My Aunt Shirley, before she died a few years ago, would often say “Be the one who makes someone smile today.” She would say this even as she battled cancer on and off for 20 years. And she would live it even as she went through round after round of horrible chemo and radiation. She was always able to bring a smile to my face and to the faces of those around her with her hope-filled faith and warm laughter. Even in her last days, her faith inspired her to smile into death’s face. And after she died, many who knew her named my Aunt Shirley a saint.
This Sunday we celebrate All Saints Sunday, the holy-day in the church year on which we give thanks for and honor all who have supported us in our faith lives before leaving us temporarily in death. All Saints Sunday is about remembering the dead who are no longer with us here on earth. It’s about paying tribute to those who have made a positive difference in our lives with Christ through their faith, love, and hope they shared with us.
But All Saints Day is about more than just remembering the dead. It is ultimately about remembering the resurrection that has been promised to us in Jesus Christ. All Saints Day is about facing death head-on and smiling at it through our faith in Christ. It’s about waving good-bye to death as Jesus banishes it into oblivion. Finally, All Saints Sunday is about celebrating life, the abundant life that comes to us in God’s eternal City through the power of Christ’s resurrection from the cross.
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death,” Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians. (1 Cor 15:26) Sometimes we forget that promise, that death is no longer a threat to us, that death in the end will be destroyed, that in Christ there is new life, an abundant new life in which what we fear is gone. In this new life, hatred is gone, greed, prejudice, fear, killing, violence, all gone. Disease is gone, death is gone, and all sources of sorrow have disappeared. Love and beauty and joy and peace will permeate the earth, filling the whole universe to the point of bursting. Life Abundant will saturate us in ways we can never imagine right now.
And while we aren’t able to live this abundant life yet due to the distortion of sin, on All Saints Day we are called to seek God’s city in this messy world through a vision of faith, even if it only can be seen in a glass dimly, in tiny bursts of Christ’s light into our lives, in small glimpses of love and grace and mercy and hope happening around us. The vision of hope that we are reminded of by those who have gone before us points us in the direction God is calling us to live. And this vision redirects us toward love when we try to go a different way. This vision of God’s abundant life is one of the many gifts that the Spirit uses to empower our faith, encourage our hope and guide us toward love in the world.
So during your commemoration of the saints this week, I invite you also to remember and celebrate the resurrection that is promised to us in Christ. For in Christ, we get to look into the face of death and laugh. May God comfort and support you as you remember those saints who have gone before us.
In the new life of Christ,
Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod