As I prepare to preach on All Saints day, three things come to mind. First, of course, I think of all those significant people who helped to shape my life and faith. I think of my mother’s simple faith — she didn’t want to think too deeply about it, and she never wanted to face any contradiction. She wanted to believe that God was in heaven, watching over us all, with a plan for the world. I think of Reverend Collins — perhaps the least suited man ever to enter ministry. His lack of faith, his severe doubts, and his absence of courage made me wonder why in the world he would ever want to be a pastor. But he loved God and he desperately wanted others to believe. His devotion to God’s people inspires me still. Drs. Carl Andry and Neill Hamilton taught me more than I can believe or ever acknowledge. I am who I am because of these two brilliant teachers and guides. My best friend in college — Steve Paul — brought me back to the church. He deserves all the credit or all the blame. I wish I knew where he was and could contact him. Robert “Andy” Warrner — perhaps the kindest, most compassionate, and most wonderful person I have ever known. There are still days that I wish I could be half the man he is. My wife, Barbara, who is my rudder, my anchor, my ballast AND the wind in my sails — she is the best friend I have ever had and I am thankful to God each day for her presence in my life. And my son, Josh, who has given my life meaning, purpose, joy, fulfillment, and an overwhelming pride and hope. So many people have come before, have walked with, and have offered grace to make me want to serve God faithfully and well.
Second, I think of the magnificent history of the Hebrew and Christian people. Oh, certainly we have things to be repentant and ashamed of. Not only have we been less than perfect, we have been downright horrible from time to time, but overall (despite what genius/idiots like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens might try to palm off as truth) our world has been richly blessed by those devoted to Jesus Christ. Hospitals, universities, social service agencies, missions, and a host of other cultural advances have come from the faith of our Christian forebears. We have so much to be proud of, and a challenge to be so much more in the future. The saints, mystics, fathers and mothers of the faith are incredible. Theresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhard, Catherine of Siena, Thomas Kelly, John Wesley, St. John of the Cross, Hildegard of Bingen, Johannes Tauler, John Woolman, and so many others have challenged me to deep reflection and contemplation. Modern day thinkers Ken Wilber, Chogyam Trungpa, Teilhard de Chardin, John Cobb and Alfred North Whitehead push me to continue to learn and grow. And Dorteos (Dorotheus/Dorotheos/Dorothea) of Gaza continues to be my guiding saint and light. I am an amalgam of so many other thinkers and believers.
Third, I cannot think about the story that has been written without reflecting on the story that I am writing. In future eras, who will remember Dan Dick? What difference am I making in the world? How will future All Saints celebrations remember me? Is there anything I can do to leave a legacy of hope and purpose? Is there anything I might teach or share that is worth carrying into the future? This isn’t mere hubris or ego. This is a desire to do something meaningful. This is a desire to add value to the human condition. This is a deep hunger to give. The story that has been written is not the end. We are still writing the story. We are the pen and ink God is using to write the new and living gospel. What story do we believe God is writing with us?
Those we remember are those who make/made a difference. What is life for if it is not to do something that makes life better for others? There is so much negative energy in the world. There are so many things that add no value. There are so many problems — why create more? My prayer for All Saints Day is that we might begin to seek ways to do such good, to eliminate such harm, to witness so powerfully to God that we all might be remembered long and well as proof of the goodness of God. Wouldn’t it be phenomenal if future generations could find in us a reason to remember us on All Saints? And even if we’re not remembered and honored, wouldn’t it be wonderful to live a life worthy nonetheless?