November 1 is All Saints’ Day, and this year I could not help but think of a woman who recently went to be with the Lord. Earlier in the summer, my fiancé showed me a video of his grandmother reciting Psalm 121, her favorite psalm. Just a few weeks ago, that video played in the sanctuary of her late husband’s church as family and friends processed into her funeral service. The room was full of crying and soft sniffles as this video played on a loop. It ended when the casket was closed.
The pastor stood to give comforting words to the mourning, reminding them that their mother, grandmother and friend was no longer suffering but was with Jesus and her loving husband. I am always moved by how the resurrection is preached in the context of a funeral. Sometimes it seems that saying, “Your loved one is with Christ now,” is a cheap way to comfort the family, reminding them that they are no longer suffering from sickness or sin. But these are more than words of comfort. It’s the absolute truth for believers. This life is fleeting; we are simply passing through until we enter into the kingdom of God.
During the funeral service, her grandson preached about her life as a pastor’s wife, a mother of 10 and grandmother of 28. She shared the gospel by loving others well and teaching them the Bible. She lived the gospel. She was a woman many aspired to be like and to be around. Her granddaughter shared a poem about how her homemade biscuits were more than just biscuits—they were a testament to her love for people. I could not help but ask myself, “How will I be remembered when my time comes?”
Unfortunately, I never had the honor of meeting her. But it feels like I knew her. Story after story proved to me that this was a praying woman, a woman who loved God and loved others. Isn’t this what we mean by “saint”? In my tradition, we remember specific saints throughout the year, but I particularly appreciate remembering all the saints we have encountered in our lives on All Saints’ Day. Today, many churches will call out the names of loved ones who have passed, thanking the Lord for their lives and for the times we had with them. I especially love remembering my own grandmother, my namesake, and the impact she left on my life. She is a saint.
Beeson’s Hodges Chapel is filled with images and statues of the saints who have shaped the way we learn about God and understand his word. They are examples of how to be like Christ, how to love one another and how to live in a world full of suffering. We are forever grateful for their ministry. But saints are not just the dead. Every member of the body of believers is a saint—those still on this earth and those who have passed on. For this reason, All Saints’ Day is not a day to worship the dead or to pray to the dead. But it is a day to remember the saints who have gone to be with the Lord and to remember that, as saints ourselves, our time on earth will one day pass. It is also a day to remember that there is hope in what is to come: that day when all of God’s people will be together in his kingdom.
For this All Saints’ Day, let us praise the Lord for the lives of those who have come before us, for their ministry and the influence they have had on us. Let us also praise the Lord for allowing us to be a part of this body of believers and pray for endurance in this world of suffering.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” — Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV
Katherine Ladd, a graduate of Beeson's M.A.T.S. program, is a member of St. Peter's Anglican Church, Birmingham.