“And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.” Isaiah 25:7
Dear Redeemer Family:
Many pastors will say that they would much rather preach or preside at a funeral than at a wedding. I clearly remember at seminary when the professor told us, “If you are in a large church, and there is more than one pastor, if there is a wedding and a funeral on the same day, take the funeral!” In my experience, this is sound advice. Weddings can often be like herding cats. And weddings somewhere other than at the church building are even worse, generally. At least at the church, there is some degree of assumption that I’m in charge. At funerals, usually, people know how to behave (there have been exceptions). I have often said that when I retire, I am going to write a book on weddings and funerals. And I’m not going to change any names. I have plenty of ammunition. Enter November, the month that is more funeral than wedding.
Beginning with All Saints’ Day, the readings remind us of our mortality and predict war, disaster, and the end times. It’s enough to make us yearn for a savior or king. And we get both as the time after Pentecost draws to a close on Christ the King Sunday.
On the surface, there is not much good cheer. But buried beneath the darkness and death of November is the promise of resurrected life; an end to sadness and tears; the opportunity to give thanks for, share, and partake of the rich harvest of the earth; and a chance to renew our unwavering, confident trust in God. Don’t judge the month too harshly. Go deeper, and bring other people with you.
We begin with the opportunity to remember the past, honoring the saints who contributed to the creation of the kingdom. Both our churches and our families were built by dearly departed loved ones. It is because of them that we are able to joyfully give thanks for this life and cling to a longstanding faith, especially in the darkest of times.
Last night, I taught the Confirmation Class about All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2), and the most abused of Christian Days, All Hallows’ Evening (Oct. 31, you know it best by another name, a slurring of its real name). These are all part of the Church’s celebration of the dead. Originally, it was celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. As Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection of the dead, All Saints’ Day looks forward to the raising of the Church, the whole Church. In most parts of the world, it is a very celebrated Church festival. That, we believe is one of the reasons why Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door on the night of Oct. 31, 1517. Everyone would be going to church service the next day! All Saints’ is an ideal time to acknowledge that although death is a part of life, death does not have the final word. In a society that keeps people alive at all costs, sanitizes death, and even demands that the grieving “move on.” This is our time to collectively pause, grieve, and remember. Consider this a “little Thanksgiving” for those on whose faith shoulders we stand.
“For All the Saints”