All Souls Reconciled
ALL SOULS RECONCILED
Rev. Thomas R. Schade
First Unitarian Church of Worcester, MA
All Souls Sunday, 2003
One of the old confessions of the Universalist Church of America was their belief that, eventually, there would be a "a final reconciliation of all souls to a loving God."
With that deft phrase, our Universalist forerunners cut through centuries of doctrine, dogma and speculation about heaven and hell, and purgatory, and predestination and salvation. They affirmed that for which we all hope -- that in the end, all of us will be gathered into the loving embrace of God who, at the end, will be more a loving parent than a stern and vengeful judge. "A final reconciliation of all souls to a loving God."
It is a good-enough answer for the question of what will happen to us after we die. It is modest, and does not specify any particular scheme, but it states our hopes, that all of this will have somehow, a happy ending. And is not God the name we give to our hopes that there shall be somehow a happy ending to passage of humanity across the eons? Is not the truest object of our faith our hope that there is a great unavoidable goodness at the heart of all creation ?
But it is not only the souls of the dead, our dear and departed dead, that must be reconciled to God's loving embrace. It is us, too, the living. For every unwelcome and bitterly mourned death drives a wedge between us and God. Every child that dies in suffering, every man or woman struck down in the prime of life, everyone who leaves survivors struck dumb with grief and longing, every man or woman who dies in loneliness and lovelessness, makes us doubt, even if for only a short while, that life is worth living, that love is worth giving, that this Universe is a hospitable habitation for humankind.
It is death, especially when it untimely, unjust or unexpected, that brings us to doubt, and to despair and to hopelessness. If we walk in the valley of the shadow of death and we can come to think of the Universe as sound and fury signifying nothing, a random sequence of encounters and accidents and happenstance.
But if death is the father to doubt, grief is the mother of faith. For grieving leads from mourning a particular death to remembering one special life. We start by weeping at the death of one we love, but in our weeping, we turn naturally toward remembering not just their death, but all the life that came before: All their beauty, all their courage, all their grace, all the love.
For if the deaths of the ones we loved makes us want to turn away from this world, this life, and this universe, it is the memory of the lives they lived that leads us to embrace our lives more fully, to be reconciled.
Is there anyone not carrying the heavy burden of grief? Who does not harbor resentment and bitterness, at some unfair, unjust death? Who does not need to be reconciled to the realities of human life, with all its pain, and all its joy?
So, cling to the memories of those you have loved and lost! Pray that they might stay with you, and abide with you. Take the occasion of anniversaries, of birthdays, of All Souls' Day to flood your heart with memories. Let your heart be broken again and again, so that it might be healed again and again, for from death, and the memory of death, will come new life and love.