Reflection for Nov. 4, 2018 (All Saints’ Sunday)
Revelation 12:1-6a/ John 11:32-44/ Isaiah 25:6-9
Today, I will open with some Halloween jokes. What are ghosts’ favorite trees? Ceme-trees. Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road? He didn’t have the guts. Why are graveyards noisy? Because of all the coffin’. When is it bad luck to meet a black cat? When you are a mouse. Why are vampires tough to get along with? Because they can be pains in the neck. I think they are a bit lame, but they were the best I could find on the internet. My favorite is the black cat joke.
Last Wednesday was Halloween. Thursday was All Saints’ Day. According to the Roman Catholic Church, Friday was All Souls’ Day, because Catholics believe that not all souls go to heaven and become saints (“Let’s remember all the souls that departed”). Between these three days, now is a good time to think about our own mortality, saints of the Christian church history who inspired us, our beloved ones who departed us, and what the good news is for us as God’s children and followers of Jesus. Is there a historical figure/ saints you would like to meet? Once, our newly elected moderator Rev. Richard Bott posted this on Facebook and I answered, “my Methodist father, John Wesley.” I also wish I would have met my great grandfather whose King James Bible I inherited. I think he would be happy to know that one of his great grandchildren became a pastor. Becoming sentimental with thoughts like these is nice, but then, so what? What does it mean to remember the departed ones and think of our own mortality? What is the good news in our mortality? Today’s scripture readings teach us what the good news is for us in our mortality issue.
Today’s title “Together Forever” that summarizes the good news for God’s people came to me through a silly Valentines’ Day song from a TV cartoon. “Two people together forever, security in life and someone to love ya instead of being all alone, such a lonely existence”. This silly song, like other silly songs, got stuck in my head and came back to me while I was reading today’s text from the Book of Revelation. The good news for us as God’s people in the face of mortality is that both in this mortal world and in the eternal heavenly realm, God and God’s people are together forever. “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.” Considering that the one who was seated on the throne said, “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end”, we can understand that this God being with us mortals is also from the beginning to the end of everything. This is our reality as well as our destination; God and us together, forever.
Our gospel story builds up to what we learn from today’s reading from Revelation. Our God isn’t merely with us mortals, but also closely gets involved in our lives’ affairs during the good and the bad. Jesus who wept and raised Lazarus from death is the God who weeps when we weep, and, to quote from Revelation 21:4, “wipes every tear from their eyes.” When we finish our mortal life and enter the heavenly and spiritual realm to live with God forever, death will be no more. Mourning and crying and pain will be no more. According to the Isaiah reading we did today, there will be a feast of rich food as well as “wiping away the tears from all faces.” And I’m sure since it’s in heaven, the rich food won’t make us gain weight. We know all these images are just metaphors and not literal facts, but boy, aren’t they wonderful to imagine?
The goal, the point of human history from our point of view as God’s people is “God and us together forever”; our relationship with God is everything. As Christians, we believe in God’s eternal realm or kingdom. This is the essence of Christian hope; that even if we suffer in our mortal world, if we stick with God and live a faithful life, we will spend the eternity in heavenly joy. Christians live by this hope, in faith. But I want you to remember that God’s eternal kingdom and this mortal world are not disconnected. In fact, our lives as disciples of Jesus, the community that the disciples build in this world is an extension of God’s eternal kingdom. I’ve always preached that God’s kingdom starts here and now through our faithful ministry and the love of God we share with one another. We can of course reverse this and claim that God’s eternal kingdom is an extension of the “heaven on earth” that we are called to build.
Then, with this Christian hope about our eternal happy ending in God’s kingdom, let us think about how we can extend this kingdom here on earth. God’s kingdom that Jesus taught, lived and died for, is a realm where compassion and equality rule. We wipe each other’s tears. We share abundance and joy through banquets of rich food, both literally and metaphorically. I think the early church community that the first disciples started was close to the image of God’s heavenly kingdom; they shared their lives and possessions together and lived like a family. That is the spirit we need as Christians living in a much bigger world than the early Christians did. So how can we build heaven on earth and wipe each other’s tears? A lot of what we do in our ministry are an effort of building God’s kingdom on earth. For example, we donate to the Food Bank so hopefully no one in Kimberley will go hungry or stay dirty because they can’t afford personal hygienic products. Our United Church of Canada works towards reconciliation with the First Nations people and speak out against bigotry and discrimination. These are some acts of wiping tears away. Speaking of which, the new Gifts with Visions catalogues are here; so I encourage you to give something to one of our missions and service projects and participate in wiping away someone’s tears.
God seeks relationship and closeness with us. This relationship lasts for eternity. When we go through hardships, let us look to God who loves us and gets involved in our lives like Jesus got involved in the human suffering of grief when Lazarus died. Also remembering that God works through us, let us metaphorically and literally wipe tears from each other’s eyes with our acts of love and compassion. Let us build heaven on earth as Jesus started in his lifetime by working to bring social justice to our society. As well as helping the needy with our donations and volunteer works, let us work towards empowering and helping all marginalized groups that are hurt by diverse isms and bigotry. Let us seek God as God seeks us. Let us treat each other with the compassionate love that we learned from Jesus. Let us learn from the saints in history and in our lives and be inspired by them; those who loved and cared big, those who bravely fought injustice, those who gave their lives to save others, and so on. Communion of the saints happens when we continue the legacy of good works that great people from the past started. May we be touched by the love of God, who is with us all eternity, so we may continue the legacy of the saints by spreading this love in our world.
Rev. Sunny Kim