All Saints 2018 (expanded)

Our service from the 1940s, the tolling of the bell, and the lighting of candles is a reminder of those who have come before us, especially our departed loved ones.

At this time of year, I am accused of being a “Christmas Hater”.

I have decided that I am not an actual “Christmas Hater”, but rooted in my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) I desire each season and holiday to be their own experiences before experiencing the next.

Thus, I tell the (zealot) Christmas Lovers… “we have not even had the turkey yet!”.

As Christians, especially Protestants, we tend to not honor the different experiences of Allhallowstide in our time and place. Allhallowstide is a three-day celebration of our dead that begins with a holy evening known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween on October 31st.

Side Note: Halloween is actually my favorite holiday… so I am mourning its end.

The ancient world, differing cultures, and religious faiths believe that on October 31 (All Hallows Eve) the veil between our physical world and the spiritual (or otherworldly) realm is at its thinnest. In fact, our modern Halloween practices remain rooted in All Hallows Eve. 

For example, Trick or Treating is from the “Old World”. People traveled between homes offering to pray for the household’s dearly departed loved ones in exchange for a “Soul Cake”. Soul Cakes were desserts (possibly) comparable to plain, glazed donuts.

I do not know about you, but I would knock on people’s doors offering to pray for their deceased loved ones in exchange for donuts. 

All Saints Day is November 1, which celebrates the capital “S” Saints who have been recognized and canonized by the church as Saints gathered around the throne of God, such as Saint Christopher, Saint Francis, Saint Patrick, etc.

All Souls Day is November 2, which celebrates the small “s” saints who are our faithfully departed loved ones. This concludes Allhallowstide and the veil is believed to be restored.

This theme of death is also visible in nature with the harvest and changing of the season. Although we witness this death in creation, we are aware that in the Spring creation will be resurrected.

Although there are only two guarantees in this life – change and death – , spoiler alert we, humans, are not comfortable with change and especially death. Death always feels unnatural, because it is so permanent. However, such as in nature, scripture teaches that the faithfully departed will also be resurrected at the end.

But, we remain uncomfortable with death.

Although my sister and I have several interests/hobbies in common, we are quite different (even opposites) in our personalities.

I, perhaps, have an abnormal comfort with death. This is beneficial as a pastor.
My sister, on the other hand, is not comfortable with hospital visits and death.

However, my mother and sister were often by my grandmother’s side as she entered her final days. My sister, for the sake of our grandmother, was coping with her discomfort around death.

One day my uncle was visiting and he begun to speak with them about her final arrangements.

The family tradition is to be buried in a new set of pajamas because you are entering into eternal rest. My uncle, apparently, did not get the family memo. 

He asked “are we burying her in a leisure suit?”.
My mother replied, “No. She has new pajamas for her burial”.
He replied, “She cannot go walking in the garden in her pajamas and house slippers”.

Eternal rest.
Walking in the garden.

We all have different images of the afterlife.

My uncle envisions heaven similar to “In the Garden”, which we sung moments ago. It is the image of walking with the very presence of God in a garden.

Days before my grandmother became unresponsive preparing for her death, she continued to ask her caretakers to prepare an extra breakfast plate for my grandfather because he was hungry too.
We were in Indiana on my 1st birthday for my grandfather’s funeral.

My grandmother passed in the morning hours. In front of our uncle, my sister made the comment “Grandpa got tired of waiting and decided to take her for breakfast”.

He replied, “there is no food in heaven”.
She replied, “if there is no food in heaven, then I ain’t going”.

There are several references, especially in the Gospel of Luke, as heaven or the Kingdom of God as a feast, a celebration with the best of food and beverages available.

Eternal rest.
Walking in the garden.
Feast of the finest food and beverages.

We all have different images of the afterlife.

These images often comfort us.
These images often enable us to bear the death of our loved ones.
These images often help us face the fact that we will not live forever.

This time of year and the celebrations of death remind us that all things do end.
It reminds us that all (living) things will die.

But, we look ahead with eyes of faith knowing that:

  • we will be reunited with our brothers and sisters of faith;
  • we will be able to commune with God more closely than ever before; and
  • there will be resurrection and new life.

Thus, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are upsetting as we recall memories of those who have gone before us, but it is also joyful as we celebrate their witness in our lives and we look ahead to being reunited with them… whether it is in a garden or at a really big table.

The peace of God which passesth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

We held a “flashback” service adapted from a Lutheran hymnal copyrighted 1941.
The adaptations were:

  • the liturgy and hymns are still projected on the screen;
  • I preached from the floor, not the pulpit; and
  • I, as a woman, would not have been a minister in the 1940s. 

In honor of All Saints Sunday, the service begun with a tolling of the bell and lighting a candle on the altar for each of our beloved sisters in the congregation that have died in the past year. 

We had additional candles for members of the congregation to light in honor of their deceased loved one. 

Scriptures were  Revelation 21:1-6a and John 11:32-44.
Originally preached 4 Nov. 2018 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

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