Historian and author Jon Meacham was our guest preacher on All Saints’ Day yesterday. Jon received the Pulitzer Prize for his 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion and has a new book on George Herbert Walker Bush: Destiny and Power, which will be released on November 10.
The readings for All Saints’ Day included Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead in the Gospel of John 11:32-44 and the Revelation of John in 21:1-6a that describes the end of time with a new heaven and new earth where God will “wipe every tear from their eyes” and “death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…”
Jon began his homily with a quote from G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy, “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.” Chesterton goes on to say: “Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”
Jon continued that none of us have met Jesus at a gravesite to see a friend raised from the dead, nor experienced the perfect heaven. It is this “in-between” time between the miracles of ancient history and the perfect end where we live today. Because of this we have a litany of unanswered “whys?” “Why are some people poor and others rich or some find a lifetime of love and others search futilely for a lifetime?” “Why do the innocent die young and the evil ones flourish or why are some hearts full of love, and others are perpetually broken?”
No matter which god (or any god) one worships, we all long for the same thing in this “in-between” time: for the means of grace and the hope of glory.
When asked, “Why do you believe in God?” Jon responds, “For the same reason I believe in love: it is the invisible force that produces visible positive effects. It is Jesus who gives us that grace, strength, and love.”
Jesus gives us grace as we relentlessly pursue life’s prizes.
Jesus gives us strength to endure our hardships and pain.
Jesus gives us love which shapes and gives meaning to everything.
We need to understand that it is irrational to be dismissive of faith: faith and reason are not enemies. We live in a twilight of hope much more than we live in a time of certainty.
Jon challenged us to keep our traditions and honor those saints who have gone before us. He said for us, it is emboldened in the celebration of the Eucharist which is a continuation of our baptism. No matter how we feel on a given day, or even if we are not fully present, our thirst is satisfied if even for just a moment. We become one in union with Jesus and a cloud of witnesses to protect us in a broken world. If even for a few moments, we are in perfect union with God.
We are commanded to look back in history and celebrate our traditions in order to be fortified to move forward towards the perfect end of time where there is a new heaven and a new earth.
Blessings, my friend,