A Word from Our Pastor 2009 November Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

On November 1 and 2, Christians all over the world celebrate “All Saints” and “All Souls” days. These holidays go back to ceremonies that pre-date Christianity and express a desire to honor those who have gone before us. Protestants do not have a practice of honoring saints who have been authorized by the church (as do Roman Catholics), but in many cases, Protestants use these holidays to honor church and family members who have passed away. Last year, at BMUC, we observed the “Day of the Dead” practices of Latin Americans who build altars in memory of loved ones who have passed away. We will do that again this year, on the last Sunday in October.

Why is honoring the dead important? For people of Japanese heritage — and many others — this is an expression of gratitude, an acknowledgment that those who have gone before us have done so much for us, and given so much to us. There is also for some, a belief that the spirits of the dead are still with us, and our remembrance of them brings them peace and joy.

Even more, memorializing the dead is also a source of faith. When we are going through a difficult time, our greatest source of reassurance is our experience of how God was with us in the past: it is our memory of God’s presence in our lives that helps us when we may be troubled, confused or in doubt. Our memory encompasses more than just our own lives: we also can remember the lives of those who have gone before — how God guided and comforted them — and empowered them to guide and comfort us. Memorializing the dead helps us to experience our own lives as part of a great web of relationships that are nurtured and inspired by God.

When the ancient Israelites got in trouble, they remembered the lives of their ancestors, and how they had been saved by God. One of the most important memories they had was of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and how God fed and guided them during their forty years in the wilderness. This story is told in the book of Exodus, but it is an important reference in many places, for example:

“Yet [God} saved them for his name’s sake, so that he might make known high mighty power; he rebuked the Red Sea and it became dry; he led them through the deep as through a desert. So he saved them from the hand of the fe, and delivered them from the hand of the enemy. . .” (Psalm 106: 8-10)

Then the writer of the Psalm reminds us that we, too, can count on God’s help: “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise” (Psalm 106:47).

Therefore, as well give thanks to our loved ones, whose love and sacrifice has been the source of many blessings, we also give thanks to God, who gave those loved ones to us, to be part of our families and among our friends. During this season of thanks, I hope that you will take a moment to remember: the people who have shaped your life for the better, and the source of all good things that have come to you, God.

Rev. Naomi