“Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead” is a huge celebration in Mexico. Celebrated last Thursday, this day honours those who have died. “Day of the Dead” is derived from pre-Hispanic times and it was effectively Christianised by the Roman Catholic Church. The day includes all kinds of festivities including vibrant processions, rowdy street parties and the prodigious consumption of food and drink.
In the tradition of most churches, Thursday 1st November is celebrated as “All Saints Day”. While our celebrations may be more restrained and a little less colourful, this is an important time to remember those who have gone before us. “All Saints Day” is an opportunity to give thanks for people who have been significant, who have made contributions to the life and witness of the church and whose lives have impacted on the community.
There are many who we can give thanks for and for whose lives we can celebrate – Martin Luther, the great reformer of the church; John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism; Mary MacKillop, educator to poor communities, Margaret Somerville, faithful missionary in Arnhem Land; John Flynn and Fred Mackay, committed pastors to outback Australia; Alan Walker, passionate evangelist and social reformer, Charles Harris, pastor and outstanding indigenous leader. The names go on.
As Christians we believe those who have died are received into God’s eternal care. This means they continue to be part of God’s family, the church. Hence, on “All Saints Day” it’s appropriate for us to stop and think about people who have lived faithful lives and have now passed on. They are, and always will be, part of who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.
Importantly, it’s appropriate to remember and give thinks for those who have had a particular influence or impact on our lives. Last Thursday 1st November I took time to remember and give thanks for my mother whose deep faith sustained me and my father whose unrelenting support gave me the confidence to go on. I also paused to give thanks for one my teachers and mentors, Rev Dr Gordon Dicker, whose quiet, humble yet wise and astute leadership continues to inspire me in my journey.
Who are the people you need to remember and give thanks for? Pause for a moment. The saints of the church are all those who lives live on in our experience. They are the ones whose past faithful witness continues to feed and nurture the ministry of Christ here on earth.
Rev John Barr