I love All Saints Day. It is, hands down, one of my favorite festivals in our liturgical calendar, right up there with Christmas and Easter. This year was no different: from the return of our brilliant white and gold worship paraments after their long hiatus, to the beautiful sounds of Masterworks musicians as they enriched our worship with pieces by W.A Mozart, Andrew Miller, Morten Lauridsen, and Gerald Finzi, it was a great day to be in church.
We come together on All Saints Day to remember those who have gone before us in faith: the great and well-known heroes of church and society, yes; but also, and just as importantly, those family members and friends who have gone before us in faith, touched our lives, and left an indelible imprint on our very being.
I am always presented with opportunities to remember my grandparents: I can’t smell a pot roast without thinking about Grandma and I can’t see a John Deere tractor without thinking about days spent mowing grass with Grandpa. They are such an important part of who I am and who I aspire to be that I don’t need a festival or an occasion to remember them. I just do.
All Saints Day is different. On All Saints Day, we remember our loved ones in a special and unique way. We remember that, even though they have died and are no longer with us, they have not left us completely and they have not left us forever. This is particularly poignant in the imagery of the hymns typically sung on All Saints Day, which paint a wonderful image of Christian believers from all of time and history (the saints who have died in faith) united with the church on earth (us, the saints gathered in worship in 2019) together singing the praises of the God who is always all about bringing new life out of death.
The images from the book of Revelation paint spectacular pictures of this unity across time and space:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. (Revelation 21:3-6)
I think this is a big part of why I love All Saints Day so much. It serves as a real reminder in our increasingly individualized society that ultimately we are all in this together. We are together as the gathered saints of God at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. We are together with all of our various Mission Partners. We are together with ELCA congregations across the country and in the Lutheran World Federation abroad. We are together with the other 2.7 billion Christian saints throughout the world. And yes, we are together with all of the faithful who have died and entered eternal rest.
So, who do you remember this week? Who is it that you wish you could see and touch just one more time? On this week after All Saints Day, take heart! In Christ, our loved ones continue to be with us today as fellow members of the Body of Christ, singing their praises with the heavenly host. And in Christ, we will be reunited with all the Saints on the last day because death does not have the final say.
For all the saints past, present, and future, thanks be to God.
Garth Englund, Pastoral Intern