by Rev. Dr. Krista S. Givens
Last year, we had a “Faith and Film” showing of the movie “Coco” and it was to be the “children’s” film of a two part series. The children came dressed in pajamas and we have a potluck dinner and before the movie, I asked the children if they had seen the movie or knew what it was about. All the children had seen it and explained it to the adults (who had not)…. It’s about a boy who is celebrating ‘Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) in Mexico and he gets magically caught up in the realm of the dead and has to discover how to cross back into the land of the living. There is a lot of music and family drama, but that is the basic story.
When deciding whether to show the film in church, some folks expressed concern that it was a film about death, that maybe it would be too much for kids, that they wouldn’t get the concept, but we were all surprised that they understood it so well. After the film, which was based on the idea that our ancestors are still with us, still loving us, still active in our lives, even after death…. it was the ADULTS that were crying, moved by the idea. Maybe the reality of losing people you’ve gets more and more REAL as the years go by and the idea that our ancestors are still with us gets more difficult to believe.
All Saint’s Sunday is a time to stop and recognize that we’ve been given a great gift in the people who come into our lives. And even when they are gone, they are not gone. Even when we cannot see them, we can feel their presence. And even though we miss them, they are part of us.
Our scripture from the book of Ephesians, details that idea: “I have heard” Paul writes in verse 15-16 and 18, “of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers” … “so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.”
Now, Paul’s Letter to the church in Ephesus is a summary of sorts, a review of the foundational Christian tenants regarding life and death: What do we believe happens after we’ve died? How will God deal with us after our earthly lives have ended?
Much of this is a mystery, and Paul hopes to shed a little light on the mystery of death to the faithful: You have received an inheritance, he says.
What is an inheritance? Those of us who’ve made a will, or completed our end-of-life paperwork, know this: When we pass on…. our stuff doesn’t come with us, so we need to communicate our wishes to our loved ones. Who has been given something as an inheritance that made areal difference in your life?
As one who has been present in end-of-life discussions with families, I have seen every reaction – good and bad – to this process. From people placing their own names on items using masking tape and a sharpie, to people arguing about who gets what, how much you got and how much I got, using inheritance as a weapon to punish those you disagreed with in life…. It gets sticky and can damage the relationships between those who are left in the physical world.
But that is not the only inheritance we are given – we are gifted with the lives, experiences, memories and the legacy of our loved ones. We are gifted with the inheritance of their actions, their dreams, their loves and losses. What an amazing inheritance!
If you paid attention to our slideshow, you may have noticed that those we name as “saints” today – those we celebrate and honor on “All Saints Sunday” – were not perfect, not supermen and superwomen, not infallible or ‘saintly’…. they were normal people, ordinary humans that made an impact on our lives. Mothers and fathers, Aunts and Uncles, friends and loved ones whose lives, dreams, passions, hard work, and very LIVES affected OURS.
My colleague and friend Rev. Julie Brewster Elkins reminded me that today is the one year anniversary of Rev. Jim Brewster’s death. For those who did not know pastor Jim, he was a fixture in this church. An active part of our community. He and his wife Arlene taught a Wednesday evening bible study class at the home at Baker Homes for several years, and even as his health was deteriorating, he continued to support the church with his bright spirit, his advice and support for the pastor, and in his friendly smile as he welcomed folks into the sanctuary.
This year we also lost Bill Bassett, whose presence is missed each Sunday. Bill was a force in the church, especially during “Dodger Season” – I mean baseball season – and when boasting of the accomplishments of his grandchildren. Bill was the definition of proud grandpa and shared his love and joy with us, his church family.
These two humans made an impact on us as a church, but they were normal people who got angry, made mistakes, occasionally made bad decisions – as we all do. Today we celebrate and honor them – not because they were perfect – but because they were…good….loving….joyful…ordinary people who made an extraordinary impact in our lives.
Let’s take a moment today, on this All Saints Sunday, to remember our saints, for how they loved us, for all they taught us, for the impact they made on us.
For the inheritance they’ve left us. For the lessons they’ve taught us. For the passions they’ve instilled in us. For the work still left to be done.
May we honor them today and each day of our lives. Amen.