We have hit the start of November. From here out is seems like we bounce from one holiday to the next. We had Reformation Day and Halloween. Now on to All Saints Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, ( does Black Friday count?), St Nicholas Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing day for my Canadian friends, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and finally Epiphany. It always feels like someone slams their foot on the gas and screams “full speed ahead” and it is all I can do to hold on. Yet humbly, near the start of this list is All Saints Day. On this day, we as Lutherans, take the time to commemorate those who have gone on to receive the gift of eternal life. We often feel the loss yet take comfort that they have been found by the Good Shepherd. And that is what it ultimately is. It’s a celebration of Christ’s victory over death itself.
And that is what Christ turns death into: our victory.
We no longer live in fear of death. We no longer see death as an ending. Instead, it is a new beginning. It’s something to look forward to. Look at the first chapter of Philippians. Remember that Paul is writing to them from prison. (verses 19-27 ESV)
Yes and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel
Paul shows a profound understanding of both life and death.
If he lives, he has the privilege of preaching the Gospel, of living as Christ to the world.
If he dies, he gets to actually be embraced by Christ. His suffering and work are at an end. And he is reunited with the saints that have come before him, and he joins in the celebration of the saints to come.
It’s good that we stop and remember those who have gone before us. But they are not gone. When you come to church you partake in the communion of saint. You gather with those who now stand in the presence of God. I don’t care how empty the church looks; the communion rail is always full. If you miss a loved one, I encourage you to have a meal with them this weekend, and every weekend.
And I look to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come!