Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners


Praying for Dead People?

And what the dead had no speech for, when living
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond with the language of the living. —T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets

Last night at dinner we prayed for those who died in the tornadoes here in the South and for their families and loved ones.

Which is when our son asked one of those burning Reformation-era questions: “Can you pray for dead people?”

“I think so,” I said, not blinking—with all deference to the sixteenth-century church reformer, Martin Luther, whose camp I’m in on most things and who was probably turning over in his grave.

“I think so, too,” my husband said between bites of leftover meatloaf.

Sure, Jesus had once issued that weird directive about letting the dead take care of the dead. But that was in the context of a summons to follow Him, when following Him might conflict with familial obligations to care for the dead. (You can check out my post on this weird Jesus saying.) Sitting-around-the-dinner-table prayer, by contrast, didn’t preclude praying for those who have died, I reasoned. Besides, if there really is life beyond the grave, then the state of those who have gone before us matters, especially to their loved ones, not to mention God. And, if Love is stronger than death, then Love doesn’t respect even the seemingly permanent boundaries placed upon Her by death. Come to think of it, as a hospice chaplain I often hear grieving relatives share how they on occasion hear things or catch messages sent from their loved ones even after their loved ones’ death.

So there we were, praying for the dead over our cauliflower cheese and meatloaf, and I, secretly grateful for kids who ask the questions we often don’t think to ask and to which our own answers may surprise us.

 

 



Previous Posts

Mental Health Break—Sprawl II
My favorite band these days is Arcade Fire, and I've featured the Canadian indie rock group before at this intersection between God and life. The lead singer studied Kirkegaard in college and their songs, like this one, are often subtle but brilliant critiques of the least aesthetically pleasing thi

posted 12:58:15pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

I Can't Breathe and the Widow's Cry—A Guest Post
Fellow saint and sinner Saskia de Vries is a neuroscientist in Seattle, Washington and has posted before at this intersection between God and life. She, like so many of us, is grappling with the tragedies of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and the larger systemic problem they seem to reveal—namely,

posted 2:10:09pm Dec. 11, 2014 | read full post »

Advent and Emptiness, Via Louis CK and the Prophet Isaiah
I've been making my way through the book of Isaiah. This morning's reading was from chapter 6, where the prophet Isaiah receives his call to go to the people of Israel and proclaim God's judgment of a people who have wandered away from God's purposes for them. Isaiah asks how long God's people will

posted 11:45:39am Dec. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Advent Resurrection
It may seem strange to pair Advent with resurrection. Usually resurrection comes more naturally at Easter. But at heart the labor pangs of all creation giving birth to the Christ child are a longing for a new start. Advent is a longing to be born again. Neuroscience now teaches that every minu

posted 2:47:38pm Dec. 04, 2014 | read full post »

Birthday Cred—Ecclesiastes Via David Foster Wallace
Today I'm still (barely) on the left side of 40, and bea

posted 11:01:03am Dec. 01, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.