This morning I delivered my very first ‘Thought for The Day’ – it was a little scary… It’s a short reflection on death, autumn, the continual gifts of death and the presence of God.
At 4pm this afternoon I will be preaching at a memorial service at Holy Trinity in Hereford. This service takes place twice a year and we invite those who have lost people in the previous six months to come, sit, be quiet, to sing, to pray, to light a candle and to give thanks for the lives of those loved ones who have died.
At this time of year it’s especially moving, we’ve just celebrated Halloween, then the day after – All Souls Day and then All Saints Day. You’ll hear stern warnings from some Christians of the danger of what Halloween has become – and there’s strong truth in that – but what follows – All Souls Day – is at the heart of a week of remembering the dead – at the heart of a changing season around us.
Now autumn is my favourite time of year. Leaves fall, fields are bare, we are past the rush of September. There’s a peace in this week of All Souls that allows us to take a breath, to see the beauty of what is around is, what is now dead or dying and to take in the great gifts we have had from that bounty. The food from the fields, the beautiful vistas of the countryside, the fruit from the trees… the cider in our cups.
But, Autumn – death – continues to give us gifts. As the evenings draw in, the clocks go back we start to shiver at the colder weather we start to see frost on the windows, it feels a good time to remember those who have died. We can recall our loved ones with a smile, we can remember that phrase they used, the way they made tea or the way they told us off. We can smile, but that memory is tinged with the sadness of loss, those memories are sometimes bad or hurt, there are tears – there is pain. Leaves fall.
But just as we see the beauty in those fallen leaves we should embrace the pain of our loss and in doing that we accept that whilst our loved ones are gone, we understand that they are not gone forever. That they are loved by God and that just as Autumn goes through the pain of winter – spring always comes.
God looks for us in the firmament of heaven, knowing the pain we are in and offering us a warm hand – here on earth right now we feel that as just the tiniest hint of a warm breeze on a cold autumn day – compared to the full-blown howling love that awaits us in death.
So as we leave Halloween, all souls day and all saints day behind, appreciate the warm breeze, appreciate the good and bad memories of those who have died – and know that whenever you need it, in pain and in happiness – God’s warm hand is always there to be held – all you need to do is reach for it.