Service for the departed: heartfelt remembrance without prejudice
“Prejudice” by definition is a preconceived opinion. More often than not it is disparaging, stigmatizing, or discriminating. Prejudices tend to have negative character and are, mostly, unreflected. And yet everybody has them, these treasures that are buried in the dim recesses of our feelings.
Imagine the following scene. A woman walks into a coffee shop, orders a cup of coffee, and sits down at a free table. She gets up again to get herself some sugar from the counter. As she turns around to go back to her table she notices that a man is sitting at her table, drinking her coffee. A thousand thoughts shoot into her head in the fraction of a second: he is a thief, a homeless person, who is after her bag and money; that is all they ever want anyway; what has this world come to; honest people are a thing of the past … The woman approaches a waitress and asks for assistance. The waitress points out that the man is not sitting at the woman’s table, but at a neighbouring table. The woman’s cup and bag are still sitting there, untouched. Everything is as she left it. Tables in restaurants simply often look a lot alike.
Prejudices are thoughtless, unreflected, and unfair
Of course you can make a mistake. No problem. But what is happening inside ourselves? Fears and bad thoughts and feelings come up. Reality looks different. Prejudices are preconceived ideas that are not based on reason or knowledge. They are thoughtless, unreflected, and unfair.
Tomorrow, 3 July 2016, New Apostolic Christians around the world will celebrate a divine service for the departed. Inner reflection, emotions, memories are the sentiments that carry us through this day. How often does it not happen in this context that human attitudes are transferred into a world that we do not know, that we cannot really begin to assess or even understand. And yet we want to reach it. The New Apostolic teaching says that God’s offer of salvation is addressed to all of mankind—here on earth and in the beyond.
Intercessions by the congregation
The liturgy this coming Sunday will be expanded by an essential element: a special prayer of intercession that will be spoken in all congregations. This prayer is to express gratitude that even the unredeemed in the beyond can receive grace and salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus; that by partaking in the sacraments the souls in the beyond can enter into fellowship with Jesus Christ and His church, and be strengthened in this fellowship; and that access to the kingdom of God and eternal life is also open for them. At the same time, special intercession is made for unredeemed souls that they may receive the strength to turn to the Lord in trust and humbleness, and not allow anything to deter them from this; that they may feel a longing for the mercy of God and the sacraments; and that God may grant them all His love and care.
This is something a congregation has to first of all do. Not so easy! To find a way out of normal behavioural patterns and extend love and compassion to our neighbour is not everybody’s thing. But this is important if our prayers are to achieve the desired effect.
Authenticity is a safeguard against prejudice
Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider, who will be conducting the divine service for the departed in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) on 3 July, turns his attention to our day-to-day lives. In a circular, he writes to the Apostles around the world that the congregation that wants to intercede for the departed needs to get over everyday problems and maybe even their own idleness. He says that empathy and compassion require effort. He also mentions prejudices: “Remember, we are not credible if we intercede for certain departed souls, but at the same time condemn the living who are in a similar situation.”
Divine service for the departed—a day of heartfelt and genuine commemoration, of help and intercession, and active Christian love. No prejudices, please!