■ Erin Armstrong / Contributed
Churches that follow the liturgical calendar celebrated All Saints Day on Nov. 5. It’s a day where we remember those who have died and are now resting in power and light. At Trinity Lutheran, this act of remembrance engages a multitude of senses – lighting candles, speaking names, and ringing bells.
For many, this day is often a day of mourning. Sometimes the loss of a loved one is too new or too deep to bear. Even surrounded by a community and naming a whole litany of names, one’s grief can be a lonely burden. And yet, we still remember. Even when we are shedding tears and feeling the absence of our loved one, naming them as a beloved saint of God fills the absence, just a little.
For others, this day is a reminder of the community of saints we all belong to. In our congregation, we have lost 11 members this year, and naming them in the litany of saints will help us give thanks for the ways in which they enriched our community and our lives. We will also name some celebrities who have passed; most notably for me will be Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and Tom Petty—artists whose work shaped my young life and social consciousness.
In this way, the festival of All Saints brings us closer together with one another, as we can share our communal grief and stories about those who have shaped us. And naming even those common names in a sacred space acknowledges the Godly belovedness of the whole world.
One of the most treasured pieces of Martin Luther’s theology was his insight that we are “simul Justus et peccator”—both saint and sinner. Each person not only holds within their hearts our human capacity for sin, but also God’s capacity for love.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s love and grace have now found a permanent dwelling. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”
And because I believe that such promises not only belong to us church-folk, we celebrate and remember all in whom Christ has dwelled. All Saints Sunday is our day to remember that the ways of Christ have moved in and through those we love, and to remember Christ still lives in us. It is not only a day of remembering and mourning, it is a day of hope for the life we live now, and will live in the day of resurrection.
When we speak the names on All Saints Sunday, and see the candles and hear the bells, my prayer is that the saints who are already resting in glory will rejoice with us. I pray that such a time will be a time for the whole communion of saints to share in the whole sacred range of emotions that happens when we remember. And I pray that in the process, the Body of Christ might feel more whole and alive in the world today and always.
Pastor Erin Armstrong is the senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA). They are located at 191 S. Columbia St. and worship at 8:30 and 10:00 every Sunday morning. Visit their website, www.trinityhemet.org, for more learning, worship and fellowship opportunities.