Greetings and welcome to Corona Sabbath. This is one of the ways the church is endeavoring to offer spiritual support during these challenging days of COVID-19. We appreciate your feedback and suggestions.
This post focuses on All Saints Day. We think about the story of the death of Moses and what it has to say to us about what it means to live our lives in God. Jim Andrews reads the closing chapter of Deuteronomy, there is a reflection based on that story, and a music video created by Hilton Jones using pictures of saints submitted by the congregation. So, we offer you this post.
Video of Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the headland of Pisgah which faces Jericho, and Yahweh showed him all the land – Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negev, and the stretch of the valley of Jericho, the city of palms, and as far as Zoar. Then Yahweh said to Moses, “This is the land I swore to Sarah and Abraham, to Rebecca and Isaac, to Leah, Rachel, and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you will not cross over.”
So there in the land of Moab, Moses the servant of God died as Yahweh decreed, and he was buried in the valley opposite Beth Peor in the land of Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact burial place. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyesight was strong and he was still quite vigorous. For thirty days the Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab, until they had completed the period of grief and mourning.
Now Joshua ben-Nun, was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. And the Israelites gave him their obedience, carrying out the order God had given to Moses.
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom Yahweh knew face to face. There is no equal to all the signs and wonders Yahweh our God caused Moses to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all of pharaoh’s officials and the whole land. How mighty the hand and how terrifying the displays of power that Moses wielded in the sight of all Israel!
Reflection from Kim
Moses is probably one of the most significant religious figures in human history. He is important to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Baha’i. The Gospel of Matthew patterns the story of Jesus on the story of Moses. The flight to Egypt. The Sermon on the Mount. And other stories that echo Moses. Why? Because Moses was a pinnacle of faithfulness to God. He led his people not only out of slavery but he helped prepare them to become a model community of justice and righteousness centered in God, in love. Moses – of the bull rushes, of the plagues and the river of blood, of the parting of the Red Sea, of the ten commandments – Moses is a legendary figure in the human drama.
And what do we do with our towering personages? We revere them. We honor them. We celebrate them. We commemorate them. We give them a holiday. We paint their portraits. We name our children after them. We enshrine their remains. We build memorials. We erect towers.
But in the story of the death of Moses, we are told, “. . . he was buried in the valley opposite Beth Peor in the land of Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact burial place.” No one knows where Moses was buried. No pyramid for Moses. Not even an impromptu shrine of flowers and mementos and empty liquor bottles and pictures and teddy bears. Nothing. At the grave. No one knows the exact burial place.
This legendary figure has no grave to be visited or decorated, even for Dia De Los Muertes. This seminal prophet dies. The people observe 30 days of mourning. And there is a peaceful transfer of power to Joshua. And the saga continues. The people transition from wandering in the wilderness to settling in the Promise Land. Moses is offered a glimpse of the land but he does not enter it. He dies before the people move into the land and settle. God’s vision for the Israelite people continues to unfold. They continue to move into the future with faith and leadership provided by Joshua.
There is no personality cult in this story. The people are not to revere Moses. They are to emulate his faithfulness and commitment and trust in God. They are to continue God’s mission of creating a society of justice and compassion. The dedication and reverence and loyalty of the people is not to Moses but to God and God’s vision for them. That is how it should be.
All Saints Day is about remembering those who have given us a glimpse of God, of God’s vision, of God’s love. In them we have seen a reflection of God’s dreams for Creation. It is not about the person but about the love, the faith, and the values that we see in the person; that shine forth from the person, that are embodied in the person. Saints are saints because they show us something of God. They model for us how to express the Divine image within us. They help us to find the Divine within ourselves. They help light the way for us. So that we, too, can bear witness to the love of God. Saints move the drama of God’s unfolding hopes and dreams forward. And for the most part, they have no idea that they are doing this. They don’t even realize that they are saints. And yet they are part of something so much bigger. We know because of the impact those we name as saints have had in our lives.
Twentieth Century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.” Nothing worth doing can be done in a lifetime. Each of us plays our part, moves things along. We are part of an emerging reality. But, like Moses, we don’t get to the Promised Land. We simply do what we can to move the needle forward. Part of a larger story, unfolding over time – a thousand ages for us like an evening for God the psalmist tells us.
Therefore we are not to worry about whether we will be remembered with a memorial or a shrine. We are only to hope that something of the Divine in us will be seen by others and will live on in them. Whether we know it or not! Whether they know it or not!
The book of Revelation tells of multitudes of saints gathered at the throne of God. Maybe no one knows where they were buried. But maybe somehow they passed on their devotion to the hopes and dreams of God. This is a day to remember those who have shown us visions of God, in the world and in ourselves. So that we, too, might be saints.
As Catherine of Siena, a saint of the 14th century, advises:
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.
(Click HERE if you wish to see the post containing the video of this text.)