Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Cloud of Witnesses

I have not been a very active blogger of late. Work and family obligations these past two months have been somewhat overwhelming. A pre-Halloween winter storm this weekend which resulted in a loss of our power and internet access for twenty-four hours didn't even come as a welcome Sabbath rest for me: instead, I was climbing the walls and thinking about all the work that I was not getting done!

If there is a day to blog, however, it is this one for me. I know that Christmas and Easter are the two great Christian Feast Days, and rightly so. But give me Ash Wednesday and All Saints, and I'd be happy. The former reminds us that we are dust, that we don't have all the time in the world and so we better live in the time we have. It reminds us that we are creatures, not Creator; that we play a role but are not "in charge."

The latter, as I see it, reminds us that nothing in all of that creation can separate us from the love of God--not even death. We are creatures and we will indeed return to the dust. But that is not the last word and we will sing again. More importantly, we are not alone. All of us can sing when we are joining the song of a heavenly chorus. And all of us can believe, when we know that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who sing with us and for us: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. It is a thin space indeed that separates the saints triumphant and the saints militant (surely we need new language here)...and never is that space thinner than when we break the bread and share the cup. Truly "a mystic sweet communion...a fellowship divine."

As pastor, I sometimes tell people when they lose a loved one that while the person is gone, the relationship is not ended. For me this is no pious cliche; I believe it to my core, based on my own life-experience. My father died at the age of 37, when I was just 18 years old. I have now "outlived him" by 11 years. But only if he remains frozen in time. In truth, over the past thirty years, I have come to better understand, forgive, and love him. And as I watch my oldest son navigate his way through college, and my younger son not very far behind, I am aware of the circle of life that this day affirms. And I believe that my dad is somehow part of it all. My memories on this Feast of All Saints are therefore not so much nostalgic as present-tense; and that makes my heart glad, not sad.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who thee, by faith, before the world confessed, thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed. Allelulia, Alleluia.

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