Homily, The Apocalypse of All Saints’ Day
All Saints’ Sunday, Year C, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF
Today’s Lectionary Readings:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Apocalypse of Coco
On the evening of El Día de los Muertos—the evening of the Feast of All Saints—in the Disney-Pixar Movie Coco, the boy Miguel sneaks inside the cemetery mausoleum of the famous singer, Ernesto de la Cruz, to borrow his guitar for a music competition. But when he takes the guitar from its stand, suddenly his eyes are awakened to a whole new reality filled with bright colors, and walking skeletons, alebrijes (ormystical creatures), and his own ancestors.
The movie, inspired by the traditions and cultures of Mexico, goes on to tell a story full of adventure, family secrets, beautiful music, and reconciliation. In the end, Miguel, and the other characters in the film learn the importance of remembering those who go on before us.
The Apocalypse of Daniel
It’s an amazing movie and not unlike the prophet Daniel in our first reading today. Daniel, laying down in bed to close his eyes, suddenly finds his eyes open to mystical creatures—four living beasts rising up from the sea. Our passage skips the majority of the vision so you’ll have to open up your Bibles at home to read the whole thing, but at the conclusion of Daniel’s fantastical journey he discovers that while kingdoms come and go, the kingdom of God and God’s holy ones will live on.
Apocalypse in the Christian Tradition
In the Christian tradition we call this genre of story an Apocalypse. In today’s society when we hear the word “Apocalypse” we normally think of the end of the world. But in reality the Greek word apocalypsis literally means revelation, or unveiling. An apocalypse is when eyes are suddenly opened to a bigger reality than what was seen before.
The Hebrew and Christian scriptures are full of apocalyptic stories like these with interesting creatures and catastrophic events and fantastical narratives. The Book of Revelation, for example, in the original Greek, is called Apocalypsis. These stories are not so much about the end of the world but about seeing the world in a new way.
And that’s what our second reading from Ephesians is all about. In fact, right there in the middle of the passage St. Paul uses the Greek word in his writing to the Ephesians. He writes, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and REVELATION (apocalypsis) as you come to know him, so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.”
Paul is calling the Church in Ephesus into an Apocalypse of knowing. Into a new way of seeing. So that our eyes see not only the physical things in front of us, but the mystical things all around us.
So what are those mystical things? Well, first the work of reconciliation God is doing among us, and second the communion of saints participating in that work.
The Apocalypse of St. Paul
First, according to St. Paul, God has been working since before the foundation of the world to unite all things together in God. To break down borders. To bring an end to all wars. To reconcile family members. To bring us all back into communion with one another. In every moment of every day God is doing that work among us if we have the eyes to see it. If we allow ourselves to experience apocalypse.
The Apocalypse of the Feast of All Saints
And second, that we belong to a communion of saints participating in that work much bigger than we realize. The work of the Church is to participate in that mission of reconciliation, and the Church is not just a building, it is not just an institution, it is not just a gathering of people. If we open our eyes, we see the Church is a Communion of Saints. The Church is the cosmic Communion of All Saints stretching from century to century, nation to nation, tribe to tribe. It is all encompassing. It knows no borders—even that great border called Death.
Today on the Feast of All Saints, the veil is thin. And if we allow the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened, we’ll sense that we are not alone in this room. Like Miguel in Coco, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses—our loved ones, our ancestors, those that have been doing this work for much longer than we have. God’s mission of reconciliation is so powerful that it even unites us with those who have gone on before us. Listen. Look. They are all around us.
The task of All Saints day, then, is to remember. To remember God’s work among us and to remember the communion to which we belong.
The task of All Saints Day, then, is to remember. To re-member. To bring together. To participate in God’s work of reconciliation. To hallow.
Later in the service, just before we receive communion with one another, I will read the names of those from our community who have died in the past year, and together we will do all those things. To remember on the Feast of All Saints is not just an exercise of the mind, but an apocalypse of the heart. To see ourselves as belonging to something so much bigger than ourselves. To see the work of God and the Communion of Saints among us.
The Apocalypse of Baptism
In a few moments we have baptism. And baptism is the entrance into this communion. Today, Lexi, we welcome you not only into this community of Good Shepherd, and not only into the Church around the world, but into the cosmic and eternal Communion of Saints. Today you join a movement that began centuries ago, that stretches through time and space, through heaven and earth, and commit yourself to participate in God’s mission of reconciliation.
And those of us who are gathered here to witness Lexi’s baptism renew our own commitments to this work through the words of the Baptismal Covenant.
And so my prayer for you, Lexi, and my prayer for all of us, is the same prayer that St. Paul had for the Ephesians: that your eyes may be enlightened to the work God is doing in you, in the Church and in the world. And that you may know that you are not alone, but surrounded here by the Communion of Saints.
And so Lexi, I invite you to come forward with your sponsors.