Summary: For all the Saints, who from their Labors rest...

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All Saints Sunday November 1, 2009 “Series B”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for all your saints throughout the ages, both great and small – all who have revealed your word in faithfulness and who have enabled the proclamation of your redeeming grace in Jesus the Christ to be passed on from generation to generation. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, inspire us and encourage us to continue to witness to the message of the Gospel, so that it might continue to nurture faith for generations to come. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

In my previous parish, the congregation maintained two cemeteries, in which many of the members over the years had been buried. Several times a year, we would receive requests from persons who were trying to trace their family tree, for information recorded on the tombstones. That would require a trip to the cemetery to hunt down the headstone, make a tracing of it, and mail it out to the family member making the request.

But I never had the experience that Dr. William H. Willimon reported in his commentary published in Pulpit Resource. Dr. Willimon wrote, and I quote, “One of the strangest requests that I ever received was from a woman who wanted me to accompany her to the cemetery. There, I was to say a prayer, and be with her as she attempted to contact her recently deceased father.

She had hired a professional “medium,” someone who offers to help people contact the dead. The medium was to offer some sort of incantation, enter into some sort of trance, that would enable us to hear the dead person speak. I never got to see the medium at work,” Dr. Willimon reported. “I told the woman that I was a Christian minister, and that we don’t do this sort of thing. So she went out to the cemetery without me. When she returned, she was very disappointed. She didn’t hear the voice of her father.

Yet as we talked, I came to understand some of this woman’s desire. She had a great relationship with her father, and often turned to him for his guidance and advice. She was at that time facing all sorts of decisions, had some problems to solve, and longed for his paternal advice. She wanted more than ever to hear his reassuring voice again, and be the recipient of his wisdom.” End quote.

Well, I would agree with Dr. Willimon that the Christian faith does not rely on the use of mediums in order to receive specific directives from those who have died. And yet, as Dr. Willimon later concluded, in a way we Christians do communicate with the dead. As Christians, we believe that we can hear the dead speak to us.

As Willimon points out in his commentary, what is it that we do every Sunday morning, but open up the Scriptures, and read the words of those who have lived centuries before us, as if they have something meaningful to say to us. “We have acted as if these ancient people with names like Isaiah, John, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha know more about God than we do. We have acted as if they have something to teach us that we could not learn any other way.”

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