Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Requiem Mass

June 22, 2016

+ Back in November, we gathered here to do exactly what we are doing tonight. We gathered to pray for, to commend to God and to bury someone who we probably will never know, at least on this side of the veil, so to speak.

In November, we prayed for Adolf Scott.  Tonight, we are praying for and commending to God this person, Linda. And much of what I am going to say tonight, I said then.  It rings as true tonight as it did in November. And it will no doubt ring true in the future should we bury others in such a way.

We know very little about Linda. We know when we she was born, we know when she died, we know she had a husband and child. We know how she died and where she died. We know those basic facts about her. But that’s all. We do not know he if she was a good person, or a terrible person. And as I said in November about Adolf Scott, so I say tonight about Linda, none of that matters. What matters tonight  is that we are welcoming her here in our midst and we are providing her with some dignity in her death.

In November, I shared the so called corporal acts of mercy. It’s no surprise to anyone here tonight that I hold those acts of mercy highly in my estimation. The corporal acts of mercy are...

- To feed the hungry;

- To give drink to the thirsty;

-   To clothe the naked;

- To harbor the harborless;

- To visit the sick;
 To ransom the captive;

- To bury the dead.

We, as a congregation of St. Stephen’s, as followers of Jesus, have strived to do every single one of these corporate acts of mercy in our collective ministry here. Throughout our 60 years, we have worked hard to do these seemingly basic acts. Because, like visiting the sick, and giving drink to the thirsty, and feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, burying the dead is a very basic act. It is something that is needed.

Every person deserves a proper burial.  We do these acts not because we want or need a pat on the back. We do them not because we think they’ll get us in the good graces of God, or provide us with an easy ticket to heaven.  We do them, because doing them brings about good in this world. And when good comes into this world, we believe God is present.

God is present with us this evening. We are seeing God present in this act of mercy, and even in this person of Linda.  We don’t know if she actually even believed in God, or was a Christian, or anything.

But you know what? None of that matters right now. What matters is that God is, even now, able to work in this situation. God is here, in the act of mercy we are doing, in the fact that Linda’s ashes came to us, in the witness of her presence with us this evening and in the years to come.

Some of the greatest and loudest statements of God’s mercy come not in sermons
or evangelizing on the streets. Sometimes the loudest statements of God’s mercy and our own mercy to others comes in the starkness and  quietness of an abandoned urn of ashes.  

Whoever Linda was, I am grateful for her presence with us.  I am grateful that in years to come, she will be remembered by us. I am grateful that she will have a place here with us.  And I am grateful that she will not be forgotten by any of us.

We commend you tonight, Linda,
to God’s mercy,
to God’s forgiveness and love.

Blessed be God the Creator,
who has caused the light of Christ
to shine upon you.

Go forth from this world:
in the love of God the Father
who created you,

in the mercy of Jesus Christ
who redeemed you,

in the power of the Holy Spirit
who strengthens you.

In communion with all the faithful,
may you dwell this day in peace and light.

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