All Soul’s Day 11-2-2018
Isaiah 25: 6-9; Ps 27: 1, 4, 7, 8b, 9a, 13-14; 2Cor 4:14-5:1; John 14: 1-6
The celebration of All Souls Day is a day in the life of the Church that is unique. What other day better shows the result of Easter, the long –term impact of the resurrection? The joy of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning is the other side of grief and loss. The difference the two is beyond our imaginations; and Biblical writers in our readings today use several approaches in attempting to describe it.
In Isaiah, the joy of the resurrection is described for us in symbols. “On this mountain”, it starts. The Temple in Jerusalem was built on a hill – the “temple mount” it was called. Living in Virginia, I have come to better understand this. There is Bluemont, Thurmont, Philomont, Airmont, so many villages that use the suffix “Mount” in their name. “Mount” does not necessarily mean a rocky peak that must be scaled with special rock climbing equipment, although life often feels like that. A Mount is a high place where you can get new perspective from seeing the valleys around you.
So the temple mount is a symbol of heaven, a place above us, where God “provides for all peoples.” What does God provide? The heavenly feast, a banquet, a place where there is no hunger, no needs that go unmet, where all are welcomed, where no one is subjected to prejudice and no one is marginalized. But first, a veil, like a heavy fog, must be removed. The veil is loss, pain, misery. When it is lifted, we see the reality of God and God’s love. We are given real freedom, which includes freedom from death and tears. And we will know who has saved us; it is the Lord that we had searched for, and who came to find us. Then we can rejoice and be glad that we are finally truly with God.
Our Psalm is a song of joy for that day of freedom. We will be in the house of the Lord all the rest of our days –for eternity, and we may simply look on the loveliness of the Lord. We will be in the presence of God and know that from the day that God first “knit us together in our mother’s womb” God has been our light and our salvation.
But St. Paul had faced death and writes in this 2nd letter to the Christians of Corinth some words encouragement, telling how God renews us each day with grace. As Jesus lived after death, so will we, and grace is given to us abundantly now, in the same way that our needs will be met abundantly in heaven. Paul goes so far as to call the difficulties of life “momentary light affliction” when compared to the “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. As the Psalmist (84) says, “One day in the house of God is better than a thousand days elsewhere. It is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of God than live in the tests of the wicked. ” No matter what happens to our earthly bodies, our eternal wholeness is ensured. Life does not end, but changes.
Finally, Jesus offers us a promise of certainty. “Don’t worry,” he tells us. “Have Faith!” In our Bible readings we encounter “Fear not” and “Have faith” so many times. The promise is real, all that we have told about -and more- is waiting for us and those we love. Jesus adds that he will return to see that we are safely shown the way to the presence of God. Jesus purposely came to earth for us, to teach us, and to better show us the way to eternity. He opened the door, he shows the way, he evens gives us the desire to follow him.
All this is not a “description” of heaven as such; it does not provide the GPS coordinates that we might find eternity in our own way or at our own time. It is not concerned with golden streets or jewels or thrones. Instead it tells us eternity it will be very different from the sickness, the violence, the striving for material goods, and the status and power games of earthly life. It reminds us of how far we have to go to be like God in our love of each other.
And finally, it eases the pain we feel for the loss of those we love. Knowing that the present pain is transitory, but the goodness that is to come is eternal, our hearts dare to hope that suffering will end and be replaced with loveliness. Carry that message with out with you- take the copy of the readings as well as the hope, as you leave today, for it is the message, the Good News, which the cornerstone of our faith brought to us. For the good news is the resurrection, that other side of loss and grief.