This is our second anniversary displaying our Great Cloud of Witnesses – and so we post this blog again, to remind us of the richness we gain by reflection! – It started as an idea, picked up from the Lutheran church in Coos Bay, at an information sharing/collaborative meeting in Corvallis last year. The names of all those buried from our church. In a mobile. Hung in the sanctuary of the church for all to see. But why?
Christian community is on the wane here in Oregon. And our church is smaller. We have had many funerals these last few years. What are we to do as people who look to God for inspiration as we find grief and loss to be so present? And yet, our society today seems to be dealing with the same issues. Notice, next time someone famous or infamous dies, how long the news cycle extends. We grieve, we question, sometimes we obsess. We are a society with a lot of grief. But, strangely, also a denial of death. The euphemisms for death abound – people say that someone ‘passed away’, or that we ‘lost’ them. They died. And we are left behind.
It was always thus. The world turns, time passes and people die. Our ancestors. Our friends. Giants who walked the earth – great men and women who inspired us, who led the way through difficult times. It is important to mourn their loss, to note their passing, and then figure out how to live our lives without them. Maybe that means we pick up their slack, take over the tasks that these folks handled during their lives. Maybe that means we decide the tasks do not need to continue. Perhaps we examine the hole left behind after a death, and begin to formulate a new plan – a new focus.
At Holy Cross Lutheran in Salem, Oregon, we have taken this step – to note the death and loss of more than 380 people in the last 35 years from our membership. We stand on their shoulders. We are inheritors of a legacy. We are noting this loss for many reasons, but the one that gets my attention these days is this one – what will we choose to do next, as a community? What new vision are we developing that honors God, and the legacy left to us? Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen