It’s the week we celebrate All Saints Day. I don’t know about you, but for me, All Saints has become a crowded celebration. There are so many dear faces I see when I remember people I love who have died. My parents are always at the front of that parade, followed closely by their parents, three cousins, some dear friends, and a slew of aunts and uncles. And when I think of churches I have served, the list multiplies quickly. Those deaths are bookended by a woman who made 102 and a little girl who had just turned 3. This week a member of Grace, Linda West, was added to that list.
I think of all of these people tenderly, and with thanksgiving. Some of them died after long and full lives, from illnesses that we associate with “old age”. Those are the ones who most easily bring a smile to my face. That 3 year old had brain cancer though, and there have been several suicides of teenagers, some overdoses, and illnesses that seemed so unfair. It can seem odd that we “celebrate” this day.
But we’re not celebrating their deaths; we are giving thanks for their lives and honoring their memory. We are celebrating the ways that they enriched our lives and the way they made a difference in the world. I also believe that we are drawing closer to God, as we trust our loved ones to God’s gracious care. Resurrection is a mystery to us on this side of the veil, but it is a mystery that is lived out in the tender mercy of the Holy One. And I know that God loves my loved ones way more than I ever could.
We will sing hymn #422, “For All the Saints,” in worship this Sunday. The third and fourth verses are some of the most beautiful in Christian hymnody.
Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine,
we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again and arms are strong.
Thanks be to God for all the saints in your life who have gone before you. Alleluia!
Grace and peace,