Even though you see me using a tablet and an android phone I still consider myself a bit of an acknowledged Luddite when it comes to technology. I have no idea how to connect my laptop to the TV to make use of iView on my TV or some such thing. Often technology befuddles me. For instance, passenger-side rear-view mirrors. For the life of me even though I use them for backing I can’t figure out why they put mirrors there designed to deceive us.
There you are, rushing up and down the motorways (not too fast of course as the fines are hefty, especially in the greater Sydney area); you look in the side mirror, plenty of room to move into the left lane. You slide over, horns blare, brakes screech, and you glance back over your shoulder. There it is— a car— in the left lane. Looking in the side mirror, it seemed so far back. Then you read the fine print, the fateful words. “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Why do they do that?
Stumped by technology I cannot come up with an answer, so I think about things I do understand, literature and philosophy and theology and such.
“The past is not dead, it is not even past.” —William Faulkner
“The ‘is-ness’ of the was.” — Bernard Boyd
“Objects in a mirror are closer than you they appear” – car engineer.
Christianity is an historic religion, rooted in a true story that occurred at a particular time and place involving a real Jesus who suffered real torment and died a real death on a real cross followed by the resurrection. Yet, Christianity is not just history or yesterday’s news.
Christ and the cross and the eternal community of the saints transcend time and place in such a way that when the church gathers, Jesus and the disciples and all the believers from all times and all places gather with us. “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
All Saints Day calls us to envision a future beyond pain and tears, yet people of faith must remain firmly grounded, and the saints with whom we live will help us in that process. Indeed, they can be a pain, and they may tempt us to tear out our hair. One is a saint by grace alone. As at funerals, then, so also on All Saints Day— we gain nothing by talking of the deceased in an unrealistic or romantic sense as if they possessed a righteousness of their own.
Isaiah 25: 6-9 calls us to envision an eschatological feast in which God will wipe away all tears. Revelation 21: 4 offers a similar vision. Notice, however, that the promise to wipe away tears is not the denial of crying. Along these lines, John 11 makes significant witness to the Son of God whom we proclaim is fully human and fully divine— Jesus called Lazarus from the grave, but not before he sanctified Mary’s tears (and all subsequent tears) through the shedding of his own (vv. 33-35).
So, tears are shed, but they are not the last word. God is at work to move us toward healing and resurrection. Such is the hope that we offer today as we remember loved ones who have died in the past year. We are not, however, merely recipients of God’s work. As people of Christian faith, we can neither deny tears nor think that God’s wiping them away happens completely apart from us or only in some distant future. Who needs this ministry? Children who have been bullied or go to bed hungry? Ministers and churches in conflict? Overworked parents, especially single parents who wonder if they will ever have a few moments of Sabbath? What will we do about all of this?