Today we celebrate All Saints Sunday in the church year, so I decided to post a sermon I preach back in 2007 on this day.
All Saints Sunday 2007
I remember you.
Back when I was in seminary I went on a cross-cultural experience and spent the month of December traveling through Israel. It was a time when I had the opportunity to walk the land of the Bible and see all of these ancient sites with my own eyes. It was powerful experience, being able to see all the places I had spent so much time reading about.
One day we took a trip to a memorial, a museum called Yad Vashem. In Hebrew this means “hand” and “name.” It is a memorial that has been designed for all of the children who had died in the holocaust. These were the young innocents. These were the ones who didn’t have the opportunity to grow up, to live their lives. And this memorial was named Yad Vashem because of Jewish tradition. You see, in Jewish tradition there are two things that are supposed to passed on to next generation, Yad – hand, or work – what you do, and Vashem – your name – your genealogy – who you are as defined by family. And these children never had the opportunity to pass on either of these things to the next generation.
As we walked into memorial building the first thing we saw were the pictures of children – large picture of this angelic faces that covered the entry way. Then we entered a huge room, larger than the size of this sanctuary. This was a room that was filled with candles and in the middle was this path leading through the candles. All these candles were lit in memory of the children. And then, over a loud speaker, there was a reading of all their names. This recording ran continuously. You see, this was how they passed on their hand and name, the reading of names, the candle light for their hands. It was a powerful day, seeing all those little lights, lights representing those whose lives had been snuffed out way to early in life.
I remember you.
Short line from Ephesians lesson for today.
I remember you.
Paul is telling the people of Ephesus that he continually remembers them in prayer and thanksgiving, he remembers their lives, he remembers their faith, he remembers them.
I remember you
That is what today, All-Saints Sunday, is all about.
Remembering. Remembering those who have gone before us. Remembering the saints in our lives. Remembering loved ones who have passed away in the last year. Remembering the promises of God – that this is not the end, but rather stones will be rolled away and tombs will be emptied. Remembering.
Now I have to admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to preaching today.
For me, it was still a little too fresh, a little too close to home. Remembering my dad. No I wasn’t looking forward to reading the All-Saints litany and reading my dad’s name, but as I prayed, reflected, and wrote, these three words stuck with me: I remember you.
I remember your life, I remember you teachings, I remember your blessings, and I remember that you are a child of God.
You see, our remembering, my remembering, has more to it than the Jewish tradition I experienced at Yad Vashem. There is more to it because there is more than hand and name that we remember. There is also the promise and action, the promise and action of God - A God who always remembers us. Remembers us because we are his children and we always will be.
Yes, All-Saints Sunday is about remembering, it is about reflecting on the candles sitting on the altar, reflecting on the lives of those who have been saints in our lives, reflecting on the lives of family and friends.
But it is not, it cannot be, only that. For we know that there is more. We know that God is still at work in the world, we know that death has been defeated, and new life has been born. We know, for God has told us this, God has demonstrated this, and we trust in the one who gave his life so that all may live, and live eternally.
Yes, our remembering consists of the past, but it is also a remembering that moves us into the future. A future where we remember the guidance of the saints who have gone before us, a future where we reflect on their lives, and then are empowered to live out our lives. Lives filled with gifts that have been passed down to us, lives filled with love and grace, lives lived out to the glory of God.
Yes, we remember the past this day and we look forward to the future. A future that is bright, a future that is filled with opportunities, a future that inspires us to live as the saints we have been called to be.
I remember you.
I remember you, church, living body of Christ. I remember you in my prayers. I remember you in the lives of faith you live. I remember you, for you have been claimed by Christ and empowered by the Spirit to live as saints, as ones with gifts from God to share, as ones with blessings to give, as ones with a message, a gospel word, to share with all the world.
And so on this day, as we remember the past, as we remember our loved ones we also remember our calling. Our calling to bring words of hope to those who are struggling, our calling to bring love to the unlovable, our calling to bring strength to the weak. And as we do this, we see the face of Christ shining back at us, a face that smiles at us, says, in a loving voice
“I remember you, for you are mine, and you always will be.”