This Sunday, October 29, we will celebrate All Saints’ Day as part of worship. The truth is, sometimes we don’t know what to do with death. When someone we know loses a loved one, we don’t know what to say. When we lose someone precious to us, we don’t know how to ask for what we need.
But the early Christians, from whom we inherited the tradition of All Saints’ Day, were more comfortable with death, because it was a constant reality. Specifically, martyrdom, as they were persecuted for their belief in Jesus. Whenever a faithful member of the church died, the living would gather in the place they had died, or near where they were buried, to remember their faith.
But over the years, as the number of martyrs grew, it became impossible to remember each person individually, and so by 835 CE All Saints’ Day was established as a single day, each year, to remember the saints, those known and those unknown.
Remembering the saints was an important act. The early Christians knew that their faith didn’t come out of nowhere; it was their inheritance passed on to them by those who had come before.
Maybe, part of the reason, we have such a hard time with death is that we are too quick to forget those who came before us.
And so, as we celebrate All Saints’ Day, we remind ourselves of the inheritance of faith we have received. We remember those who have gone before us, who have shown us the faithful path to follow, and who now surround us as part of the great cloud of witnesses. It is a time to rejoice in all who, through the ages, have faithfully served the Lord and who now find themselves in the place prepared for them by God our Father.
But it’s not just about those who have gone before, All Saints’ Day is about us too. As the Apostles’ Creed confesses, we belong to “the communion of saints.” It is a reminder that we too are part of one continuing, living communion of saints. And so, we too are called to faithfully follow Christ in the places we find ourselves today. And when we aren’t sure what that looks like, we remember that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have shown us the way.
Above all, on All Saints’ Day, we are reminded that God was with the faithful of the past, and so, we are reassured that God is with us today, moving us and all creation towards God’s end in time.
We will celebrate All Saints’ Day by reading the names of members of our church family who have passed away in the last year, along with any other names of those who have gone before us. If you have a name you would like read, just reply to this email to make sure it is included.
Grace and peace,