All Saint’s Day: All Things New
October 27, 2009
Scripture Focus: Revelation 21:1-6a
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,?
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
God will dwell with them;
they will be God’s peoples,
and God will be with them;
God will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new,” and said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then the one on the throne said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”
My dad passed away six years ago. I was living and working in Jackson, Miss., at the time, serving as a US-2 young adult missionary. I was away from Jackson, and the class of kindergarten and first grade students I worked with in the after-school program, for about two weeks. When I returned to my class, one of the little boys ran up to me and said, “Miss Wheeler, Miss Wheeler, did your dad pass out?”
It was both funny and sad at the time. And it’s both funny and sad today as I write about it. But the encapsulation of those mixed emotions sums up how I feel about All Saint’s Day. The Scripture from Revelation talks about a time when “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain no more.” That’s a reassuring message for those who’ve lost loved ones. It’s a reassuring message for everyone feeling loss – of a job, health or security.
All Saints Day is a day of remembrance – a time to recall and celebrate the lives of those who have been a part of our lives and are no longer with us. The Scripture for this Sunday beckons us to see that things are being made new, that the first heaven and first earth have passed away. Again, a message of reassurance, a message of anticipation, and a message that asks us to consider how time passes, how our world evolves and changes. Revelation points us forward; our understanding of All Saints Day turns us back to those we’ve lost.
How do we reconcile these messages? How do we sort out the confusion of someone passing out and someone passing away?
I don’t remember exactly how I explained to the little boy that my dad had passed away, not passed out. I probably said just that. And in merging the message of All Saints Day with the message of “all things new,” I’ll say just that: All things are new. Since losing my dad there’s been an onslaught of new things: mourning my Dad, holidays without him, explaining to people that my Dad has passed away, and finding new rituals in my life that celebrate his memory.
All Saints Day is usually marked with rituals. Many churches commemorate the day by lighting candles and saying words of tribute for those who are gone. This ritual, whatever it may be, is about connection. It’s about recalling and honoring the lives of those who have passed away. The embodiment of grief, love and remembrance into All Saints Day is an important celebration and connection for us to make with those we’ve lost.
I’ve identified my own personal rituals to remember my dad: sitting with a cup of tea every morning like Dad, and baking odds and ends from time to time as he did. I’ve even found myself with similar reading materials as of late. Being born, raised and living his entire life on a farm, Dad enjoyed reading about farming and subscribed to magazines and newspapers on the subject. I just finished reading a book called Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. I think Dad would be proud.
All Saints Day was different before my dad died. The candles we lit, the names we read in church were names of distant relatives and church members – not my dad. His loss is by far the most poignant of any loss I’ve experienced. No matter the day, the time or the occasion, remember and be comforted.
*Barbara Wheeler is an editor for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and editor of Response magazine.
Last Updated: 04/08/2010