Thursday, July 26, 2012

No outsiders --easy to think it, easy to say it...

I have a funeral --maybe a wake tonight.... I don't know which because the young man that died had been adopted off the Reservation at a young age, was placed with a Mormon family, and he took on the faith of his adoptive family, so he will be buried a Mormon. However, the Mormon elder here --is out of town, and can't be reached, which means I may be doing the funeral tomorrow... maybe not... In any event, his mother is Episcopalian and is hopeful that I will do a funeral mass tonight for the benefit of her side of the family.

I was hesitant, because technically (BCP rubrics) state that I must do a funeral with a closed casket --and I know the wake here is always done with an open casket --but his casket will be closed. He drowned. And was not found for many days....

And I am hesitant still, having been deeply offended on more than one occasion at the missionary techniques and attitudes and belief systems of certain Mormons... in my own living room. (Deeply offended is putting it nicely... what they said about women in general and me as a woman and my dead babies such that I would leave the room, leave them with my beloved who is so much better at dealing with those who knock on the door wanting to talk about God.)

And so, in my prayers today, I pray for the family and relatives, and the repose of his soul. And I pray for guidance through the morass of inter-faith funeral rites, knowing my care and concern of the family comes before any thing else... and, yes, I say inter-faith because Mormons are not Trinitarians, and are not, therefore, Christians in any Traditional sense.... --they do not hold the fundamentals such as Incarnation and Resurrection in any Traditional sense... nor even Baptism. And compound that with a family with Episcopalian roots, tethered with Lakota spirituality and ceremonies, and Mormonism held in hand.... It's going to be an interesting funeral.

And, that got me thinking about where I am --in all of this.... When D and Joel and Deacon and I visited the church where Deacon was brought up --up on Standing Rock Reservation, Deacon was talking about how the vestibule was used to hold the coffin during the wake, because an open coffin would not be brought in to the church.... And I remembered how I used to do that too --when requested, putting the open coffin in the narthex (front hall) of the church, and when it came time, closing the coffin and processing in with it for the funeral. I would not allow an open coffin in the sanctuary in front of the altar....

And now --not even sure how it happened that I didn't even think of it --now, it seems perfectly natural to place the open coffin right in front of the altar for the overnight wake... Joel and I were talking about it --I said, I don't know, but it seems right and good --it's the final offering.... And Joel said, yeah, I know... and it's like God says, oh, there you are --oh-huhn... can't even repent now can you... here, you are mine, and always have been... I've taken care of it.... And we can let bodies lay around in parish halls, funeral homes, capitol rotundas in governmental buildings --and it is only God who can breathe the new and unexpected life in to the bag of bones....

Yeah. The final and perfect offering.... In front of the altar. And I wonder how we made up not putting an open coffin before the altar.... Where did that come from...? --was it the idea of not polluting a sacred space? --well, there is nothing quite like a corpse to put us in mind of God... it is a perfect offering... there is nothing we can do....

At prayer this morning (Romans 15:1-13)

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;

and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;

and again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;

and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Yeah... Thank you Paul. I do not have to be 'right' --only faithful, and welcome all as my long-lost sisters and brothers, and be a servant to all in order that 'outsiders' (read Gentile) might also glorify God.... Because in God, there are no 'outsiders.' And that is my hope... my great hope.

For me, easy to think it, easy to say it... we'll see tonight and tomorrow how easy it will be to do it...

No outsiders. Amen.

15 comments:

Sagewoman said...

I love that - "final offering". Yes. That feels very right. Thank you, Margaret.

motheramelia said...

Margaret, it is not that unusual to have the coffin open in front of the altar, especially if there is a vigil and then to close it and drape it just before the burial service starts. So many states have rules that an open coffin may not be left unattended and the funeral homes make more money if they move it in and out of the church. When Charles Taylor's wife Fay died at All Souls', Berkeley they had a vigil the night before with open coffin before the altar. Children were especially welcome. A couple of the children were overheard talking "I wonder where she is? " asked one. A second replied, "She's not in St. Louis." Anyway, it was a good teaching moment for all involved.

kishnevi said...

Speaking as a non Christian, Mormon ducks quack enough and walk enough like generic Christian ducks to be put in the same part of the pond as Christian ducks. A rather outre form of Christianity, but--well, they're not Buddhist, that's for sure!

Ann said...

At Wind River we had open coffin except during the service - then re-opened it at the graveside for final goodbyes. It is what they had worked out over the years. Wake, church, burial, feast and giveaway -- days of mourning. and it was good. -- Except the$$ expense of it all. Everyone helped out so it was doable but I always wondered if there was another way - but not my business to question. One woman dared to have a cremation for her mother - now I think it is more common but it was shocking at the time and the subject of much tut-tutting. She made the urn herself - she was a potter -- it was lovely. These experiences are good to make me stop and think "why do we have this rule"?? Thanks for meditating on this this morning.

Ann said...

thanks

susan s. said...

Prayers you and for the family, and for the repose of the souls of all the dead. It can not be said too many times, I think.

it's margaret said...

motheramelia --it was not ever never ever done where I come from... But, then, I've been Episcopalian all my life too --seen it in other churches, but not this one. So, it gave me pause. --I love that --she's not in St. Louis!!!

kishnevi --yeppa, they are not Buddhists, not Jews, not Muslim, and they are not Christian --despite all their familiar talk... just sayin'.

Ann --here, to open and close the coffin confuses the spirit of the deceased. When it's closed --that's it.

Thank you susan s.

it's margaret said...

thank you Sagewoman. It helped me, too.

Caminante said...

Prayers for you as you as you negotiate the morass of all these challenges... most of all the offensive visit by the Mormons. The open casket wake reminds me of Naomi's when her youngest sister, age 5 at the time, asked why she was in such a funny bed and when was she going to come home? Not confusing the spirit is a powerful take on opening/shutting/opening the casket lid.

it's margaret said...

Caminante --I read all your comments dear sister --and as to the number of funerals --it is not a weight nor a burden... I feel as though I have waited my whole life to be here...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I understand that the great monastic tradition was to have an all night vigil with an open casket. Of course, if the body was "not suitable for viewing" as it would be in this case, the casket is closed. Common sense has its own theology. We did that at the church I did my seminary field ed in Boston. I continued the tradition - even in the tony suburbs of Northern NJ. and, as I understand it, it continues today.

Important stuff, this business of grieving. We're just there as midwives of life and death.

cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown said...

I do not have to be 'right' --only faithful, and welcome all as my long-lost sisters and brothers, and be a servant to all in order that 'outsiders' (read Gentile) might also glorify God.... Because in God, there are no 'outsiders.' And that is my hope... my great hope.

"γενηθητω το θελημα σου" as we pray in the Lord's Prayer, or "may your wish come true."

cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown said...

hmmmm..... and just noticed this:

The rubrics in the 1979 BCP state:

The coffin is to be closed before the service, and it remains closed thereafter. It is appropriate that it be covered with a pall or other suitable covering.

So according to the rubrics [yeah right! as if anyone pays any attention to the rubrics anymore] it's not an option to have the coffin open for an ECUSA funeral.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Prayers for the young man who died, for his family and for you, dear margaret.

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Open coffin seems to be the custom of Anglicans from the Caribbean. We have many parishioners from Barbados and Antigua, and that is how they do funerals. When rectors don't understand that, they are gently but firmly educated.