Nov 2, 2012

All Saints Sunday II

All Saints Sunday provides the church—us—a ritual means to remember those who have lived among us: those who showed us what it means to be Christian. When we read the names of our brothers and sisters in faith and when we hear the chimes or the bell, it reminds each of us of our own mortality. We will all, sooner or later, have our own names and chime on a day much like this day. Our worship ritual reminds us what is important—although many of us could not put this moment into words. What we remember is so much larger than our understanding of it. Ritual is a practice to remind each of us that too often we stand in the presence of greatness, yet we often forget it. Worst of all, we often fail to recognize the simple greatness of other people.

When I was nine years old, I walked across the street with my father to be with the Bates family. They learned that their 16-year-old daughter died as a result of heart surgery complications. I was really too young to realize just how difficult that walk across the street was for my father. He and Mr. Bates were good friends. In the midst of stunned and profound silence, one of the men in the living room suggested, “Let’s pray.” As we bowed our heads I remember thinking that I had never seen a group of grown ups so intensely sad and completely powerless. Yet, in their own ritualized way they turned toward God because God was the source and the end of all that they were. Ritual helps us remember that life’s most profound moments—both in joy and in grief—must finally and completely be handed over to God.

On All Saints Sunday we hand the lives of our saints over to God—but we keep their memory alive in our worship and in our hearts. On All Saints Sunday we celebrate the ritual of thanksgiving to God because God has put these important people into our lives and given us a memory of them that never fades. We are thankful to God because that is our proper response. I only pray that through our ritual of thanksgiving we can remember that God really does gives us gifts of people who truly make living life worth the while. Amen.


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