1871 - 2021
Thursday October 28, 2021
Dear Saint Matthew’s,
“Death is something empires, not resurrection people, worry about.”
Those are words of Rachel Held Evans. She died in June 2019. Though I never met her nor spoke with her, I cried when I heard of her death. And I still do when I think of her contribution to the life of the church (writ large) in her writing and speaking, and when I think of her husband and little children left behind. Rachel was 37 when she died. She was a fresh thinker and a wonderful writer and I miss her voice from day to day.
The words above come from a new book published over her name, her final book, being published on November 2. Titled Wholehearted Faith it is the book she was intending to write at the time of her death. It comes with the assistance of the pen and heart of a good friend of Rachel and her husband Dan. It comes from all that remained of her thoughts and musings and insights on the harddrive of her computer (thank God for harddrives in this case).
“Death is something empires, not resurrection people, worry about.”
Death wants us to worry about the date of its inevitable coming - for our loved ones, for each of us, for all. Rachel’s words confirm what the Scriptures encourage in us: a wholeness of faith that sees continuity from the moment of our conception through the moment of our dying and into life forever in God. It is all one piece. And if we are going to have any of it, we are going to have all of it.
So let the empires worry about death. (And may it come for them in short order.) Let us, in this coming month of November instead recognize our continuing link in love and in life with those who have died. The “month of the dead” commences, in Christianity’s history, with All Hallows Eve as October 31 ends, followed by All Saints Day on November 1, and All Souls Day on November 2. Each of the days belongs to the other. As the website ‘the soundtrack of our lives reminds us’ of our history on these days:
Groups of ringers roamed the village to encourage people to pray, singing “Wake up sleepers. Pray to God for the deceased!” These rounds also sometimes served as a collection for the souls of the deceased, a tradition that is at the root of Halloween.
The death-knell remains quiet during Mass, attended by all parishioners, then resumes its ringing. Specific prayers are dedicated to all the departed, especially those who died in the last year. All visible ornaments are black, the colour of death in the liturgy. After Mass, people pay a visit to the cemetery or remain at church to carry on with their prayers. The day is spent in meditation.
Although very few people still observe these customs today, many still use this occasion to gather at the grave of a loved one.
A ‘Book of the Dead’ in which you are invited to inscribe the names of the deceased you would like to be remembered will be in a place of honor in the church from October 31 and throughout November. Do not hesitate to make your ongoing love and connection in prayer tangible by writing those names in the book.
We are resurrection people. I am ready to die whenever and however God wills. In the meantime - and indeed forever - my song and yours, as the funeral liturgy reminds us, is ALLELUIA!
Yours in Christ,
A Special Invitation for Mothers
Mary Ronan-Williams has authored a book on the experience of motherhood, on recognizing the graces that are present in that unique and challenging vocation. Though the author is across the country, she has agreed to engage in a discussion of her work with mothers from our parish and area. No date has been set yet for the online conversation, but we can begin to gather a group to read the book and let its lessons settle in to hearts. Whether you are a Mom raising little ones now or recalling those days long ago, you are most welcome. In addition please share this invitation with your mothering friends and relatives anywhere, as Zoom and the like make it possible for us to build a community unlimited by geography. If you are interested, step 1 is call our Parish Office now at 508.755.4433 to let us know. Thank you!
“God helps those who help themselves”. 75% of Americans think so, according to pollster George Barna. In fact, the phrase topped a poll of the most widely known verses in the Bible. Despite the fact that it’s not actually there! But God does help. Lest we forget that fundamental truth, today’s Gospel is intended to remind us: the name Lazarus is a shortened form of Eleazar, which is Hebrew for “God helps.” And Lazarus is from a village whose name, Bethany, means “House of Affliction.”
Names like this are characteristic of John’s highly symbolic gospel. Which we can read as a cosmological tale—unconstrained by time and space—about the human dilemma and the persistent love of God.
When the gospel tells us that Lazarus—the suffering one whom God helps—is also the “one Jesus loves,” he represents all those whom Jesus loves. Including all of us: we who suffer, die, know the potential for new life, and—when we’re stuck—need others to take away the stone that holds us back, and unwind the cloths of our pain.
We are people who can do great things. And we are also people of great need. To use cosmological terms, we could say that all human beings in all times and places need places to gather and worship and dream. We also need skilled and compassionate pastors to encourage and comfort us as people called to do
the work of Jesus. And we need money to pay for all of this, which is where our stewardship come in.
God has done, is doing and will do miracles; and we know that God also asks us to participate in the miracles. Sometimes by taking away the stone, sometimes by unbinding a friend, and sometimes even by filling out a pledge card.
Julia McCray-Goldsmith is Priest-in-Charge of Trinity Cathedral in San Jose, California. She often fails to see the stone in front of her or the cloths that bind her, but is grateful to friends who point them out. She lives in a family compound in Berkeley with her husband, married children, disabled sister and the puppy who binds us all together in love and silliness. |
These are challenging times in every way. Thank you for your ongoing support in many ways, including financial, of Saint Matthew’s. Now is the time for us all to consider the level of our support for the coming year. Financial challenges are likely to increase, at least in the short term. This rhythm marks the entire history of our church. Our forebears have come through in their time and so Saint Matthew’s is here as a community of connection, faith, and love for our lives. Now is our turn to make sure the gift of this community will be here for coming generations.
What will be your perfect gift for the coming year?
Please pray for the following people who are on St. Matthew’s Prayer List.
Bob and Diane Rowse, Margie, Margaret Fowler, Mia Carter, Audrey Brown, Dorothy, Kareem Bell, Yvette Galipeau, Beverly Cutting, Danny Quill, Father Bob Walters, Rachel, Jeanne Price, Karen Beaudoin, Mike, the Martel Family, Jackie D, Robert W, Dennis C., and Richard Franks.
Pray daily for all those suffering with Covid-19 in our nation and world.