Sermon given by Rev. Patrick Crocker at First Christian Church in Las Cruces on October 29, 2023.
A brief footnote to the Gospel in place of a sermon today. As we look at this list of the Beatitudes, the Blessed, we see what has been called the Constitution of the Church. We see what has been understood as the heart of Christianity. Even if our heart has sometimes faltered in how we’ve lived it out.Read more: Wheel of Remembrance
These here are the ideals. Not the church triumphant, not the church rich, not the church victorious. The church, the people of God, God’s self; yearning for justice, grieving, sharing together. This is the place that God chooses to enter. Therefore, this is the place that we would find God if we would seek God. Do we have the courage?
We gather in these moments to celebrate, to grieve, and to hold in grateful memory those who are now separated from our vision by death. Though we cannot recall them to life, we can remember and fix their memories within our hearts for as long as we shall live. We can celebrate the fullness of their lives with all of the strengths and foibles, goodness and weaknesses that they showed. This space and this time are hallowed for the remembrance of those who have passed in recent days, as well as those long gone who still affect our lives, family or friends or strangers, two-legged or four or none.
In the East, we place a yellow candle. This is for the springtime of our lives and our relationships. With this candle, we recall the first light that shines on our beginnings, our attitudes, our insights. This is the place where we say any unsaid, “I love you.”
As this candle is lit, I invite you to reflect upon the first impressions you had of those we remember today. The moments when you first realized something about the one we remember, about yourself, or about creation, life and death. As you behold the light from this candle, I invite you to breathe deeply, to remember deeply, feel wholeheartedly.
In the South, we place a red candle. This is for the summer of our lives and our relationship ships. With this candle, we recall the blazing light that shines on our struggles, our emotions about ourselves and others. Our conflicts that give rise to transformation. This is the place where we say any unsaid, “Sorry, please forgive me,” and, “I forgive you.”
As this candle is lit. I invite you to reflect on the things that you have felt in your time with those that we remember. Emotions are neither good nor bad. Our reactions to those emotions may be judged more helpful or less. Less skillful or more. Neither is conflict bad nor good, but only how we respond. And what, if anything, we learn from that conflict. As you behold the light from this candle, I invite you to remember the times that helped you feel deeply and invite you to breathe deeply, to feel wholeheartedly.
In the West, we place a blue candle. This is for the autumn of our lives and our relationships. With this candle, we recall the fading light that shines on our growth, our transformations of heart, mind and spirit that rise from conflict. This flame of autumn reminds us that death is also a transformation. Like so many other transformations in our lives come so often in ways and times, not completely of our own choice. This is the place where we see any unsaid, “Thank you.”
As this candle is lit, I invite you to reflect upon the ways, large or small, that you have changed because of your relationships with those we remember this day. As you behold the light from this candle, I invite you to recall those who inspired you to grow as you breathe deeply, feel wholeheartedly.
In the north, we place a white candle. This is for the winter of our lives and our relationships. With this candle, we rest in the darkness, in the star light that covers the fallow times when our lives and spirits must rest. Consolidating strength and recovering from conflict and transformation, preparing for new awareness in the next turning of the wheel. This is the place where we see any unsaid, “Goodbye for now.”
As this candle is lit, I invite you to reflect on the things that you want to keep from the relationships we remember this day, what you’d like to strengthen. Call to mind or heart those special souls you’d like to feel nurturing you on the journey ahead. As you behold the light from this candle, I invite you to remember those spirits that you would like to feel guiding you in whatever way in this journey ahead, as we breathe deeply, remember wholeheartedly
As we leave this place, let us consider the memories of specific times with those that we have known, those memories which help us to see the world with new eyes and new hearts. Let us hold before the flame of the yellow eastern candle like a stained glass image. Let us allow that light to illuminate new ways to live today and tomorrow and tomorrow after that.
Those memories which cause us to grit our teeth or shrink in shame, let us feed to the flame of the red southern candle. Let us allow that fire to purify the memories, leaving the lessons learned, but unbinding from that which constricts the soul.
Those memories which cause us to alter our path, our speech, our spirits, we share with the blue western candle. We allow that flame to ignite experiences with other people, encouraging transformation and nurturing fruitfulness.
Those memories which cause us to swell with pride or smile in compassion, we instill within the memory of the flame of the white northern candle. We carry that image, planting those memories deep, nurturing that which will nourish life in the next turning of the wheel.
May the fallow moments cause us all to draw closer to each other, lifting each other up, urging each other on. So we pray.
Great mystery, we thank you for the lives we remember here today. We ask that your presence be felt among us in the days ahead, when sorrow and loneliness may attempt to weave their shadows around us through the power of renewed life. Restore our hope, grant us the strength to carry on with our lives. We pray that grace and love will be an abiding presence in this time of need. Fill our spirits with the truth of life. Grant us the fullness of peace. Amen.Read more: Wheel of Remembrance