This Sunday, October 30 we will celebrate All Saints’ Day as part of worship. It is an annual occasion to remember all those who gone before us in death. And saying that we “celebrate” such a thing might seem strange. And in some ways, it is. We miss those who have passed away and our lives are simply not the same with them gone.
But we also remember that upon their death, they were welcomed into the place that had been prepared for them by God our Father.
And so, strange as it may seem, we do celebrate. Because we remember a life well lived and a life that is now in a better place.
And it’s okay if that still feels a little strange.
All Saints’ Day was first established by the earliest believers to mark the anniversary of the death of a believer who was martyred. 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.
When we talk about saints, we aren’t talking about a select few who somehow journeyed through life without being affected by this world or who somehow became better than everyone else, but we are talking about people just like you and me, rather ordinary people who strived to live faithfully in the circumstances before them.
And so, as we celebrate All Saints’ Day, we remind ourselves of 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’re 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.