Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Celebrating Those We Love But See No More

The first Tuesday evening of every month, St. Luke's has a Healing Service. There's a core group of about 8-10 people who faithfully attend, and there is a team of folks who are available to offer healing prayers for those who request it. It's all very "private" yet public - they are in front of the church, but with music playing it makes it a more private experience. In other words, the folks in the pews don't have to try to strain to hear what's being prayed for - they can't hear it, so there's no need to try. Does this make sense?

Well, tonight's service was a little bit different in that we were also acknowledging All Souls Day. Yesterday was All Saints Day - which honors all the "famous" saints (like Luke, Anthony, Mother Theresa, etc.). All Souls Day is to honor those people we love who perhaps didn't make a big mark in their public life, but left great big marks on our hearts.

In many cultures, this is a big deal. I'm most familiar with the Mexican tradition of Dio de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead." We first learned about it when we lived in Austin, and celebrated our own saints there every year...and have done so - privately in our home - ever since. We have a few little decorations that we put out. One thing people like to do is to "try to lure" the deceased person's spirit back by leaving out things that the person loved - like chocolate, cookies, or tequila! They use lots of flowers - mostly marigolds - and it's a festive occasion, not a sad one.

So, at St. Luke's last Sunday, we set up a space and people brought in photos and mementos of their precious saints. We, of course, took a picture of Katie and of bowl of "Runts" candy. When she was little, she would only fall asleep in her old car seat, in her bedroom, on the floor. And she had to have a bowl of Runts in her lap, otherwise she would not go to sleep! Call it crazy, but it worked. Long story...later. Others brought chocolate...someone even set a Dunkin' Donuts coffee cup next to the picture of their saint!

During this particular service, we also read aloud the names of people who are "saints" to members of our congregation. It was very touching, especially to recognize so many of them. After these names were read, people were given time to recite even more names of departed who were not on the lists.

I was kneeling next to Jonathan during this part of the service. This child of ours - who fifteen minutes before had been the bane of our existence, knelt there are prayed - out loud - for "those who lost their lives on 9/11...for all the astronauts who have died in service to our country...for all the firemen who died in the Cold Storage fire...for victims of the earthquake in Haiti...and he went on and on. It was so touching to me. I just started weeping! Where did all that come from? How could this child become so centered and prayerful, while I was just seething at him a few minutes ago? Then it occurred to me that God was present, and Jonathan had been tapped on the shoulder and encouraged to go with his heart. Why not me? Probably because I wasn't paying attention. Well, let me tell you, after that I did start paying attention and things turned around for me. That church was filled with something tonight, and it wasn't incense! It was the love of God, sitting among us, tapping us each on the shoulder as a reminder of how much we are loved and valued and precious to God. Each of us! All the time! How cool is that?

Jonathan is finishing up his homework, but all I want to do is sit on the couch and just snuggle up with him and get some of that wonderful energy of his to flow into me. I will never forget this night, his prayers, God's presence, and...hopefully, my very own preciousness in God's sight.

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