November 5, 2023
My father died back in 2013. And of course you know when my mother died. One of the things that has surprised me since I lost both my parents is how present they still are. I’m sure just about all of you in here have lost someone important to you, so maybe you can relate. All the things that they once were to me, they still are—both good and bad. I’m fortunate to be able to say that most of what my parents were to me was good. But there’s always bad mixed with the good. Some people aren’t so lucky, of course. But for most of us, when we’ve spent a large portion of our lives in a relationship with someone, they don’t disappear just because they die.
As important as our jobs and possessions and status sometimes seem to be, in the end, we realize that it’s the people in our lives that mean the most. And at critical times, it seems like they mean everything to us. That’s why we observe days like today. Because the people we see no more are still so much a part of our lives, we need to acknowledge their ongoing presence in our lives.
For good or bad, the people in our lives are everything. But what they have been, even what they are—is that all there is? It’s a question the Bible takes up in several places. And when John takes up the question in his first letter, he comes up with an answer that I hope we can all agree is a good one: God loves us and we are all God’s children. That is what we are here and now. We spend so much of our lives trying to prove that that’s not enough, but really, when it comes down to it, nothing else really matters in this life.
We are God’s children now, part of one human family. But is there more? It seems like a lot, but is that all there is?
It ought to be enough. But John says there’s more. We know what we are. We’ve seen what the people in our lives have been. But, as John Calvin said, “what has in order preceded in Christ, shall at length be completed in us.” Calvin’s saying there’s potential for more—for a great deal more. And what we think of as death isn’t the end. What we will be has yet to be revealed. God never gives up on us, and that’s one of the things we see in the resurrection of Christ.
We call it All Saints Sunday. In some places it’s called Eternity Sunday. And maybe we think of it as a day to look back. But in reality, it’s when we pause in the normal order of things and take the long view. It’s when we look ahead to a day we know will come, but which we can’t really envision—the day when we see the reality of God completed in ourselves and those we love.
Christ sojourned among us for a brief while, showing us the glory of God—a glory that we still don’t completely understand. It was the glory of service, of humility, of love for the unloved and forgiveness for the unforgiving. It was the glory of contentment with simple blessings, and happiness with the gift of today.
So as we think about the perfection—the completion—that is to come, let’s remember that it is not by looking down into the grave that we will find those who have gone before. Nor is it by looking up into the heavens. It is in looking around us that we will best understand the wonders of God’s grace and the glory that is to come. For in today’s blessings and in the love of those who remain behind, we can truly find our place in the family of God.
—©2023 Sam Greening