Have you heard from your loved ones who have died? They have “full access to happenings on earth”, Gareth Atkins states, unambiguously, in his book Making and Remaking Saints in Nineteenth-Century Britain.
Who is he referring to and what are they doing with their access? The following excerpt is from the book Creed, by Adam Hamilton, the pastor of a large Methodist church. He explains how this idea syncs up with basic Christian beliefs.
The Communion of Saints
The apostle’s creed (central to Christian belief) speaks of the communion of saints. It is important to realize that the “saints” in the New Testament were not those who had been canonized by the church after death; rather, this was (the apostle) Paul ‘s preferred way of referring to all Christians. He addressed many of his letters either to “the saints” or “to those who are called to be saints.”
There’s one last thing to note about the phrase “communion of saints”. It involves the word communion and is one of the most beautiful ideas in Christian theology. The idea is that those who are becoming saints here on earth, and those who are saints in heaven (link post on heaven), still commune together.
I think our loved ones who have died continue to love and care for us and await the day when we will be reunited. I think they do pray for us. While protestants don’t pray to saints, they can pray for them, and I believe we can ask God to share with them what is in our hearts.
I believe the communion of saints means that there are moments in our lives here on earth when God says to those dear to us in heaven, “I want you to see something,“ and allows them to join us from above. I can’t prove it by quoting a chapter and verse in the Bible, but when I think of the communion of saints, this is one example of what I think that looks like.
Rev. Hamilton goes on to describe what has become a common practice at weddings in which a candle is lit in honor of a deceased close friend or relative.
Sometimes a memorial table is set up with photos and mementoes representing the inclusion of the deceased in the happy occasion. But do our deceased loved ones visit us on earth in special circumstances, as Hamilton and Atkins suggest?
Love Permeates the Curtain Between Life and Afterlife
Messages from heaven are real for those who receive them. However, this is a personal gift which is not perceived by people around them.
The Love of Fathers and Daughters
During an outdoor wedding, my friend Sophia, noticed a robin alight on a wall adjacent to the ceremony. The bird remained there until completion of the wedding; its attention fixed on all that was happening. Because it was odd behavior for a bird, Sophia wondered if someone close to the wedding party had recently died and was able to find out later that the bride’s father had just passed on…. someone who would definitely want to be there to see his little girl wed.
(This brings up a question about how God uses animals, which I’ll address in a future post.)
My friend, Jan, is an organist. She played for a wedding in which the bride’s father was to walk his daughter down the aisle. Unfortunately, he inopportunely passed away and his brother performed the honors. But during the rehearsal, Jan witnessed a diaphanous white vapor following close behind the bride and her uncle as they processed up the aisle. It was the bride’s mother who made the identification when she mentioned that she felt a strong presence of her deceased husband during the practice. He didn’t want to entirely miss giving his daughter away.
Family Love Overcomes Death’s Division
God’s great love for “the communion of saints” allows the love of the earthly saints and the heavenly saints to continue to be exchanged. This is a common occurrence, which I also have experienced with both of my parents and my grandmother, soon after their earthly departure. Although, I had never told them, upon reaching heaven, my family knew what my concerns were and gave me the verifications that would relieve my mind. Based on their messages there can be no doubt that they were the source.
When Other People are the Conveyors of Love Messages
Not everyone, however, receives these messages via the ‘still small voice’ of the Holy Spirit, or their family members. Because He is all-loving and all-knowing, sometimes God uses methods of communication that are more vocal; that are more appropriate and effective for the person and situation. Sometimes He uses other people. This was the case with Lucy.
In December of 2015, Lucy’s mother died at her home in Austria. Lucy lives in the US, and made regular trips to see her mother, but she wasn’t there at the time of her mother’s passing. Rationally, she knew that the chances of her being in Austria when her mother died were unlikely, but she still regretted her own absence. To help bridge the gap after her death, Lucy would sometimes smell a lock of her mother’s hair so that she would feel closer to her.
A couple of months after her mother’s passing, Lucy was invited by a friend to attend an annual fashion show at which representatives of various clothing lines and beauty products would be available for consultation. Now, Lucy is a very busy lady and had declined her friend’s invitation for several years. But this time her friend insisted that she take a little time to have some fun and accompany her to the event. Lucy did not immediately accept but told herself that, if she found purple shoes to match a particular outfit that she wanted to wear, she would consider going. “What are the chances of that?” she thought.
However, five days before the show she was passing a local shoe store and thought she should at least make an effort, so she walked in. As soon as she was inside the door, she spotted purple shoes on the clearance rack in the back of the store. They were her size and the required shade of purple. Astounded, she made the purchase and was out of the store within minutes, now committed to attend the event.
During the show, Lucy felt urged to meet a man who was representing cosmetics. Having enjoyed the show and finishing lunch, she approached him on the pretense of making a small purchase. After the initial greeting, his first question to her was not about cosmetics but was “Did your mother recently pass away?” When she replied that she had, he grabbed her arm and said “I want you to know that she is right here with you” at which point he described Lucy’s mother. The man then said “She wants you to know that it is OK and she understands that you couldn’t come to Austria when she was dying. Don’t fret anymore.” He then told her how she, Lucy, smelled her mother’s hair on a regular basis.
Afterward, Lucy told her friend that she now knew why she had to come to the fashion show.
Biblical Reference to the Saints Among Us
Adam Hamilton rounds out his thoughts on deceased saints with these words:
in chapter 11 of the new testament letter to the Hebrews, the author describes the heroes and heroines of faith that came before his time, mentioning, among them, the patriarchs and matriarchs of ancient Israel. He begins the new chapter by writing “therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1-2)”
As heaven is more wonderful than we can imagine, it is not surprising that our deceased loved ones are given the opportunity to occasionally observe the joyous events in the lives of their earthly family and give comfort, care, and messages.
Rev. Katie Shockley explains further our continuous close proximity with other saints.
When we gather in worship, we praise God with believers we cannot see. When we celebrate Holy Communion, we feast with past, present and future disciples of Christ. We experience the communion of saints, the community of believers –– living and dead. This faith community stretches beyond space and time. We commune with Christians around the world, believers who came before us, and believers who will come after us. We believe that the church is the communion of saints, and as a believer, you belong to the communion of saints.
Creed by Adam Hamilton
Atkins, Gareth (1 August 2016). Making and Remaking Saints in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Manchester University Press. p. 227. ISBN 9781526100238. In the other direction, he was willing to state unambiguously that the ‘saints in paradise’ had full access to happenings on earth.