I heard a voice saying,
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord for they rest from their labours.” (Revelation 14:13)
I have always found the most challenging of seasons the transition of the summer to fall. The darkening days, more layers of clothing, no more sandals. I am particularly sad to put my garden to bed for the coming winter, this year more than ever as it is my last winter in my house. Is it true that with endings there are new beginnings?
This is a season of remembering, of living transitions, of letting go. I have enjoyed the incredible colours of the fall foliage as I travel through the hills near Cowansville. Spectacular vistas. Leaves are at their most vibrant just before they die and fall to the earth to compost into the soil that will nurture future growth.
We remember that on the night of October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, beginning what became known as the Protestant Reformation. Luther chose this night knowing that people would be attending church the next day – All Saints Day – and would read his statements that would disturb the religious status quo.
We remember the saints with Christians from around the world at All Saints (November 1). This term as used in the New Testament refers to Christians collectively, as well as those people of special significance who have been set apart by the church or canonized. Many cemeteries have special memorials, as do hospitals and residences around this time of year.
We remember the ending of two great wars and the millions who died in these and other conflicts, both military and civilian. On November 11 ceremonies, wreaths and poppies are a part of our gratitude and solemn gatherings.
In the midst of these is All Hallows’ Eve, the eve of All Saints that over time became shortened to Halloween. Tracing its roots to an ancient Celtic day of the dead known as Samhain this more commercial North American costuming is for most simply an enjoyable relief to the darkening days and changing season.
The fall colours, so beautiful and so fleeting, mirror the cycle of our lives and the challenge of our grief, which is to remember, to treasure, and also to let go. As Christians we know this cycle of endings and new beginnings. We celebrate a hope rooted in Christian faith where death does not have the final word, where there is a rest from labours for those who have died. God holds them close in grace and we in a holy remembrance in our hearts.
Remembrance roots us with gratitude in the past but gives us courage to change the world as peace makers who follow Jesus’ vision of inclusion and love.
Sylvia Dunstan wrote a lovely hymn of remembrance in Voices United 494, Those Hearts We Have Treasured (often sung to the tune of Stand Up! Stand Up for Jesus!):
Those hearts that we have treasured,
those lives that we have shared,
those loves that walked beside us,|
those friends for whom we've cared,
their blessing rests upon us,
their life is memory,
their suffering is over,
their spirits are set free.
They still give hope and comfort,
they did not lose the fight,
they showed us truth and goodness,
they shine into our night.
Remember days of gladness;
remember times of joy;
remember all the moments
that grief can not destroy.
In this season of remembrance we give thanks and trust in God.