This Sunday is known as All Saints Sunday. We honor those who have gone before us and now "rest from their labors". We've been invited to bring a picture of the ones we hold dear, to place on a table at the front of the church as we light candles and remember them.
Recently, like within the past couple of weeks, I have been aware of how many people around me have died (passed on, gone to their reward, whatever euphemism you want to use) and it seems astonishing in number! My future daughter-in-law's father, my brother's brother-in-law, a young man still in his prime, and even an unborn fetus for which I had no name. Members of our community of faith left us also, some who had been members for what seemed like time immemorial. So much loss in one year. I am burdened with these losses. Even if I didn't know these people well, I know the people in their sphere and they are wounded even as they take one day at a time.
Why does the church pick at these wounds each year? Why are we "celebrating" the sadness and loss we experience? Whose idea was this? It appeared to be the very early church's idea to commemorate those who lived in faith before us. As early as 800 A.D., Pope Gregory III in celebrating the dedication of a chapel in St. Peter's in Rome, declared November 1 as the day to remember "all the saints". So it's a tradition. And I guess we can wrinkle our noses at it or even chose not to commemorate it. But I wonder if maybe there could be something more to this festival than just feeling sad and mourning.
The way I look at it, Christians know that life here on earth is not heaven. This is not news even for non-Christians I'm sure. But those of us who believe in a resurrection of the dead are looking for something a little more optimistic than just the ordinary drudge of getting up in the morning and going to sleep at night. There is a promise made to us from Jesus. That those who believe will have eternal life. I don't know what that life will be like or what it will compare to what we have now, but I have a feeling it will be more wonderful than anything we can hope for or imagine here on earth. And because Jesus is the Son of God, I think it's pretty safe to say, he wasn't just feeding us a line. But even more than this is that the people who have gone before us, laid the pathway, guided our steps, shown a light, were a gift while we await that glorious place with God. And I definitely want to celebrate that! So let us remember the ones who went before, even with a tear in our eye possibly, but also with an uplifted heart and a glimmer of hope for the days to come. Amen.