For my All Saints’ sermon this Sunday, I was captivated by some reflections on the word ‘haunted’. Then I got to wondering how the characters in the gospel reading (the story of the raising of Lazarus) might have experienced being ‘haunted’.

Let there be dark! The days grow shorter and the darkness grows. This is the time, the season when we might dare to face that which haunts us.

First a reflection on the word ‘haunted’, then an imagination of how the characters in the gospel story might experience haunting – and how we might also experience haunting – for this is also our story.

Haunted is a word that describes something alongside that is unresolved, shadowy – a presence that is not quite a presence. It is something about longing, wanting, of not yet .. of not finding a home in this world or in the next. Haunted is someone or something that walks the halls of our house or our mind looking for what will help to lay its own self to rest.

Like the spirits and half-beings we imitate at Halloween, we roam the streets as if looking for a place on this earth we are unable to locate, .. wondering if there really will ever be a new heaven and a new earth.

We cease to be haunted and hurt when we stop being afraid of making what has been untouchable, real: especially our understandings of the past; and especially those we wronged, those we were wronged by, or those we did not help. We become real by forgiving ourselves and we forgive ourselves by changing the pattern, and especially by changing our present behaviour to those we have hurt. And we can be saved.

We stop being afraid when we give away what was never ours in the first place and begin to be present to our own lives just as we find them. Even as we look into the darkness, facing what we have banished from our thoughts and made homeless, we can be saved. Even when we do not know how to respond to the call ‘ Come out!’ we can be saved. When we make a friend of what we previously could not face, what once hurt and haunted us now becomes an invisible, parallel ally, a beckoning hand to our future. We are in good company. Then, maybe we can wake into our lives again, as if for the first time.

Now, stepping into the gospel story …

I am Mary. My brother is dead. I am haunted by my grief. My eyes are sore, I have cried so much. Why does everything bad seem to happen to us? Lazarus was only a child when our parents died. Martha and I brought him up ourselves. Becoming orphans was hard enough, but the loss of a brother feels harder. Who will wipe away my tears?

I am Martha, the practical one. I am haunted by what I could not do. I am the one who, with Mary, brought up my brother. I nursed him in his last illness. I made all the arrangements for his burial. I didn’t cry like my sister, though my grief is still real. I did not do enough to save him.

I am Lazarus. They tell me I was dead. I am haunted by the memory, like a bad dream, of the shadowy cave and the piercing light beyond the cool stone. I was scared. Hands came and untied the strips around me. They say I should rejoice that life has begun again for me.  But I want to go back into the comforting darkness. I am afraid of living.

I am Jesus. Mary, Martha, Lazarus are my friends. Their home became a place where I felt safe, where I could truly be myself. I am haunted by the voice that calls me beloved and that I heard even in the darkness of the water when John pulled me up into the light of day, that day of my baptism. What I did today, for Lazarus, shocked, amazed, angered, revealed. Life will never be the same again for Lazarus, for Martha, for Mary and for me. Am I truly beloved? I took the risk to keep on giving, to keep on loving.

Let there be dark! All Saints Day is a precious time to remember who the saints are – that they are those who show us how to face the darkness and not to be overcome by it. All Saints’ Day is a precious time which beckons us to face the darkness, to attend to our haunting and our restlessness, – our fear, our grief, our powerlessness, our capacity to let go and love, and find even in the shadows of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams, find even there a blessing and a way to take the next step of faith. (Jan Richardson).

based on reflection by David Whyte From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte:

and Fire and Bread reflections © Ruth Burgess 2006, p 54-58

Cobweb in Claydon churchyard

Cobweb in Claydon churchyard