It is the Feast of All Saints this week. My Saxon forebears in ancient times would have been afraid. They believed that in this time the world of the dead and the world of the living grew near to one another. The spirits of the dead might come an haunt them or even exact some revenge. They did not celebrate Halloween so much as dread it. To this day, I hear that the people in Haiti feel the same way. They live in terror of those who have died and may remain as spirits in this world.
Christianity has taken that fear and reset it for us. The picture on the right is my father, about the time he was graduated from the seminary. I was the second-youngest of eight children; I never saw him quite this way. My childhood memories see him with a head of grey hair. His chin had been somewhat re-arranged by a car accident before I was born. He also succumbed to some of the more unfortunate facial hair trends of the 1970’s.
I come to this festival with both grief and eager expectation. I will have dinner with my father. Yes, countless other saints will be there too, my grandparents whom I also miss, my beloved mother, a sister whom I never met, a nephew, and many more. I am not afraid of that meal or that time in fellowship. Indeed, I look forward to it. For we gather at a great feast set by God himself, the feast of the Lamb. The table stretches to eternity. At the one end sits Jesus with the twelve on the night in which he was betrayed. the other end of the table stretches to include those yet unborn who will follow me until that great day of our Lord’s revelation in glory. I take my place and sit with old parishioners and family members, friends, and even a few whom probably I counted as enemies. The sins are all forgiven. The sorrows are no more. My participation in the feast is a foretaste, some of them enjoy in full. Yet, we sit at that table together. I will arise from that table on Sunday, return to this broken and sinful world. But I will not be the same. I will see the world from that perspective, from that holy place. The world and its sorrows will pass. Our joy will be complete.
I am sure that the father whom I will greet on that last great day of resurrection will look more like this photo than my memories of him. Augustine says we will be raised at the age of 30, the age of Jesus at his resurrection. Not sure if Augustine always knew what he was talking about, but it seems somewhat reasonable too. I encourage you to imagine what your beloved saints might tell you today. Remember their wisdom, laugh at their jokes, grieve with them the sinful foolishness of their lives, but most of all, rejoice in the forgiveness which Christ has given them and you.