Our Security in Eternal Spirit

by Rev. Ellie Barrington - October 28, 2012 A reflection on 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 and Matthew 7:24-27 Listen to the audio recording

The All Hallows Eve of all Saints Day this week, is the festival for befriending death. Within our culture, we have only this one day in the Fall, and Good Friday, to meet our profoundly neglected human need to face open-eyed into our mortality.

Our scriptures today, both taken from our children’s Joyful Path lesson about true security, assure us that we can face even the losses of death and dying, if we hear with our hearts and open our eyes to see the unseen. Hearing and seeing, with our deeper senses, allows us to experience that vast and timeless perspective, in which we can encounter human decay, and know that death is not the ending. Even amidst the searing loss of a loved one, we can perhaps perceive that glimmer of resurrection light on a far horizon.

Our true sense of security comes with the personal realization that we are spiritual beings on a human journey, so our true self – and theirs – does not just end with the dying. The Spirit in us only expands and evolves, shifts from form and lands again somehow as love. Because we are all made of the same immortal stuff – God’s love.

In our tradition, and for many Christians still today, the proferred promise of security in the face of death, was reunion in a heaven above the clouds. But this was a gated heaven, paired with a firey hell. Cold comfort for most people – an eternity of judgement. Good enough? – or too bad!

Who wouldn’t privately fear that perhaps they were not good enough? And even the most self assured fundamentalist Christian must fear for someone they dearly love, who might not be saved? For most of us today, I suspect, the old Christian house of heaven and hell, has been blown down by the winds of modern time. It is no longer a firm foundation from which to face death.

According to Jesus and Paul and the experience of our own community of living witnesses, a deeper assurance than the old heaven, comes from our human ability to occasionally perceive eternal Spirit – in us, among us, encompassing us all in this life. Our most solid comfort comes from encounters with the love of God, embracing us all. The God of non-judgement who doesn’t even need to forgive. The God that creates and embraces back all that is.

While I was pondering how to say this, the Spirit, via Emily Taylor-King sent me a song by Ron Sexsmith:


God loves everyone

Like a mother loves her son

No strings at all


Never one to judge

Would never hold a grudge

‘Bout what’s been done

God loves everyone


There are no gates in Heaven

Everyone gets in

Queer or straight

Souls of every faith

Hell is in our minds

Hell is in this life

But when it’s gone

God takes everyone


Its love is like a womb

It’s like the air from room to room

It surrounds us all

The living and the dead

May we never lose the thread

That bound us all


The killer in his cell

The atheist as well

The pure of heart

And the wild at heart

Are all worthy of its grace

It’s written in the face

Of everyone

God loves everyone


There’s no need to be saved

No need to be afraid

‘Cause when it’s done

God takes everyone


God loves everyone


This song is dedicated to one of you who came to talk last week about lighting a candle for the ones who die, who might not feel loved or lovable at all.

I planned to share another assurance with you. A story about seeing the unseen, for those with ears to hear it this morning. It comes from a novel I got from the library a few weeks ago: “Falling Together” by Marisa de los Santos. The main character, Pen Galloway, and her brother Jamie, are visiting their mom Margaret at home, a year after after their much loved dad, Ben has died.

Reading from pages 194-7:

A month before he died, Ben Calloway had come home with a contraption – a composter – that he regarded as being “as pretty as any yard sculpture out there” but which his wife Margaret thought looked like a giant blueberry with legs.

Pen was headed, a Tupperware container of vegetable peelings in hand, for what had been her enthusiastic father’s but was now her reluctant mother’s compost tumbler. When she was about ten feet from the garage, the motion-activated floodlight attached to its roof came stunningly to life, and Pen found herself staring at a creature of such astounding gorgeousness that it took her a few seconds to register what it was: an impossible long lean pour of orange with a glorious puffed tail as long as its whole body. A fox.

Pen felt an instinctive jolt of fear, but then the fox turned its head and looked at her, and something happened that she found difficult to describe later, even to herself. It was nothing so simple as looking at the fox and seeing her father. The fox was altogether foxlike and other: precise black nose; extravagantly upright ears; white fur spilling down its front like milk. What regarded Pen through tilted amber eyes was not threatening or alarmed or even particularly wild, but it was surely not Ben Calloway.

However, as Pen and the fox stood with their eyes locked, Pen was suddenly rushed and lifted by the certainty that her father was with her, and this certainty came not only from the fox itself but from the ground under her shoes and the pulse of crickets. The feeling effervesced delicately, the air alive with it. Not with it, with him just as Pen knew him: geekiness, bravery, a reserve that wasn’t so much shyness as a sense of privacy, genuine interest, kindness like an ocean. She felt a prickly along her forearms and down the back of her neck. She felt him everywhere.

Joy was a high-pitched vertiginous singing in Pen’s ears.

“Daddy,” she said and dropped the Tupperware container.

The fox turned and walked into the trees, dragging its tail with the offhand elegance of a duchess dragging her train, and it was over. Pen stood, shaking, in the empty yard. When she could think enough to move, she leaned over and picked up the container. She sat down on the back steps, forehead on fists, and breathed, till her brother Jamie’s voice broke in:

“Are you sick or praying or just weird?”

“Experiencing miracles,” Pen thought about saying. Instead, she shrugged and said, “Taking the stuff from dinner to the composter.”

Pen asked Jamie:

“Since Dad died, do you ever feel like he’s—?”


“I don’t know. Around?”

“You mean like a ghost? Tapping on a tabletop, Ouija board kind of thing?”

Pen recognized Jamie’s sarcasm for the wariness it was. Being at this house put Jamie on guard against sudden plunges into grief. She considered giving up and going inside, but who was there to talk to about this, apart from Jamie? So Pen continued:

“Sort of. I mean do you ever feel him with you. With you, with you. Not just like a memory.”

To Pen’s surprise, Jamie didn’t immediately shoot back a mocking response.

“His voice wakes me up sometimes,” said Jamie at last. “It doesn’t seem like a dream. And I can call it back up for hours, his voice saying whatever he said to me. Sometimes, after it happens, I can hear him all day.”

Oh, Jamie, Pen felt. “What does he say?”

Nothing profound,” said Jamie, “no insights from the beyond or anything. Mostly stuff he said to me when I was a kid.”

Pen smiled. “He was here just now,” she said tentatively. “It felt like it anyway. There was a fox in the backyard, and it looked me right in the eye, and then Dad was just—here.”

“Dad was a fox?”

“No, and I didn’t see him or hear him, but I felt him all around me. That’s never happened before.”

She waited for him to make fun of her, but, after a moment Jamie said, “Nice,” and then, “Lucky.”


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