Many of us will be observing All Saints Day in the next few days. We will remember those saints who have gone before us in faith. We’ll honor those who’ve died in the last year. There will be tears. There will be laughter. We will worship, remember, and give thanks. However, I wonder if we will pay attention to the scripture readings or raise up something more than comforting platitudes. Is there a call to action embedded in these familiar scripture passages?
One of the readings for All Saints Day is Revelation 21:1-6a. This is a common passage for funeral services as well. It is comforting and hopeful and promises us God’s presence here on earth at some future date. Well, what if we approach this passage differently? What if this passage is meant to be descriptive – what could happen – rather than prescriptive – what God will do? What if it is our responsibility to be the New Jerusalem and make room for God to live among us?
It sounds impossible, right? I don’t think it is. What I know of the major world religions and philosophies is that loving-kindness is at their core, a call for believers to live in peace with their neighbors. This is the essence of the Divine. Jesus is the embodiment of Divine Love, meant to demonstrate for those who follow how to bring God’s love into the world. Honestly, we haven’t done a great job with this. Nor do I think other religious traditions have done any better. We’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted by our fears and the divisions foisted on us by the Empire. We’ve lost site of the very heart of God – Agape – and we have made God in our own image.
God is not on the side of war, vengeance, violence, hatred, division, ignorance, fear, dismissal, or devaluing. God is present in acts of loving-kindness, peace, justice, equity, unity, respect, healing, and honor. God is with the abolitionists of today not and not with the White supremacist or White nationalists who claim to act on God’s behalf. God is not racist, though the Body of Christ certainly is. God is not filled with hate for any being, though the Body of Christ certainly is. God did not cause poverty, disease, or disasters though the Body of Christ tends to blame the victims of these circumstances as if they were cursed by God. Surely, we can do better than this.
As we remember and honor the saints who have gone before us, it is essential that we recognize that the church of yesterday does not have a place in today or tomorrow. If we are to be the New Jerusalem where God is at home among us, we must put an end to the violence in our homes, cities, countries, and world. If we want to put an end to the suffering that causes tears, we must put an end to poverty, hunger, and all the fear of “other” we have created. In the New Jerusalem we embody the unity God dreams of and let go of all the fears that feed the Empire.
You might be thinking that this is impossible. Maybe it is impossible to change the whole world all at once. However, it is not impossible to change ourselves and the way we embody Christ. There is no room for fear, hatred, and violence in any form in Body of Christ or any member of it. The centuries of bloodshed and hatred in the name of Christ must come to an end. Jesus hated no one and sought to bring healing and renewed community to all he encountered. When will we do the same?
We who claim to be Christians can be leaders in the world, leaders who seek to bring loving-kindness into the world, leaders who will work alongside every person seeking to do the same, regardless of religious beliefs or affiliations. Friends, “the first things” will only “pass away” if we let them go and reach for Love. Perhaps then we will be close to the Kin(g)dom, the New Jerusalem and God will truly be at home among us.