All Souls

At a memorial service at Holy Trinity Berwick on Sunday 6 November for loved ones whose names were read out, Ray Simpson gave this address:

John 11: 28-36  The first reading is about Jesus’ visit to the Bethany home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Lazarus had died. Martha greets Jesus en route and says ‘If you had been here he would not have died.’

John 20: 11-18 The  second reading is about Mary Magdalene meet Jesus after his resurrection from his grave.

Among those  of us re-membering deceased relatives and friends here tonight there is doubtless a range of emotions.  In relation to some we have nothing but gratitude, in relation to others, ambivalence.  A few us of may even feel neglected or abused by the deceased.  Do not excuse, but do continue to express what is in your heart and, when you feel able, offer forgiveness from the heart. Others of us may resonate with the words of a gravedigger in Toronto I had a pint with:  “It makes me sad’, he told me, ‘ that I lay so many people into the grave who have never told their story’.  God knows the story

It may help us to realise that, however damaged, every soul is precious. every soul is unique.  How ghastly if God had made us clones.  Each soul is a mixture of good and bad, some realised their potential, others did  not, but each journeyed and expressed something of God within them.

In the Celtic tradition people liken God to the Harvester who gathers in souls. So we can safely place them again into the  Everlasting Arms of the Ingatherer of Souls. 

Our two readings, both from the Gospel of John, throw two gleams of light on all souls.  Lazarus was not quite ready to leave this earth.  When I visited his Bethany tomb I found myself praying for all sorts of  people who were entombed in doom and gloom, that they would rise up.  There is a time to live and a time to die, though there are also untimely deaths.

But some years later I visited another tomb, this time in Cyprus, where Lazarus, the great missioner and testifer to the life of Jesus, had his final resting place.  There I prayed for myself and others that we would give all we have to give before we die. This matters even in little things.  A few days ago a nonagenarian who has taken life vows with The Community of Aidan and Hilda rang me. She said ‘I have one foot in heaven and one on earth’.  ‘And what do you do with the foot that is on earth?’ I asked her. ‘I invite the Holy Spirit into it and open my heart to Jesus in each person who calls me’ she said.

The second reading, which describes another Mary meeting the risen Christ near his garden tomb, helps us to put our total trust in Jesus as the Ingatherer of Souls. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe to be fully human and fully Divine, is ultimately why we need not come to All-Souls- tide remembrances without hope.  Jesus sees those things that were of God in those who have died, those things that need to be nurtured, and those things that need to be healed.

We bring before you those who have enriched the world by their lives through their presence or their deeds of love and for those whose faith is known to you alone; wise souls who brought wit, invention or music and  forgotten souls  remembered  now only by you .. and especially those we have named this day.

As the sun rises in the east so these arose out of your love… In the dimness of memory this alone we know, that as the sun goes to its rest in the west, so your light rests upon them,



Posted at 10:56am on 10th November 2022
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