All Saints Day is November 1st, and All Souls Day begins November 1st and ends November 2nd .
The difference between them only matters if you are Catholic, so today, we celebrate and honor all those who have gone before us, whom the Bible calls “so great a cloud of witnesses.” The influence of those who have come before us is, of course, a major theme of the Bible. The ancestors introduced in Genesis and Exodus continue to be remembered and honored throughout. Abraham and Sarah. Isaac and Rebekah. Jacob and Joseph. Moses and Miriam.
The covenant God makes with the people of Israel extends to their descendants. As Yahweh said to Abraham, “In your seed, the families of the earth shall be blessed. There is a familiar passage in Deuteronomy, used in the Passover Seder, hat says, in part, “A wandering Aramean was my father. He went down to Egypt and sojourned there. And God took us out of Egypt and brought us to this place, gave us this land flowing with milk and honey, so here I am. I’ve brought the first fruits of what I have grown on this ground you gave me, O God.” These verses are a reminder to the people to honor what their ancestors experienced, and to look to them as examples of faithful living. All Saints and All Souls Day are personal to each of us, as we have all lost loved ones, whose presence in our lives meant more than we can even say. And whom we miss more than we can sometimes bear. They are still with us though, in spirit, in our hearts.
And through what we have inherited from them. I see my mother in the mirror more and more as I get older. And they are with us through our memories of them. In the tradition of Day of the Dead, our memories are what keep our ancestors from fading away. As long as we remember them, they will be with us. As a teenager and young adult, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, whom we called Bonky. She loved to fish, in her high heels and white gloves with the fingertips cut out so she could bait the hook. She needed quite a bit of assistance with things like getting her line out of the trees after a particularly wild cast, and a general looking after, because she was frail. So we spent many days together on the creek bank. She told me stories about growing up, life on the farm, the untimely death of her own young daughter and the little pink tombstone they chose for her. She told me stories about fun times with siblings and cousins. And she and I made memories of our own. One time, we were fishing and talking and we heard a loud crack, looked up, and saw a tree falling in our direction. She was a tiny woman, so I picked her up and ran with her until we were out of the way. We watched it fall, then we laughed until we cried. That’s one of my greatest memories. I think we sometimes forget that our parents and grandparents were so much more than our parents and grandparents. I recently discovered a wonderfully sweet series on Netflix called Derek, about patients and caretakers in an elder care home. The caretakers only know the patients for the few years they are there, but whenever someone dies, the screen becomes a scrapbook of their whole lives, pictures of them as children playing, young men and women being silly and enjoying life. Their wedding day. We get to see the whole sum of who they were.
Just as our ancestors have left a legacy, we will one day leave ours. Will it be a legacy of courage and strength and kindness and mercy? Will they remember us as the ones who loved fiercely and welcomed radically? Who tended to the needs of their neighbors? Who reached out to the lost and the lonely and brought them comfort and companionship? Will they remember us as those who did all that we could to make a better world for them? At one of my former churches, we sang a song on All Saints Day called, May all who come behind us find us Faithful, which I think expresses beautifully what we have gained from those who have gone on before us, and what we hope to leave to the ones who come behind us. I’ll close with the lyrics.
“We’re pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road. And those who’ve gone before us light the way. Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary, their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace. May all who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe, and the lives we live inspire them every day. After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone. And our children sift through all we’ve left behind. May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover. Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find.
Lyle EveRette Olson and Janet Edith Spalding Stay with us.
George and Isabel Hammel and Dennis Feest Stay with us.
Ray and June and Rebecca Quint Stay with us.
Susan Ryan and Dave Shaver Stay with us.
Peg Mansfield and Ethan Douglass Fredericks Stay with us.
Pat Thompson and Audrey Carter Walker Stay with us.
Kathy Ross and Glenn Sheiderer Stay with us.
Margaret, Donald, and Douglas Wiest Stay with us.
Palmyra and Timothy King Stay with us.
Ida and Dan Nystrand Stay with us.
Sheila and Donna and Cheryl Stay with us.
Nancy Brown and Phil Scanland Stay with us.
Sally Winston and Kathy Brooks Stay with us.
Brenda’s mom and Evi’s mom Stay with us.
Debbie’s mom and Sarah’s mother in law Stay with us.
Lynne Lindsay’s friend in Italy Stay with us.
Leslie’s husband and Becky’s husband Stay with us.
All you holy people Stay with us.