The reality of it is that lamentation, to lament, to mourn is part of not only life but it is part of new life and rebirth. That we cannot return to joy and love and laughter unless we first lament what we have lost.

The witness of people like Martin Luther King Jr. who lost much and then we lost him, shows us one way that lament is so important. For King to stand in and give a eulogy for four little girls who were killed in their Sunday school and so many others. For Desmond Tutu during apartheid South Africa to more in the killing of thousands, the torture of many more, and yet to proclaim that we as Christians are prisoners of hope. Those two examples are just for me I think an example of how one must first truly lament and cry and moan and mourn before we move on to reflect the glory of God that is within us and then show that glory to the world that is in desperate need of hope. And so in this season, this season of a novel coronavirus, I think we are more particularly called to support and love those who mourn and grieve, and also to give the light of hope to not only those who grieve, but to each other as we move forward.

But how do we do this? You may even say, “Am I whistling past the graveyard, Walter?” No. There’s this great story that Archbishop Tutu used to share about during World War II a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp was humiliated and taunted by his Nazi guard. And one day he was asked to clean out the toilets and the Nazi guard stood above him and taunted him and saying, “Where is your God now?” And the Jewish prisoner replied quietly under his breath, “He’s right here with me in the murk.”

For those who grieve and mourn and for all of us please know that God is Emmanuel with us in this murk of racial tension, political and civil divide, of a deadly virus and a lockdown, of an economic collapse, God is with us. In a few weeks we will sing again those words of the hymn, O come, O come, Emmanuel. It is part of the cycle, the Pascal mystery of Christ coming into our lives and leading us to glory even through suffering and death and yes, to the glory of the resurrection. May we on this All Souls Day hold fast to that hope and remain prisoners to it. Amen.