Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, November 4, 2012:

First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9

First Reading (Alt.): Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

Psalm: Psalm 24

Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-6a

Gospel: John 11:32-44

What a very strange week it’s been for so many of us. We went from the experience of Reformation Sunday straight into Hurricane Sandy—then Halloween and now All Saints Day. And even before the tumult of this week, many of us have still not recovered from the tumult of past years: job loss and continued wars and other storms and all the catastrophes that can strike our individual lives in the form of sickness and death and other losses.

Even in years when we aren’t surrounded by constant examples of how short our time here can be, All Saints Day comes around to remind us. We don’t have long on this side of the grave. It’s a good festival to take some time to think about what we’d like to get done while we’re still here.

Today is a high festival day that celebrates the saints that have come before us. Alas, in many Lutheran churches, we don't celebrate the long line of saints that Catholics do; most Protestants who observe All Saints Day mark the lives of those gone in the past year. Perhaps as we continue to reform the church, we should move back to a broader understanding of saints as the entire community of Christians.

It’s a good time to think about those who have gone before us. You might spend some time on this feast day thinking about the great saints who have helped to form Christianity through the centuries. How can we be more like them? For what would we like to be remembered in future centuries?

If you have relatives and friends who have served as models of a life well lived, this would be a good time to write a note. We won’t be here forever. Write to them now, while they’re still here and you still remember. On a future All Saints Sunday, you might light a candle in their memory. But in the meantime, you can tell them how much they have meant to you.

In many cultures, this feast day becomes a family time. Think of the Mexican tradition of taking picnics to the graveyard. Now would be a good time to record your family memories. Write them down while you still remember. Make a video. Assemble those records.

But we should also use this All Saints Day to look forward. For many people, this day is bittersweet. We’re reminded of our losses. It’s hard to think of transformation.

But dream a little on this All Saints Sunday. If you could create a new life out of the threads that you have, what would you weave? Or would you start again, with different yarns and textures? What is your dream of a renewed life?

Jesus invites us to be part of a Resurrection Culture. We may not always understand how that will work. Some years the taste of ash and salt water seem so pervasive that we may despair of ever tending fruitful gardens of our lives again. But Jesus promises that death will not have the final word.

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