Today is All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows' Day or the Feast of All Saints. It is a church festival celebrated all over the world. For some countries it is a national holiday, such as Guatemala. Many traditions find people in the cemeteries. Families tend to the graves of loved ones. Some bring flowers. For some it is a solemn day. Others bring food and the family eats together surrounded by the graves of their loved ones who have passed. In many churches, candles are lit as a way of remembering loved ones who have joined the church triumphant. In some religious traditions the only saints who are remembered are those officially recognized by the church as saints.
As I think about this day, I am reminded of all the saints I know who have gone before me. There were treasured people from my youth who were Sunday school teachers and confirmation leaders. The one who always comes to mind is my 6th grade Sunday school teacher. Her name was Mrs. Badberg. She made scripture come alive every week. But she had more significant health challenges than any six people I know. Not once did they stop her from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with a bunch of squirrely sixth graders. It was a sad day for us when she passed but I would imagine she was met with a ”well done thou good and faithful servant" when she reached heaven. And it wasn't a sad day for her. She finally got to meet Jesus!
There were neighbors who were substitute grandparents who stood in because my grandparents lived far away. Garrett and Vi Swanson treated me like I was their own grandkid. Garrett and I had all sorts of adventures over the years. He even insisted on buying my first bike. And there was of course my favorite Grandma. Not only did she have the whole Bible memorized...as kids we were convinced...but she worked hard to get us into the Word as well. It mattered not what we were doing, she could work Jesus into anything. I can't wait to meet up with her again!
Serving in ministry as long as I have, there have been many dear friends in the churches I have been blessed to serve, that have gone to the church triumphant. Many had lived rich full lives; lives full of the Lord. Lives that blessed others they encountered. But there were some that went home way too soon, like Zachary...who was seven.
The list of saints who have gone before us may be long. For some that list includes grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. For some the list is more painful because it includes children or spouses. Some of us have friends on the list of saints. It hurts like mad when someone we love dies. And even though we know they are in a better place that doesn't negate the loneliness or anger or pain and guilt that many of us feel. All of us have been touched by the sting of death, some more than others.
But I am reminded of Jesus words, recorded in John 14:1-7. You have heard them many times, but it is always good to be reminded. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms. IF it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” We know of the promise of eternal life for those who believe and take Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But in these verses Jesus reassures all of us that He has not only made a way for us, He has made a place for us too. There is a room with our name on it. There is a place at the great banquet feast that is ours as well.
We read in Revelation 2:17 that ”Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written in it, known only to the one who receives it.” In the meantime, He still knows our names. We read in Isaiah 43:1, ”Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” As beloved sons and daughters the Lord has named and claimed us as His own. From the time we are knit together in our mother's wombs until we draw our last breath here on earth, we are His. And from the time we leave our earthly bonds through all eternity, we are His. Always, we are His.
Paul wrote about this in Romans 14:7-9. “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that He might be the Lord of both the living and the dead.” Each of us has a list of saints that have gone on before us. Some have longer lists than others. But the promise is this: we will get to see these saints again, in a far better place than this, and we will never have to say goodbye again.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W