Today's Lectionary Text
Ephesians 1:15-23Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens, far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future. God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.
Poet-philosopher Octavio Paz noted that "The Mexican is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, and celebrates it. It is one of his favorite playthings and his most steadfast love." Dia de los Muertos: A few days of defiantly biting into sugar skull candy, watching Death and the Devil dancing down the street, family altars adorned with food, water, marigolds.
When the Christians showed up here 500 years ago to "save" the indigenous people of Central and South American, they encountered a fiercely sacred religion of death. Feasts and parades were held to honor the dead. Their advice was sought, their mummies deified with every need anticipated. One of the marks of a victorious battle was indicated by who could capture the ancestral dead and carry them out of the homeland. The medieval Christians were horrified. This was savage! Every civilized person knew that death was the end in this realm!
And death without Christ, well, we all know where that ends, eh?
The missionaries and priests preached hard that to be absent from the body was to be with Christ, that speaking to the dead "saints" and martyrs was a serious, somber practice of prayer. Hard as they worked, they could never convince their indigenous devotees that death could be so final. So instead it became a day of celebration. Candles, colors, parades, candy, cakes, honoring the dead with stories, songs, altars, preparations for the presence are all part of the Dia de los Muertos tradition.
Last night we adorned my family altar with Snickers (because they were Grandpa's favorite), salt for purification, water for thirst. We lit the candle and welcomed Abuelita Matiana, Abuelo Pedro, and my own dear Grandpa Jose Ignacio. I will bring this same posture and fierce belief in the presence of the dead to my worship this morning — as I do at every Eucharist gathering — and stand with my congregation to honor the lineage of our faith recited like poetry.
When we lose perspective on why the church gathering is so powerfully different than worship alone I remember that this is why: because growing up with the Day of the Dead has taught me
that the intentional gathering of faith people (dare I say, a tribe) creates a liminal space where the dead meet with us to pray and worship and be while the angels look on with holy envy. This is important and can't be manufactured. It’s our great mystery. And because death is not the end...at the Table we "caress it" and "celebrate it." We defy it and call on the grace of a man who was dead and then made alive - raised “far above any power that might be named not only now but in the future” so that death will never be the end. In the presence of the Dead and the Living, we partake of the bread of life and the cup of the covenant.
Last night I waited for Grandpa and all my ancestors. This morning, I'll worship alongside them as all the saints adore, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea. Blessed Dia de los Muertos to you. May the ancestors guide your steps and share your prayers on this liminal morning.
— Jodi-Renee Giron
Spiritual Life & Discipleship Director
Trinity United Methodist Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
Prayer for Reflection
God of what has been, what is, and what is yet to come, soften my heart and eyes to all that is unseen. Teach me to laugh at the “final word” and always respond with resurrection in my heart and on my tongue. Amen.
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