Although All Saints’ is an ancient tradition, the only thing I knew growing up was that it was the name of my neighbor’s Episcopal Church. All Saints’ Day is the tradition of remembering those who have died in the past year, usually members of a church or loved ones.
Some Christian traditions make the distinction between All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day – the saints being those who are within the church, the souls being those who are beyond. That line of thinking is problematic for so many reasons, the most important being that Jesus never made that distinction.
On Tuesday night I worshiped at a memorial service at Temple Rodef Shalom in McLean, alongside more than 2,000 worshipers from a spectrum of religious faiths. We lit candles, not just for the eleven who were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue, but also for the two African-Americans killed in the hate crime in Kentucky on the same day. All thirteen names were read; all thirteen candles were lit. No distinctions. (If you are at all moved to worship at local synagogue or temple this Friday, I hope you’ll do so.)
This Sunday, we’ll celebrate All Saints’ Day (officially November 1) here at Western. As I considered whom to lift up as part of “our church,” I thought of individual loved ones near and dear to us. I also thought of those near and dear to our church through our mission and ministry commitments: those who died because of gun violence, those who died trying to immigrate or seek asylum, those who died without a home, those who died while incarcerated. You may think of others.
In worship, as we remember the communion of the saints during our celebration of the sacrament, you’ll have a chance to light a candle in memory of an individual or part of a larger community. We’ll have a chance to remember and give thanks that they were each created in God’s image, all saints in God’s eyes.
Giving thanks for you, for God at work through you, and for God’s multitude of so many saints,