As meaningful and exciting as everything happening this weekend, observing All Saints Day (for me) will be the apex. Over the years, it has become the high point of my worship year. I usually cry throughout the service. Sometimes I even have tears rolling down my cheeks. But why?
Thomas Lynch is both a poet and an undertaker, a rather unusual vocational combination. But hey, it works for Lynch, so who am I to knock it! He has written a wonderful little book entitled, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. It’s part autobiography, part comedy, and full of stories about the challenges of growing up in the home of a funeral director. It almost reads like something Garrison Keillor would write. Very entertaining. I highly recommend it. I mention Lynch’s book because he makes a very powerful statement in the book. He says, “Where death means nothing, life is meaningless…We remember because we want to be remembered.” And that, my friends, is the very essence of what this beginning of November feast – All Saints – is all about.
So during Sunday’s All Saints Day worship, we will remember the saints who have gone before us through the Christian metaphors of requiem and sacrament. In a requiem (the Latin word for “rest”), according to the deceased preacher Peter J. Gomes, “we invoke eternal rest upon the dead, remembering that while they were here they worked and played, they prayed and suffered, lived and lusted, but in death they now ‘rest from their labors.’ A hymn says, ‘we feebly struggle, they in glory shine.’”
Dr. Gomes continues with his wonderful words of wisdom: “Rest is not the absence of work but rather the presence of joy in which work is no longer necessary, for what is work after all but to keep us amused and distracted while living? To ‘rest in the Lord’ is to find at long last that peace which the world tries to sell but which it can neither give nor take away, that peace which indeed passes merchandising and understanding, that peace which is also not a negative, not merely the absence of stress, but the discovery of all that to which we have aspired, the reunion of the creature with the creator.”
In true Disciples’ fashion, the table of our Lord is paramount as we observe and celebrate of All Saints Day. For it is at the communion table that the resting dead and the living experience reunion in the sure and present hope of life eternal. “Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord…they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13).
Let’s share tears of joy and remembrance together this Sunday.
Rev. Don Chase