Technically, All Saints’ Day is November 1. We don’t have worship on Friday, though, so we observed it today.
It was one of those complex days, when a lot of ideas suddenly fit together and make sense in a new way just because of one or two words or a sentence.
It could have been our pastor-of-the-day’s comment about visiting cathedrals in Russia that are decorated floor to ceiling and all around with icons of the saints – giving the worshiper an immediate experience of the “great cloud of witnesses.”
It could have been the beautiful children’s message on the Golden Rule, which reminded the children (of all ages) that one of the reasons we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, one of the reasons we do kindly unto people who may not be kind to us and do honestly to people who are not always honest with us and so on is that this is how God treats us. God is not only good and kind and loving to people who are good and kind and loving, but to those who aren’t. Which is a good thing for us, because we are often the among the ones who aren’t. But God gives goodness and kindness and love to the UNdeserving. So one main reason to follow the Golden Rule is that we are trying to extend the grace God shows us to others.
[The Golden Rule was on our minds today because it was the kick-off of Golden Rule 2020; our congregation is working on finding some ways to develop our civil discourse and listening skills, and then work on encouraging others to do the same, and hopefully make a little progress bridging some of the divisive divides in our world, over the course of the next year.]
It could have been communion, on All Saints’ Day, which highlights the language of “joining our voices with the choirs of heaven and with all the faithful of every time and place who forever sing to the glory of your name” that leads into the Gloria and that opens up an unexpected window on the significance of communion.
It could have been noticing that this was one of those days that I could really feel something going on; which means noticing that there are a lot of days when I don’t feel something going on, and even on those days, something is going on.
It could have been all that, but for me, today, it was this simple line about Jesus: “Jesus was here, and he’s coming again …”
It was in a song that was part of the service, a “special music” duet, with guitar accompaniment, “a song that has been one of my favorites for a long time,” the member who sang it told us, “that seemed appropriate for All Saints’ Day.”
Jesus was here. He’s an example for us. An example of how to live.
Jesus was here. He did something unique: lived the specific, irreplaceable life he lived, died the unplumbably meaningful death he died, came to life again by the power of God. Don’t ask me to explain how doing that defeated, nullified sin and death itself. But it did. We don’t always see it yet. But they are dying from the roots, doomed and passing away. Jesus is the superhero to beat all superheroes.
Jesus was here. That’s a promise: the promise that God cares about us, is with us, has rescued us and is rescuing us.
Jesus was here. This is what makes us who we are: the people who know it, even if we don’t always understand it; the people who remember that Jesus was here, and taught us how to live, and promised us that there’s something to live for; the people who keep that knowledge and that memory alive.[*]
And Jesus is coming again.
Maybe it’s like this: you can know about something – the Nutcracker Ballet, for instance. You can read about it in a book, you can listen to the music, you can watch it on film or tv, you can hear people’s stories, you can imagine it all you want. But still, when you go to a live performance, it will astonish you. You’ll understand why all those people said all those things, but you will see for yourself, there is something more to it, something no one ever thought to describe, or couldn’t have even if they’d thought to, something you couldn’t have imagined.
Jesus is coming again. There is something more to this. Something we haven’t yet experienced. Something unimaginable.
Some days you just “get it,” for an instant.
[*] But then, too, Jesus is here. In Spirit, but no less real-ly for that. All of which gives a new meaning to our liturgy’s “Deep is the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” for me. [added 11.4.19]