I am a Reformed believer who is going to remember All Saints Day. In fact, I think it is good thing for me to do so, especially, on the day after Reformation Day. My theology must become my biography. My reformation faith must reform my understanding of myself in relationship to other believers or else I am unshackled on one day and alone on the day after.
I need the nudge of All Saints Day. I need to be nudged to remember. There are so many other voices calling; so many other needs pressing; so many other ideas competing for my attention. I need a larger voice than those voices to call me to pause and recall that there were those who lived before I lived, who prayed before I prayed, who followed Christ before I was ever born, and, who have so much to teach me. So I need to remember. I need to remember the well known elect of ages gone by. I also am drawn to recall the blessing of lives faithfully lived for Jesus Christ by those known only to me and my family, or my church. I remember Aunt Eva and I ask God to grant me her faith in the God who will be the father to the fatherless: and I was the fatherless one she prayed for; she lived for. I remember my father, whose life is not defined by an empty bottle that killed him, but by a full little rough-hewn tabernacle of poor uneducated people who prayed for him. He is defined, in my mind on this day, by the night when he fell on his knees in the sawdust of that piney wood chapel and repented of his sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The spring rain in South Louisiana would fall on his casket as it was lowered in the ground and the little gathering sang “The Old Rugged Cross” under umbrellas. He is defined by his faith and the recollection of that faith forged a crisis of belief in my life that led me to repent as well. I smell sawdust on this day. I smell rain and spring earth on this day. I am in Aunt Eva’s lap and she is reading from a Bible story book about Adam and Eve. I hear Wesleyan accordions playing “I’ll Fly Away” in a chapel, and I see a processional of Anglican children in a church where my wife and I were confirmed. I feel the touch of the Baptist preacher’s hand, so gentle,so large, resting on my head after services. I feel the water cupped in my own hand, pouring the waters of the covenant over the head of an infant—my own son. I sense the past is with me now.
Yet All Saints Day, this good imposition of time upon time, is a sacred place when remembering causes me to look forward. I will see St. Paul. I will see St. James. I will see Whitefield and Spurgeon and Cranmer and Augustine. I will see Abraham. And I will behold my Aunt Eva and my father again as we all gather together in the unspeakable splendor of worship on that Day when the Lord of life appears in glory. We shall process with all the saints.
I am thus Reformed to remember. And I remember to move closer.
A Scripture for All Saints Day
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. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he 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.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
A Collect for All Saints Day (based on Thomas Cranmer‘s 1549 Collect):
your saints are one with you
in the mystical body of Christ:
give us grace to follow them
in all virtue and holiness
until we come to those inexpressible joys
which you have prepared for those
who truly love you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.