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All Saints Day

November 1, 2015
All Saints Day raises the question: what is our ultimate standing? Who are
we? Is there any permanent place for us in the universe? I have never forgotten
something a friend of mine told me once. His mother had died and he was going
through all her things, trying to decide what to keep and what to dispose of. He said
to me, My mother kept all these clippings and momentos that obviously meant a
great deal to her. But they mean very little to me. I dont even know why she kept
them. And then I thought how some day my own children will be saying the same
thing about all the stuff I leave behind. And if this is true with a separation of only
one generation, it is not difficult to imagine how little of us there will be left after
three or four generations have passed.
Sometimes people say that the dead live on as long as there is someone
who remembers them. I dont know about you, but that isnt too comforting to me
because memory can be pretty unreliable! It makes more sense to me that we continue
maturing and developing after the death of our physical bodies. William Temple, a former
Archbishop of Canterbury, interpreted Jesus words in the Gospel of John concerning the
mansions being prepared for us as like wayside shelters, at stages along the road where
travelers may rest on their journey.

The Festival of All Saints has survived for over 1400 years because we need
to acknowledge not only the gulf between the living and the dead but also to
reach across it and to recognize those who have gone before us and whom we are
certain to follow.
We heard a powerful passage read today from the book of
Revelation. What lies behind these great words? How are we to know
that they are not just wishful thinking? Hasnt humanity developed
past the point of relying on these fantasies? Isnt it really more

courageous, more realistic, more evolved to acknowledge that heaven is

nothing more than a projection of human longing?
It all depends on where the Book of Revelation came from. If this
vision of the eternal life of Gods people arose out of a mere human
religious sensibility, then it is worth no more than the picture of a
sunrise on an inspirational greeting card. But if, on the other hand,
these words are actually promises from the living God, then that is a
different matter.
When Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was fighting the
good fight against apartheid all those decades, he used to say, Dont
give up! Dont get discouraged! Ive read the end of the book! We win!
The heavenly vision arises out of the Revelation of Jesus Christ himself,
the Son of God, who reigns in heaven and who has drawn back the
curtain just for a moment to allow us a glimpse of Gods future. That is
what Revelation is about. It is about the power of God to create a
completely new future: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for
the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. . .And I saw the
holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
There is a tension between this vision and the things that happen
in our lives. Life is difficult. Suffering is inevitable. Failures and
disappointment are more likely to come to us than not. Separation and
abandonment are part of life. Many questions cannot be answered in
this world. Jesus doesnt discount death. He knows it is real and
fearsome. Yet he knows that death isnt the final word. Jesus, as we say
in the Apostles Creed, descended to the dead as though to say to us

even here I will find you and not let go because death has no sting
death is rendered meaningless to a God of resurrection.
During Communion, you are invited to light a candle in memory of
one of the saints in your life who has died. As you remember their life,
give thanks to God for the work God did in and through them. Give
thanks for the blessing that these saints were to you and to those
around them, however imperfect they might have been at times.
Remember that God blesses each of us with grace, light, and life. And
may those of you who mourn a child or young person be filled with Gods
love, peace and blessed assurance. God will not forsake us, nor abandon
us ever. Not in this life, and not in the life to come. Amen.