Friday is All Saints Day in the Church calendar. In traditions that distinguish saints from other believers, All Saints is followed by All Souls Day. In traditions that consider all believers to be saints, there is one day.
The point of All Saints Day is to remember those who have died and to do so in the context of their faith and God’s faithfulness.
Hebrews 11 is, for me, a great model of how to remember those who are gone. They lived in anticipation of what had been promised but hadn’t happened yet. They died in the confident anticipation that God would do what was promised. They are a crowd of witnesses, like bleachers at the end of a marathon full of the people who have already completed the race and are watching and cheering and weeping with an understanding of the pain and the purpose. And God is present always: making the promise, keeping the promise, participating in the race, providing the strength and breath.
All Saints says that we are part of a bigger story; their lives mattered and matter, our life matters, God matters.
There is, of course, nothing in the Bible that says we have to keep All Saints Day, just as there is nothing that says we have to remember Memorial Day in churches, or Father’s Day. But there is value in remembering the whole church, past and present, transcending national and tribal boundaries.
Some churches list the names of people from their midst who have died in the course of the past year. They do it now, rather than at the end of the calendar year. For our community at 300, that list includes Jim and Eloise Hughes, who died in May, and Gwen Martin, who is being buried this week.
November begins winding down Ordinary time, the longest part of the church year. The longest part of life. We remember our grief as we move into the deepening dark. But we also remember the God who sustains them and sustains us. And we are looking forward to Advent, to the beginning of the church year, to remembering the first coming of Jesus as we anticipate the second coming and the end of the beginning of the story.