Yesterday marked the deadliest terror attack on New York soil since 9/11. So far, eight people have died, and 12 more are still in critical condition. This attack echoes attacks all over the world, from Paris and London to Charlottesville.
Today is All Saints Day, the day when we Christians remember our baptisms, our dead, and our deaths. We remember that God used the great power of death to destroy death, and that God's love and life surround even death itself.
"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus where baptized into his death?" Paul writes. Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."
Walk in newness of life. That's the freedom of Christian. It is not newness of things--cars, hospitals, pension plans, courts. It is not newness of ideas--better algorithms, better marketing campaigns, better philosophies. It is the newness of life that can only come from the creator of life itself, God, who encompasses both life and death.
One person who died this past year was the theologian Robert Jenson. He was brilliant. It seems to me that he understood everything he ever read. He was principled, engaging, and took the work of teaching the church very seriously. He was also, in his own ways, bigoted, blinded, and a bully. He hurt as many people as he inspired. And yet he is a saint--not because he was so good, but because God makes him one.
In his Systematic Theology, Jenson wrote, "The dead are not our way to God: God is our way to the dead." All Saints Day brings us to the Eucharistic table, where Christ comes to dine with his friends. Jenson pointed out that all times and places are present to God at once--and so are we, when we come to Christ's table. So when we come to the feast, all the ones that you have loved too much, or loved too late, or perhaps couldn't love at all, come with Christ, who is both our host and guest. There at that table we walk, singing, past death and into newness of life.
Newness of life--that's what we should say to death. Do what you will, death. We are God's children, and nothing you can do can ever take us away from God's hand.
The Rev. John Z. Flack