Earlier today a dear friend, really more like “my hero,” teased me about not speaking about the All Saints’ Day texts. My response was to send her an insert and two old sermons whipped out a few years ago. That was my easy out. Since last October fourteen people have died who are either members of the parishes I serve or are connected close to those parishes. At one point I felt that I had missed my calling—no longer was I to be pastor, for I had clearly become the angel of death!
In such times, those death times, it’s easy to lose sight of births, or even to see births within deaths. We get numb. We grow calloused. And somewhere in this mix, birth and beauty are lost in a numbness that seems to swallow joy.
Death caught me off guard today. I bought a new car and traded my Jeep Commander, Margaret. I released what I knew and opened myself to accept a new car, a new future, and whatever else this vehicle change will bring. It was easy to go through the motions of getting a new car. After all, it is due. Margaret was almost at 170,000 miles. The motions of buying the car were easy…letting go of Margaret, not so much. I’d swear some part of my identity was fused to that jeep—and I was not okay with the unknown future.
But Margaret had to go! It was her time.
Her rear end had been replaced last year. She has had four and half sets of tires, numerous wiper replacements, countless oil changes, and she’s even survived an assault by a toasted biker who rear ended her on his Harley “Pork Chop”….so glad the biker wasn’t driving “whole hog”…and grateful that none were hurt. But death sure walked close to Margaret that day. She has saved us from hydroplaning and dangerous roads. She was a saint to me…but was she ever a sinner. She’d developed an odd glitch—she’d start 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time was “anyone’s guess.” But in those times, all it took was to wiggle the negative battery cable and she’d start. The cable was replaced, etc., but the glitch continued.
And today, I let her go. I parked her at Honda of Gainesville and handed over her title and key. For a moment, I almost cried. I placed a hand on her hood and prayed, “God, she has been so good to us for so long, grant that she will be as good to others.”
Saint and sinner…and totally Margaret. The trade-in was a death of sorts, but the death opened the door for Monique the Accord to be born into the family. One death gave rise to one birth. I sure hope Margaret has a future as wonderful as her past.
My hope for Margaret is the same as the hope many of us have for ourselves, for our loved ones—a future as good as or better than our past.. We wonder what life after death might be like. And we find All Saints’ Day’s second reading for year A addressing that question.
V. 2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” There it is. “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be.” No one knows for sure what we will be like after death. All we know is that we will be like Jesus.
This text is a part of a teaching about love. And we see that Jesus is the fullest expression of love. The verses around v.2, taken out of context, lead one to believe that it is all about moral conduct. But this is not the case. V. 3 nails it, saying that , “…all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” All hope is in him. And from him comes all purity. We may be the foulest soul or most moral paragon—but at the end of the day—hope rests in him. Although v. 4 brings up sin as lawlessness, the apparent resolution for that condition is still only found in him, since “…he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (v.5) Again, the future, the solution to sin, all of it resides in him. V. 6 comes to the point saying that, “No one who abides in him sins.” Sin is no part of Jesus, so those in him are not subject to sin because they are in him.
But those who are not in him, for them there is sin and lawlessness, for after all, “no one who sins has either seen him or known him.” They are out of relationship. This is not about sin—for it’s about being in him, and that is a relationship matter. They are not in him, but there is still hope. We did not make ourselves children of God, deserving of this relationship. Think back to v.1, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”
God gives the love. From such love, we are called the children of God. And we are exactly what God declares use to be. No matter what that looks like in life or death, we belong to God. Our challenge is the deception mentioned in v. 7, “Little children, let no one deceive you.” It’s a safe bet that the deception is that we can accomplish anything thing righteous apart from him.
The bottom line is this business of being “in him.” I smell the Marsala. I want the Mac ‘n cheese, and I cursed when the hot pan seared my thumb, but it’s all okay—my hope is in him, not me! It’s all in him. Let’s face it….getting it done on our part is just beyond our reach. It really is….take it from Ormie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2ut4kD__VY