All Saints Day is a commemoration for Christians who have died. Wide and varied in its winding history through the church, it has its foundings in the pre-reformation era. Martin Luther and friends decided to keep hold of it as a church practice. All Saints Day is found on most calendars, including my “I Love Bacon” calendar. For real.
On All Saints Day we remember brothers and sisters in the church who have departed the earth. To expand the scope to include the sum of church history, we’re talking about the death of martyrs and horrific ones at that. Of course, as anyone who has lost someone can attest, the death of a loved one always leaves a gap for the rest of us who are still here, even when it’s expected and especially when it’s not.
I tend to think about my mom around this time of year, partly because of All Saints Day but also because she just had a birthday. As the old saying goes: “my mother was a saint.” Saved by Jesus and sometimes saintly, she’s now in heaven as we’re stuck here on earth. Most painful is knowing what’s lost as her grandkids — my kids and my sister’s — grow up without Grandma.
All Saints Day is kinda like a salve, a reminder that what we know today as earthly existence isn’t all. Psalm 24 tells us that God established the earth upon the seas. Revelation 21 says that there is a New Heaven and a New Earth that intentionally lacks a sea (and there was no longer any sea). The sea is dangerous and represents loss. The sea identifies the unpredictable nature and sheer power of death and loss. Eternity with God is without a sea.
Why is Halloween right before All Saints Day? Halloween is kinda like All Saints eve. Indeed it is an echo of ancient pagan tradition, but so is Christmas and Easter. The ancient church had the practice of redeeming pagan ritual and using it for God’s glory. Today we’ll follow suit. Join me. Have your porch light on and hand out the biggest and most fair-trade candy bars you can afford. Please, no apples. Please, no tracts. Please, no homemade candy. Oh, and save the pennies for the horse at Meijer.
We stand on the shoulders of faithful men and women who have gone before us. Saved by Jesus, we call them Saints. They were made holy by the blood of the Lamb and are now –somehow– with Jesus. There’s great hope on a day like All Saints Day as we remember God will wipe away every tear… no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).