All Saints Day
This Sunday, we will celebrate All Saints Day. The celebration of All Saints dates back to 373 AD and has been celebrated on November 1 since the early 700s AD. On All Saints, we remember all persons who have died in Christ and uniquely we recall the sacred memory of those of our congregation who have passed away since last year’s observance. The term “saint” is not narrowly defined by a person’s behavior; rather, it calls to mind the grace and power made real through a person’s life. Naturally, for those who have lost a loved one or dear friend in the past year, this can be a tender worship service. Our prayer is that our celebration is cathartic and helps to completely (as far as it depends upon us) turn our loved one’s well-being over to the hands of God who loves them. It is to hear their name read and remember that in Christ they live on.
While some grieve death as the final and definitive exclamation point on existence, the Holy Spirit bears witness to eternal life in our current lives and points to life after death. The apostle Paul describes the Holy Spirit’s work as a down payment or “lay-a-way” type deposit on God’s full gift which greets us in holy dying. Christians face mortal death knowing the God who has walked with them so far will not be abandoned in our greatest hour of need. We are not smug nor calloused about the real pain we experience at the loss of our loved one. While acknowledging human loss, we witness to our faith in Jesus Christ that Jesus has indeed “gone to prepare a place for you.” They are not gone; rather, those who have finished their race in faith now rest from their labors and surround us as a cloud of witnesses… in other words they now are the fans in the stands of our living (Hebrews 12:1-2).
One theological point I wish to share with you: this Sunday, we will also celebrate Holy Communion. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is the gathering of all saints of all time at the table of our Lord. It is an accepted part of our tradition that at Communion we feast with Jesus, the people around us and the Saints… i.e. we join even our loved ones who have passed away at the Lord’s table.
May All Saints’ Day this year lead us to a more holy living now, so that as our eyes grow dim in this life, we may have eyes opened to the reality of what is next.
Chris Yost [email protected]