In the church calendar, All Saints Day stands alone as a festival recognition of those who have gone before us and the theological hope we have. Today, having remembered each one at the time of death, we look forward with hope to their eternal lives in the presence of God. On this day, we too, remember that will one day we will be named and listed in remembrance. That this one wild and precious life is before us now to live fully as a child of God.
We began reading through the book of Genesis in June. Today, we heard of Esau and Jacob, who fought and feuded, whose sibling rivalry was epic came together to bury their father. Their father who had adored one and been bamboozled by the other. Talk about complex family dynamics at that funeral. But the brothers came together to bury their father with honesty about the past and hope for the future.
Revelation gives us an incredible image of the fullness of God’s kingdom. Multitudes in worship. You can hear and see from John’s descriptions. The vision in Revelation describes each and every on in newly washed clothes. We see the glint and we feel the freshness. It is like the moment when you take a fresh shirt out of the dryer and put in on warm. Our loved ones, those we remember, washed before the King of King and Lord of Lords. Washed of blind spots and prejudice. Made clean and glistening in the presence of Jesus.
Each of foibles and failings cleaned and presented complete before the Lord. The hurtful grudges that your mother held against those who were different from her washed clean in Jesus. The painful bigotry of your grandfather washed clean in Jesus. The struggles with addictions washed clean in Jesus. The best versions of our loved ones present in the very presence of the God of all.
The vision of heaven is not just personal healing and wholeness, but healing and wholeness for the whole body of Christ in systematic ways. Tears wiped from eyes, not merely because we are reunited, but because we no longer have the hungry and the needy. We no longer know some as subservient and others as exalted.
Martha Greene, local Presbyterian pastor says it this way: “The redeemed are so numerous they cannot be counted. Who is among them? There is Steven who was stoned and St. Peter who was crucified. There is Oscar Romero with the eucharistic prayer of thanksgiving still issuing from his mouth; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, triumphant over the Nazi gallows; Martin Luther King Jr. still praying that his dream will come true for humanity; Sudanese Christian boys gunned down in their villages by Muslim fanatics. And hospital workers in Pakistan–their robes are the most freshly washed. We see a procession of the faithful lined up in historical order, or maybe not, because order does not matter in the heavenly realm. Will those of whom we know nothing, whose tribulations are private, will they not also be in the great multitude?1 ”
This year, we remember husbands and wives, finances, and friends. We remember sisters and brothers, aunts, and uncles. We remember cousins and parents. We remember children and our church family. We remember those who were in every part of our daily life and those we gathered with at the Thanksgiving table. We remember those we were proud as punch proud of, and we as those we loved in spite of their life challenges.
Calling these beloved of God saints changes our perspective. In the most traditional definition of saint, they offer us wisdom and learning from their lived lives. From the ways in which they lived, we benefit not only in relationship, but in learning. This posture of learning requires something different from us. We like a culture that assumes we know everything that we need to know, and others have nothing to teach us. To imagine that we can learn something from the saints around us, is to be countercultural. It is an openness that God might be working through each and every one of us.
Sometimes, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. We see our parents as we look in the mirror. We recognize their phrases slip through our lips. We feel the impact of their way of living in the choices we make. We can name the kindness of our brother and the devotion of our mother. We can name the joy of life from our sister and the service of our father. We are moved by the faith of our grandfather and the care of our aunt.
Other times, the foibles get caught blocking our vision and we missed in real time where God moved in their life. We only remember how they disappointed us and not how they lived commitment to work and family side by side. We only remember how short their temper was, and not how open their heart was to love.
On all saints, we remember that God’s time is not the same as time tracked on a wall or phone. Our linear time and space cannot contain the vastness of God. The kingdom of God is breaking into our world all the time. The kingdom is both here and not yet. God kingdom is shown to us every day, if only we had eyes to see it.
We see it in faith of a woman who fought against the disease that ravaged her body. We see it in the hope that a man held onto to keep cooking in the kitchen even when his body began to fail him. We see it in a mother who advocated for her children, to the determent of her health. We see the heart of God breaking in, the vision of heaven, and the love we have for one another growing.
For the rest of us, saints in the making, we have some large shoes to fill. We look into the future and the shadows of the saints who we remember. We remember with joy and with tenderness, with tears and hope. One day, our robes, too will be washed clean, and we will praise God. But for today, we learn from those who have gone before us and the living saints all around us. God is alive and bringing hope in the midst of despair. Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
May this All Saints Day, be a pause to remember and encouragement to learn forward from those you count as beloved.
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 33: 1-11; 35: 22b-29
Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.
But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, ‘Who are these with you?’ Jacob said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant.’ Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down.
Esau said, ‘What do you mean by all this company that I met?’ Jacob answered, ‘To find favour with my lord.’ But Esau said, ‘I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.’ Jacob said, ‘No, please; if I find favour with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favour. Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.’ So he urged him, and he took it.
While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it.
Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.
Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had resided as aliens. Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. And Isaac breathed his last; he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
New Testament Lesson: Revelation 7: 9-17
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, November 5th —Saturday, November 11th
Sunday: “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9. God’s way never is just for a few. God’s way is for the multitude. Pray that God will open your eyes to the fullness of God’s way.
Monday: “singing, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’” Revelation 7: 12. Praise unites us. Where can you share praises?
Tuesday: “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’” Revelation 7: 13. We are sometimes surprised by all those God loves. Pray that God will open your hearts to love as God does.
Wednesday: “I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7: 14. We, who have been through great ordeals, can depend on God to make us white. Praise God!
Thursday: “For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.” Revelation 7:15. Where do you need God’s shelter?
Friday: “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat.” Revelation 7:16. Give thanks to God who will use us to bring no more hunger and no more thirst. Open your heart to where you are being nudged to feed others.
Saturday: “for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17. Offer your grief to God. May your tears be wiped away and may you know the water of life.