The Feast - Weekly Reflections 10-28-15

 Texts for Sunday November 1
 All Saints’ Day

 Isaiah 25:6-9
 Psalm 24
 Revelation 21:1-6a
 John 11:32-44

6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. - Isaiah 25:6

Three stories about my dad who died in December of 1994:

1) I grew up on one of those old fashioned farms that had some chickens for eggs to sell (and eat) and some cows for milk to sell (and drink), a giant garden to eat, and some crops to sell. And it had a big barn in which dwelled a continuous herd of “barn cats”. Usually the diet of a barn cat is whatever rodent is running about. But on our farm that diet was supplemented. My dad used to cook up concoctions of left over this and that on our stove each evening then carry it out through a swirling mass of cats that moved in and out, around and about his legs as he carried it to multiple bowls in the machine shed. Don’t tell her that I told you, but my sister told me a few years ago that sometimes what he cooked for the cats looked better to her than whatever our mom cooked for us. 

2) As my mother became disabled from Alzheimer's disease and then moved to a care facility, my dad became the chief cook, first for both of them, and then just for himself.  In the just-for-himself era, visiting him for supper was both intriguing and a little scary because he cooked a lot like he did for the cats, throwing whatever into a pot and letting all the whatevers cook up into supper. Some combinations were pretty good; some were pretty bad.

3) My parents, and then later just my dad, would drive 2 hours down to Davenport to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. It was a gloriously relaxing informal time together that we all enjoyed and which my family still misses. One of the traditions of that feast was that my dad would bring a pumpkin pie made, of course, from a pumpkin he had grown, and two cans of sweet corn, one creamed and one not creamed. He brought them each year in the cake carrier pictured above which our family claimed in the division of the estate. He brought that corn because my daughter loved the combination and well, he loved his granddaughter.

When he died, I got to choose the scriptures for his funeral service. I chose the Isaiah text from this week, All Saints’ Sunday. It gives a glorious vision of a feast that my dad would love – maybe help cook? - provided by God on the very mountain where God will “swallow up death forever” (an even stranger diet than those barn cats!)

So it is All Saints’ Sunday this week, and memories like mine stir in the hearts of people across the country. First, I should mention that for Lutherans, a saint is not a super-Christian who has done something spectacular in life, instead a saint is a baptized believer, as ordinary as me, or my dad.

All Saints’ is a gift for a couple of reasons. It declares bluntly that death is very present among us, especially for those who have loved ones who died, for those who miss them and still grieve in the dark hollowness of their loss. Death is painful, death is brutal.  The anger we may feel, the void that stares us down each day is real.  In this week’s Gospel, even God grieves in anguish over the death his dear friend Lazarus. We do not have to sugar coat it at all.

 All Saints’ Sunday texts also give us: God will swallow up death forever (Isaiah); Death will be no more (Revelation). God takes death into Godself and wipes away our tears.  The anguishing God in the Gospel says NO, and calls Lazarus from the grave and unbinds him from death. We are comforted by the promise that God will wipe away all tears and can remember God’s hope in the midst of our pain and loss.

One more thing - All Saints’ Day is not just about looking back to beloved saints nor looking forward to the final feast at the end. It is also about the present. God says “See, I am making all things new” - right now, this moment.  Luther taught that the significance of baptism is that each and every day God brings forth a new person; each day, each moment God gives us new possibilities to serve and love others.  That newness is why people make the sign of the cross or dip their fingers into the baptismal waters – to remind themselves that they are one of God’s saints sent to be in this world this moment. And always, they are invited to the feast.

Which saints will you remember this year? Who makes All Saints Day especially meaningful for you? How do you remember them? 

When have you felt God “making all things new” in your life?

Check out the G.I.F.T. post for this Sunday, November 1, for more ways to reflect on these verses.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comment section below.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245