Time has taken its toll. It is a price, however, that I am grateful to have paid. Two years ago, I participated in my first All Saints Day celebration at First Baptist Greenville. Appropriate songs and litanies were incorporated into the order of worship. White paraments draped the pulpit and communion table; they are reminders of eternal life. Baxter Wynn – our then Minister of Pastoral Care – read the names of church members who had died during the prior year. Most of the names were not familiar to me. I had not forged relationships with them or held memories of them to the extent the rest of the congregation had. I heard the names with reverence. I held their families in prayer. I was moved by the need for and nature of this meaningful service. But I was keenly aware that I was still a stranger in this place.
Time has taken its toll. It is a price, however, that I am grateful to have paid. I walk through our memory garden at least once a week. I know the names gracing the façade of our Columbarium. I’ve stood with family members in that sacred place to hear words of committal and share tears of loss. This Sunday, I will gather with this church family, move through elements of worship and hear the names of those who’ve died this past year. I know them all. They are familiar. They are family. They are friends. To different degrees, I’ve known them, prayed for them and/or prayed with them. I’ve grieved their deaths and affirmed their eternal life with God. I’m not a stranger anymore.
Time has taken its toll. Another year has passed. Some are absent from us who, in ways spoken and unspoken, have made an impact on our life, the life of our church and God’s kingdom. We will speak their names in worship Sunday morning. We will hold their families in prayer. We will celebrate our memories. We will trust in God’s eternal care of their lives… and ours. We will celebrate All Saints Day and once again commit our lives – the whole of our lives – to God. I’ll see you Sunday.