The church has just celebrated All Saints Day. When the calendar got too full to add “feast days” to honor individual Christians of distinction, All Saints Day (November 1) was created to honor all the “splendid nobodies,” in the words of Elizabeth Johnson. Even though I grew up in a non-liturgical tradition as a baptist from the South, I have found this celebration to be a source of theological renewal. Not only does it call us to remembrance of “those whose race is won,” but it calls us to consider how their participation in Christ encourages our present perseverance. Encompassed by the “great cloud of witnesses,” we are prompted by their faithfulness to continue even when the way is hard.
Because we share in the one Body of Christ, the dead are not far from us. Indeed, we commune with them as we remember and share in the life of prayer and eternal faith. Jürgen Moltmann, in The Coming of God, describes the indestructible community of the living and the dead. He encourages Christians to “come close to the dead” through coming closer to Christ. “They are beside us wherever the Spirit of life lays hold of us and makes us happy,” he writes (p. 108). Their witness is tested by our faithfulness; they depend upon us to join them in memory and hope. According to Hebrews 11:39-40, their perfection depends upon ours. Therefore, let us “run with perseverance.”