November 2014

Fellow congregants!

Today marks the end of the church year – the Sunday of Eternity – the day on which we reflect on the promise of eternal life.

According to Estonian tradition, this Sunday offers an occasion to remember those who have gone to the afterlife.  In this congregation, the Eucharist has historically been the most attended of the entire year.  Partaking of the body and blood of Christ symbolizes the heavenly feast that we too hope to one day experience.  Today we unite at the altar with those who await us on the other side.

The tradition of remembering the dead is as old as mankind.  Funerals and memorials represent a key foundation of human culture.  It is important to honour death with the same respect that we honour life.  God created us with this in mind.

We can safely say that it is through death that some of the secrets of civilization have revealed themselves.  Archeological finds from ancient gravesites have provided scientists with valuable insight into the culture, beliefs and way of life of our ancestors.  Burial rites themselves illustrate that best.  Ancient gravesites reveal the positive and negative sides of life.  The way in which people were laid to rest tells us of love and caring.  But we can also learn about the atrocities, epidemics and famine of thousands of years ago.  Thanks to ancient burial rites, we know that 10,000 years ago Estonians lived where Vabaduse Väljak in Tallinn now exists. We know that the Vikings were apparently defeated by the Estonians in Saaremaa 3000 BC.

Today’s bible passage from the second book of the Corinthians verses 5 through 10 states:  „For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.“

What legacy are we leaving for future generations?  What will be revealed about our life on earth? A thousand years from now, will our culture, beliefs and way of life be apparent?

History is merciless. Many things that today are considered valuable become dust.  If a thousand years ago a pot of coins was buried, the one who discovers that today would be a very wealthy man.  The same cannot be said of the person who a thousand years from now unearths an expired credit card from 2014.

We can still read the clay tablets of the Pharaohs, the parchment on which Jesus wrote and the Guttenberg Bible.  Contract that with the floppy disks and cassettes of the 1990s which are impossible to read now without the appropriate software. Yes, we live in an Information Age, but what is the use in learning and gaining knowledge if it cannot be left for future generations? 

Thankfully, we do not live our lives with future archeologists in  mind.  How they judge us will be their concern.  We live, we believe, we love.  We remember the past, dream of the future and search for eternity. And one virtue remains above all others – love.  We remember our loved ones, because we experienced their love.  We mourn their loss, because we still love them.  Through mourning, love takes on a new dimension.  That kind of love gives us strength and hope.  That love protects us from evil and helps us fulfil our potential.  That love teaches us to ask for forgiveness and helps us overcome life’s disappointments.   

I recently had a dream that I could recall upon awakening, something that happens rarely.  I dreamt of my father who had died 29 years ago.  I met up with him at the doors of this very church.  He appeared young and vivacious and the same familiar smile lit up his face.  The unexpected meeting left me with a warm and comforting feeling.  Later, I began to wonder what the meaning that dream had.  Some say that dreaming of the dead is a bad omen.  Shaking the hand of the dead means death.  Such silly parallels are frequently drawn.  But I believe my father had a message to give me. After all, during his life he didn`t waste time on pointless endeavours.  But then it came to me, he was sending me the solution to today`s sermon.  He came to tell me that he would be here in church today along with all the others we remember today. 

The Apostle Paul says in 1Thessalonians 4:13-14,18:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. Therefore encourage one another with these words. Amen.

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