Wednesday, November 01, 2017
The Odd Three Days
Look at the arc of the story. It starts with ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that show up on your doorstep asking for candy, and then it ends with two feasts focused on the dead: All Saint's, remembering all those holy people who don't get their own holy day; and, All Soul's or All Faithful Departed, where (depending on where you land on the universalist spectrum) we remember all the faithful (baptized) who have died, even if they weren't all that saintly, or everyone who has died regardless of their fitness for the Kingdom.
At any rate, what we are doing is recalling those who have died while at the same time thumbing our noses at death.
Back on April Foole's Day, we made fun of Kings, Queens, Bishops and other clergy, the wealthy and the celebrity, and anyone who thinks themselves important.
Yesterday, on Halloween, we made fun of devils, demons, ghosts, goblins, and monsters. We looked death in the face and laughed.
Halloween stores and parties aside, secular society does this very nervously. That's because most people don't get the joke.
The reason that we followers of Jesus can put on make-up and join the mockery is that by reason of Jesus' incarnation, death, and resurrection God has defeated and put to flight the ultimate power that sin, death, and the grave have over us. Our bodies may die, but the spiritual power of death no longer has any hold over us.
We might be tempted to think that when are praying for our deceased loved ones that we are pleading that God might give them a break from the torments of purgatory or hell. This kind of fear, combined with clever fund-raising, is one of the things that sparked the Reformation 500 years ago. But, in fact, what we are doing is joining with all those everyday saints and souls from all time and every place who, as we heard in today's reading from Revelation, have gathered around the throne of the Lamb and together we sing "Alleluia."
During this Lesser Triduum, these Three Odd Days, we look at the expanse of the church year now winding down, gear ourselves up for how God will wrap up history and fill all things, reflect on the coming of winter, and remember all the ways that God has shown up in the lives of ordinary people--especially in the ones we love but see no longer-- and we discover once again that God in Christ has swallowed up death forever.
The saints and souls we pray for, those near and dear to us, and those known to us only in name and story, are--just like us-- going from strength to strength in the life of perfect service.
These "three odd days," this lesser triduum, may seem like we are whistling past the graveyard, but why settle for whistling when we can sing?
We are able to sing as the Apostle Paul did to the Corinthians; "Where, O death, is your sting...? ...Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
We are, in fact, living in a new creation where the power of death, the power to separate us from God, each other, and creation, has been defeated forever in Christ's life, death, and resurrection.
Homily for The Feast of All Saints, November 1, 2017 at Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, PA.