All Saints Sunday
God’s grace and peace be with all of you.
Thanks for welcoming me here to Shepherd of the Valley as your interim pastor. The particular role of an interim is new to me— I have ten years of ministry experience in two congregations here in the Southwest California Synod. Now as your interim, I am here to help with your transition period over the next year. The goal is to help you all get ready to welcome your next regularly-called pastor and start the next big chapter in your ministry as a congregation.
Already I’ve gotten to know some of your council leadership and staff, and hear some of your story. I look forward to hearing more from all of you. I’m going to tip my hand a bit here at the beginning of our time together. I’m expecting to spend a lot of time over the next year talking about grief.
How many of you would say that you’re grieving right now?
Today we’re observing All Saints Sunday. It’s an occasion to remember the saints who have died, the people we have lost, especially since last All Saints. How many of you have lost a loved one in the past year? What if we expanded that out—how many of you have lost a loved one in the past three years?
Of course, we know that death is a source of grief. But it’s far from the only one. There are lots of things that can cause us to grieve.
So reflect with me a little further. Think about the past couple of years. How many of you have experienced a broken or strained relationship? How many of you have had to deal with unemployment or underemployment? How many of you felt isolated from community over the past few years? How many of you had to cancel plans to travel or spend time with loved ones in the past few years?
How many of you had to say goodbye to your pastor recently?
So I’ll ask you again, show of hands… how many of you would say that you’re grieving right now?
The truth is, there is so much unresolved grief in the world these days. We have witnessed millions of deaths worldwide from COVID, not to mention the countless other disruptions and disappointments caused by the pandemic. Divisive politics and polarization have caused rifts among friends and families. Personal tragedies and large-scale disasters happen with heart-rending frequency.
We are all grieving. And admitting we’re grieving isn’t a sign of failure or weakness. It’s just reality. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we’re grieving. Ignoring it or neglecting it doesn’t make it go away.