This past week I had a graveside service at Roselawn Cemetery here in Williams Bay.
The service was for someone who was a previous member here but had since moved away from this area many years ago.
But even through the years and the distance she still felt a connection with our church.
I am grateful that people feel that way – connected to the church even though time passes and distance separates.
Whenever I officiate for a graveside service or a funeral service, I am reminded that we do not have a permanent place here on earth.
Sometimes it seems as if our lives will continue forever but that is not the case.
As wonderful as life can be the time we have is set.
There is a Scripture verse that says: “People are appointed once to die.”
That is from Hebrews chapter nine verse twenty-seven.
We will not live forever.
We will, one day, die.
Today on this All Saints Sunday we remember this truth just like we remember this on Ash Wednesday.
Every year on Ash Wednesday, as we begin the forty-day journey of Lent, we hear the words: Remember we are dust and to dust we shall return.
We believe by faith that our spirits will continue but our bodies will go back into the earth.
“We commit her body to the ground earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
Those were the words that I said at the graveside service this week.
The words that we hear at the beginning of the book of Genesis will come true for all of us.
In Genesis chapter three we hear: “We will return to the ground, since from it we were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis chapter three verse nineteen.
On this All Saints Sunday we also remember that we are connected to the whole company of the communion of saints.
All of God’s people in heaven and on earth are a part of the company of saints.
There is a never a moment in life where we are not a part of the communion of saints.
Again in Hebrews chapter twelve it says that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.
The writer of Hebrews wanted us to imagine that we are all in an arena and there at that arena are previous generations.
They are present for us.
These people witness and see our faith in action and from their seats they cheer us on.
Think about your favorite sports team.
If you follow your team regularly you will notice a pattern.
Your team always plays better at home.
Your team feeds off the energy, the excitement, and the positive energy of the home crowd.
This is true for us as well.
Knowing that we are a part of the communion of saints gives us encouragement and hope especially during the struggles and challenges of life.
We have people right here in this place who will encourage and support us but we also have those who have gone ahead of us who now rest with God who wait for us and who cheer us on.
And they do cheer us on in life and at the hour of our death.
When I first became a pastor, I thought that I would have many difficult conversations with members about dying and in addressing people’s fears around death.
Now over the years I have had some of those hard talks and these talks are very important as I try to give these people hope but overwhelmingly, I have seen such peace and faith in those who are near death.
Overwhelmingly, those who are at the end of their life, talk to me about their love for God, their faith in Jesus, they talk about their loved ones who have passed away and how they are ready to be with them again, and they talk to me about their readiness to be with God.
I have seen such faith over the years.
Surely these men and women that I have seen with my own eyes were already surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.
In fact, I can recall one conversation in particular, this conversation happened when I was serving a church in Iowa, that especially moved me.
I met with this person for our visit at the nearby town’s favorite diner in Toledo, Iowa.
Big-T, which was a Maid-Rite restaurant, was our stop.
Not only was the restaurant a town favorite but the owner, a very kind man and humble man, was a member of the church that I was serving at the time.
So, over a Maid-Rite and a cup of coffee, we talked about faith and about dying.
From my memory he did most of the talking, which was fine with me, and I remember him telling me this:
Pastor, I have learned that we don’t need to be afraid of dying.
It is going to be beautiful.
When my time comes, I am ready to go to heaven.
The conversation that day really impacted me.
His faith was so strong.
When his time was up, he was ready.
He had made peace with his life and he made peace with God.
We do not have a permanent place here on earth but we do have a permanent place, a permanent home in heaven where we will be with the whole company of God’s saints.
On this All Saints Sunday we give thanks for our faith in God’s gift of eternal life and we give thanks for all the saints.
If I could leave you with one more thing this morning it would be this: Eternal life is our inheritance.
It is God’s gift to us.
There is nothing you can do to receive an inheritance.
You receive an inheritance as a gift from the owner.
This is Christ’s gift for us.
For Jesus was faithful to us and Jesus was faithful to God even to death on a cross.
Now n Christ our lives will continue even in death.
Jesus said in the Gospel of John: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
May God give to each one of us here the faith to believe this promise from our Lord and may the peace and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.