Today (Nov. 1) and the Sunday that follows it mark the high, holy day of All Saints’ Day.
All Saints’ Day asks us to remember those who have gone before us and those we have lost over the past year in our families, our communities and our communities of faith.
It’s a pause before the holiday season in America. We remember, and that remembering leads to gratefulness during Thanksgiving and celebration during Advent.
The act of remembering is an act of faith and an act of deliverance.
When the whole earth was flooding, God remembered Noah and his family and spared them from destruction (Genesis 8:1).
God brings God’s people out of slavery and, in the middle of the desert, asks them to remember how God delivered them (Exodus 13:3).
In many of our churches, the words, “This do in remembrance of me,” alights our altars. Reminding us to come to the table. Reminding us of Jesus’ sacrifice. Reminding us of our own deliverance in the crucifixion.
All of this remembering also is very closely aligned to death.
Noah and his family looked at death as the water rose. The children of God heard the cries of the families who lost their firstborn sons when the angel of death did not pass over those Egyptian households. The disciples watched as their leader and teacher was crucified and died.
The holy act of remembrance on All Saints’ Day reminds us of lives lived and love loved.
Amid the busiest times of year in America, it reminds us to stop, pause and reflect on how we are spending this one life we have to live.
It asks us to live in the light that others have passed on, seeking revelation for how to live today.
This high and holy day comes on the heels of President Trump describing in graphic detail the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Security concerns aside, the description of his death and the likening of a human being to a dog is not unfamiliar.
His description defies the holy act of remembrance. Death is not something to talk about lightly, even the death of someone who has caused so much harm and hurt in the world.
Yesterday, we saw people dressing up as the dead as part of Halloween, another attempt to disarm death by making it not seem real.
All Hallows’ Eve, on the other end, invites sojourners to make offerings to the dead, light candles to warn off roaming ghosts who seek to harm all in an act of remembering those who have gone before.
Remembering is a powerful act that blurs the line between this life and the next, reminding us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. This is the one thing that unites all of humanity.
Pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Carolina, and editor-in-chief of Harrelson Press Publishing.