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He maketh me to lie down in green pastures

by davesandel on November 2nd, 2021

Tuesday, November 2, 2021                          (today’s lectionary)

All Souls Day/Day of the Dead/Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed

 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

I imagine my grandfather, or my grandmother, my Aunt Mary or my dad praying for me. Our family and friends who have died, I think, have the power to intercede for us.

This has not been the focus of All Souls Day, which disposes us to pray for them, as they might be languishing in a purgative place ahead of heaven. Martin Luther railed against the pope’s indulgences in 1517, which purported to relieve poor lost souls from 250,000 years, more or less, in purgatory.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, you make me lie down in green pastures, you walk with me beside still water, you restore my soul.

I hesitate to ask these ones I love about heaven, and I wonder why that is. Maybe I should try it. Aunt Mary, tell me what you do all day

I hope around and skip, and feel like a lightweight kid again. Aunt Mary was 6’3” and big boned, and later in her life she couldn’t pick herself up anymore. There is lots to do, but we don’t count days anymore. You’ll get used to eternity, after you decide to get used to it.

Hmmm. I read a short kid’s book this afternoon, Cubbie Blue and His Dog Dot.

In the mists of Cylon, the oldest Antarctic iceberg, was the enchanted land of Baltar, with diamond-faceted ice stalactites and stalagmites that twinkled in any light. The sky-blue–skinned Baltarians were always happy, doing cartwheels as they walked and giggling when they talked. They were only a few inches tall but big in knowledge. Their knowledge came mostly from supernatural powers inside them that were so strong they never had to say what they felt since others could sense their feelings intuitively. Nor did they need cars, since their minds moved them wherever they wanted to go. They didn’t need telephones either, because they stayed in touch telepathically.

Is this what heaven is like? But no, the Baltarians had to protect themselves from their neighbors, who sound disturbingly like us earthlings.

The inhabitants of nearby Aryon were very different. Almost always unhappy, they waited for Baltarians to leave so they could capture them. They wanted to get rid of Baltarian laughter, although secretly they wanted to know what caused it so they, too, could be happy. The Baltarians, who knew what the Aryons were up to, had built a special shield   around their land. Anyone or anything that came within miles of Baltar’s protective shield was engulfed in light twisters and spun around.

Grandpa, you’ve been up there since 1963. We had a good time when I was little, you pushed me around in a cool little stroller, and we slurped tea Grandma made from saucers at three in the afternoon. Do you pray for me sometimes?

Yes, I pray for you, but I don’t think of you as a little boy. I think of you the way the Holy Spirit lights you up from the inside. What did you quote from T. S. Eliot? “The fire and the rose are one.” Sweet. You light up my life, David. And I fire yours up too with prayers and affections so together we can skip the light fantastic.

Grandpa loved words, like I do. He read Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb to his daughters Angie and Mary Lou when he came in from doing his farm chores. He wore his bib overalls most of the time, except to church. When they moved to town he didn’t have a job, but Grandma worked at the garment factory. He had two strokes and then spent three years in bed before he died the same year that Marilyn Monroe died. Grandma took care of him. I don’t remember him, except in that bed, but I know how much I love him. How much he loves me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, and my cup runs over.

Grandma didn’t die till twenty years later.  She’s like Mom, who has lived 19 years longer than our dad. Do you still have a green thumb, Grandma? Do you spend a lot of time outside?

This new world takes a little getting used to. We all say that. The cycle of birth and growth and maturity and death happens here too, but it’s outside time. Can all that eternal life be happening all at once, not just in me but in the rhododendrons? I wouldn’t have thought so, but it does.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Dad farmed his heart out and milked cows every morning and evening for twenty of those farming years. He also changed shirts in the evening and read to us from Little Visits with God. He played pinochle sometimes on Friday night with a few old friends. After he sold the holsteins, he and Mom square danced on Wednesday nights except during Lent and Advent, when they went to church. He woke up early, even on vacations, which we took in August every year to the Ozarks or Michigan or the East Coast, after his brother Merlie moved out there. For ten years he and I took a short trip somewhere in the fall, just to have some time together.

I don’t know what to ask you, Dad. Thanks for leading our family and getting to really love Jesus when you got older.

I never said much, don’t say much now. But it’s easier than ever for me to smile, and laugh, and even skip up and down the road, like Mary said. I watch you from up here, and pray for you just like we all pray here, without desperation. You are safe in the arms of Jesus. You and all the souls on earth are always safe in the arms of Jesus. We put ourselves in the hands of God, and there we stay. He isn’t going anywhere.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.

(Wisdom 3, Psalm 23, Romans 6, Matthew 25, John 6)

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