All Saints’ Day, year B, 2015 (preached 11/1/15)
first reading: Isaiah 25:6-9
second reading: Revelation 21:1-6a
gospel reading: John 11:32-44
One of the things I love about the Bible is that it meets us where we are. The Bible is filled with stories of REAL people, confronting the realities of life and faith.
Take today for example. Our readings today are FILLED with tears, sadness, and mourning. They are perfect readings for the festival we celebrate today – All Saints’ Day.
This is a day when we are called to remember the Communion of Saints – our bond through Holy Baptism with those who have died in faith, and those of us who still live in faith.
Most of the time we use this day to remember those who have died. Again, the Bible, and our faith, meets us where we are. There is NO expectation of us never experiencing pain or sorrow. NO expectation that we be able to “rise above” those basic human emotions.
And God even VALIDATES our pain and grief when Jesus weeps over the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus weeping at the grave of his friend tells us VOLUMES about the love of God us US, and who God meets us where we are.
That being said, All Saints’ Day isn’t just about grieving our dead. It isn’t just about keeping them alive in our memories and in the work of the Church now. All Saints’ Day celebrates the WHOLE “Communion of Saints.” The communion we confess every time we say the creeds.
The Communion of Saints is the spiritual union of the members of the Body of Christ, living and dead, those on earth and those in heaven.
With this in mind, I’d like to do something a little out of the ordinary today. I want us to remember those who have died in the faith, as we usually do, but I also want us to honor those who are with us in the here and now. I want us to remember and honor those who have impacted our faith, who have made us stronger in faith and been an example to us.
And I also want us to pray for the Church that is beyond us, in a time we’ll never see – those future generations who too will be a part of this mysterious union in Christ.
I’ll go first, and then I’d like to ask all of you about the people in YOUR life and faith journey you’d like to remember and honor today.
I honor the person who played the “human” part in bringing me to faith – Nancy. She started out as my babysitter, but became so much more. She invited me to help her out at her congregation’s Vacation Bible School and the rest is history.
I honor and remember the folks in my home congregation, where I learned and began to live the faith, some still with us, others with the saints in heaven: Pastor David and Sandra, Nana, Shirley, Susan and Lori – folks who not only talked and sang about God’s grace, but showed it to me when I was an awkward and lonely teenager.
I honor Violet, who I met in seminary, who helped me pass Greek, and has become an example to me of fierce yet gentle strength, as she has braved serious chronic illness AND now leads a ministry to the homeless on the streets of Philadelphia.
[***at this point I had the congregation share some people that have been important to them… they included parents, great-grandparents and pastors among others.]
Thank you for sharing. It’s good for us to remember and give honor to the people who have shaped us in the faith.
With our memories of past and present saints right before us, I also want to take the time to think about the Church “to come.” We are as much a part of them, as the folks we just mentioned are a part of us. It’s our job, our call, to make sure there is a Church for them.
For while we shouldn’t flatter ourselves that the survival of the Church is dependent on us (it’s up to GOD), we DO have a role to play in being good stewards of the things of faith to which we’ve been entrusted.
So let us pray:
Lord God, we thank you for the Church. We thank you for the bond we have through Holy Baptism with Christians everywhere, both living and dead, even those yet to be born. We hold them in blessed memory, we give them honor, and we pray for their welfare. And we pray that all of us together, as the Communion of Saints – past, present, and those in the future – may share your love and salvation, now and forever.