All Saints Day
Wisdom 3:1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; Saint John 11:32-44
Episcopalians love the Feast of All Saints. We love it so much that when we revised the Prayer Book, we gave ourselves permission in most years to observe the Day twice: on November 1, the Day Itself, as well as the Sunday after. For years in a former life, I sang “For all the saints” on the Day Itself and then again three times on the Sunday after. I loved that. This year the Day falls on a Sunday, and we are able only to observe the Feast once.
Maybe we love All Saints because of all the remembrances the Day brings to our minds. This day reminds us that by God’s grace, through Jesus’ resurrection, and in the power of the Spirit, we shall live in two worlds before all is said and done. We shall live in this world, or, I should say, we shall so live in this world, we shall live in this world in such a way, that we may attain to the next, to heaven itself. That hope, really, is the Christian hope, the hope all Christians share. It may even be the motivation that we have in coming to church week by week. We all hope to live here so that we shall get there.
And there are many who are living here or on another shore who are Saints. And they are the ones we remember today. When you think about it, only God knows how valuable they are; only God knows how devoted they are to God. We cannot know for certain how valuable any person is to God. We know that about some, and we give them their feast day. But many, many escape our notice. And this is the Feast where we say to God that we recognize there are many, many saints known to God alone. We remember them today, and we ask them to pray for us.
I feel comfortable putting it to you this way: I am willing to say that the people you have looked up to in your life, the people you admire, have many fine qualities, and one of those qualities, I feel certain, is generosity.
And part of our good and responsible stewardship is to pray for them, for all the saints, even as they pray for us—all those brave and suffering people who have gone before and who’ve set such good examples for us of what the Christian life may be like and such good examples of how an ordinary human being may be a full imitator of Our Lord Himself. And we’re praying for them today, All Saints Day, even as we expect, through the Communion of Saints, that they will pray for us and that they will encourage us as we so live in this world that we hope we shall live in the next.
This Day brings to mind so many reasons to be grateful to God: the Christian hope, the examples of those who’ve loved us and we admire, and the awareness that someone near may have inestimable value to God. For these reasons, and for others, I am grateful to God for every circumstance in my life.
All the saints, all those we have admired through our years, they are in our prayers today. Through prayer and through the Communion of Saints, we are together with them, united with them through our Baptism, and today particularly we rejoice in this goodly fellowship. We give thanks to God for his revelation of himself to us through them. For, after all, in the words of the great hymn:
They were all of them saints of God—and I mean,
God helping, to be one too (Hymn 293, Stanza 1).