“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”
(Hebrew 12: 1)
I’m writing this e-note to all of you on November 1. For more than a thousand years now this has been a big day of celebration in the life of the Church, All Saints Day. When we hear the word “saint,” we might begin to think of folks immortalized in stained glass windows. When we think of “saints,” we might imagine folks who offer the picture of “perfect Christians.” When we think of the “saints,” we might think of those folks who’ve been recognized through the centuries as saints by their actions and even by miracles. For many folks, “saints” includes names like St. Augustine, St. Francis, St. Valentine, St. Patrick, St. Nicholas, St. Joan of Arc, St. Bernadette. When the Bible talks about saints, however, it has another definition in mind. In scripture, “saints,” are all those who are faithful. “Saints” are all those who in their own time and place live out covenant faithfulness. “Saints” are all those who live in relationship with God as God’s “holy” set apart people. “Saints” are all those who seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. “Saints” are living proof of the God’s good news.
In the early days of the Church, specific days were set aside to celebrate the saints whose actions and choices for faithfulness were well known, but as early as 373 A.D., a day was set aside to celebrate all the saints, all those who have lived faithfully and died in faith. At first this celebration of all saints was celebrated in the season of Easter as a part of celebrating the ongoing truth of the resurrection. In 835 A.D., Pope Gregory IV moved this yearly celebration to November 1 as an attempt to Christianize the pagan holiday of fear and death. A challenge that continues to exist to this day!
All Saints Day is the opportunity to celebrate all of the saints of our lives. This is a day to celebrate generations of folks who have remained faithful in their own time and place. This is a day to celebrate the endless line of splendor reaching back to Abraham and Sarah, continuing forward through every generation to our own day and time and place. This is a day to celebrate all of those who have invited us to know Jesus, all of those who have taught us and challenged us, all who have shown us what it looks like to be faithful.
Today I celebrate folks like Ethel and Eugene Coppler who many years ago opened their home to a young mother and her two rambunctious boys- feeding us at their tables, feeding our hearts with their friendship and feeding our spirits with their love of God’s word and their ongoing choices of faithfulness. I celebrate folks like Bill Sanford who taught me the importance of stewardship of every area of my life. There are so many folks I celebrate in my life who have taught me and challenged me to live faithfully.
So on this great day of celebration- who are the saints you celebrate? Who are the folks who introduced you to Jesus? Who are the folks who have shown you by word and action what it looks like to follow Jesus? This week we give thanks for all of these persons God has graciously brought into our lives, drawing us every closer to the throne of grace!