One important aspect of All Saints Day is the remembrance of those who’ve gone before looking back in time to those we miss, whose faith story has become part of our faith story—not agreeing completely, but being touched by it. That part of “all the saints” that have directly had an influence on us and our faith journey. Those we have known and who have known us, and who have helped us seek our place at the table.
We remember those we love who have died. We celebrate their eternal life in Christ and acknowledge the faith story they shared.
This is important. Not just so that those we love aren’t forgotten, but because they have left a legacy of faith that contributes to the reign of God on earth. Those who’ve gone before us, in faith, have shaped the world in which we live. They have affected the world. God’s love for them made them a part of this journey of God’s renewal in the world. We remember them because they have changed us, therefore through us, they are still changing the world. Their faith stories need to be told. The influence they’ve had on us needs to be shared.
Today is a day to acknowledge that and remember that.
But of course, we aren’t the only ones who remember those who are loved and who have died. People all over the world are doing the same thing today. They are remembering loved ones who’ve impacted their lives and their world. Millions and millions of people today are acknowledging God’s love at work through millions and millions of those who’ve gone before us.
And not just this All Saints Sunday, but All Saints Sundays through multiple generations.
We share their loss, but celebrate God’s loved revealed through All the Saints All those who gather around Jesus, in all places and in all times. Including saints who are yet to come. All Saints Sunday is a day that even as we look back in time to saints of old, we do so with a vision forward in time when all the saints—past, present, and future—will gather together at God’s great feast at the end of time.
As much as all of that matters, this text, chosen as the lectionary gospel for All Saints Sunday, doesn’t really go there. This text from early in Luke recalls Jesus speaking to his disciples about what being a disciple looks like He’s offering a sort of guide for how his followers can participate in God’s vision of God’s reign.
Jesus says they aren’t less worthwhile or less loved when they’re hungry or crying, or pushed aside. That was the thinking then, and Jesus is telling them they are still blessed, even when life is difficult and unfair. At the same time, just because you have food and money and joy in your life doesn’t mean you are worth more or more loved. Enjoy it today, it will change.
So in the meantime, regardless of your circumstances, Jesus says his disciples are the ones who love everyone—even enemies. Who don’t let violence turn them away from love. Who are generous with whatever they have to anyone.
In other words, Jesus’ disciples are those who show the world what God’s unconditional love looks like. To all people in all circumstances. Jesus’ disciples take their part in shaping God’s world according to God’s vision. Jesus’ disciples are the saints of their day.
Including today. It’s our turn today. Standing on the shoulders of all those giants of the faith who’ve gone before us, influenced by the saints whose passing we grieve, we are the ones who show the world God’s vision. We are the only ones who can do it in this time and in this place. We are the saints of today. We are the only ones who can influence our world with Christ’s unconditional love right now.
The day will come when the saints yet to be will mourn our passing, and remember our contribution to God’s vision. There will be a day when the influence we’ve had on them will be part of God’s ongoing renewal in their time. The time will come when the saints of the future will look forward to the day when they will sit at God’s table with us and all who’ve gone before us. There will be a day when they take their turn in loving enemies, doing good to those who hate them, and giving to everyone who asks.
But not today. Today is ours. It’s our turn in history to be part of God’s renewed and loving vision for the world. It’s my hope that our struggle to love, to bless, to pray, and to give will influence our world today as much as the struggles of the saints before us influenced theirs.
And my hope also is that the ways we love, and bless, and pray, and give will inspire those yet to come. Because of Christ’s love in us, may the world in which they will live experience Christ’s love through them.