October 27, 2014

Remembering the Saints

            A cluster of important days crowds the liturgical calendar in late October and early November.  We will celebrate All Hallows Eve, All Saints, and All Souls during this week, and it is a good time to give thanks for our forebears in faith whose witness continues to inspire us.

            The book of Revelation gives us a vision of the faithful gathered in the life to come:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the lamb!” (7:9-10)

          This encompassing body expresses the hope of Christians, that ultimately we will be found in God’s safekeeping.
            Along with confessing our belief in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, Christians confess that we believe in the communion of saints, a “Christian symbol that speaks of profound relationship,” in the words of Elizabeth Johnson in Friends of God and Prophets.

            This relationship is surely enjoyed by those “whose rest is won,” but the communion of saints speaks of an ongoing connection between those alive in Christ this side of death and those treasured in memory and hope.  It is possible to be near to them both, in the thinking of theologian Jürgen Moltmann.  Because we are the one Body of Christ, we are closer together than we may realize.

            Remembering those who have shaped our lives is an instructive spiritual discipline.  Yesterday at First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor, Michigan, I encountered the daughter of my great teacher, Dr. Dale Moody, long time Professor of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Dr. Moody helped me integrate Scripture and science in creative ways, which was a lifelong scholarly passion for him.  He encouraged me as a woman in ministry and theologian, even as he continued to interrogate a patriarchal system where women were not welcome in the pulpit or as professors in theology.  It was his advocacy that helped me become the first woman to teach theology at Southern Seminary.  Seeing his daughter Linda prompted a flood of gratitude for this saint in my life.
            Even more important than our remembering these who have moved through death to life is the reality that God remembers them.  As the Psalmist says, “The Lord redeems the life of God’s own servants; none of those who take refuge in God will be condemned (Psalm 34:22).  God knows the names of those who have been largely forgotten; God remembers them and creates a space for them in God’s eternity.  For this, we give thanks.

            Molly T. Marshall

           Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.

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