Crossing over to the other side
All Saint’s Day is a time we remember our loved ones who have crossed over from this life to the other side. Crossing a river has always been a metaphor for the passage from this world to the next. Last week at the 9 a.m. service, our Godly Play lesson reflected on the People of God carrying the Ark of the Covenant through the desert, across the river Jordan and finally building a home for it in the Jerusalem Temple.
Each of us will one day stand on that edge of the metaphorical Jordan river as we remember the lights and people who gave us encouragement during our life’s journey to that place. We find the courage to step out into the unknown as they have done before us. We can hear them cheering us on: “Come along..come on over..go go go..you can do it!”
These are the saints of God we celebrate this weekend. I was fortunate to know some wonderful people and mentors in my life who certainly did not have easy lives or were not particularly filled with a kind of righteous certainty. Saints are real and often very ordinary folk. They often lived lives of struggle, doubt and in some cases persecution, but they were agents of light and showed us the path.
Most of all, that scary deep divide between life and new life may not seem so threatening with these beacons of hope. We give thanks for them and their influence over our lives. They helped to shape us and our faith, the way we see life and how we go forward in tough times. They helped us to show humility and bring humor to the dark places of our lives and our community.
We, in turn may do that for others, often unwittingly through our children and grandchildren. We can practice unconditional love in this life that simply folds into an eternal relationship with those who stand on our balconies and cheer us on! We can mentor, write notes of encouragement and ZOOM in these challenging times, but we help each other to make those scary crossings less threatening so we can take the plunges of life.
Sainthood does not begin after we are dead, sanctification begins at our baptism….we are surrounded by the love and light of our godparents and families and the church community….we watch our children grow into adults and take their place in the world and hope they are equipped and supported to do the things that will be required of them in the future. We go ahead of them to prepare the way..to light the path….it is an endless crossing over, this human procession that we remember on this day more than any other Sunday.
In the Jewish tradition, the ark of the covenant symbolizes the presence of God in the middle of God’s people who are ever-anxious and overwhelmed by the chaos. In the Christian tradition, the ark is reincarnated in Jesus who represents the divine love and eternal covenant that we are forever God’s children by adoption and grace. As the community of the church, we look to Jesus to help us get across. With the help and inspiration of the saints (and the legacy and experiences that we will be most remembered for in this life) all of these, like the ark, are lovingly carried from one river bank to the other side.
Rev. Canon Albert J Ogle