Remembering All the Saints
On the Christian calendar today is All Saints Day. It’s a day to remember “all the saints from whose labors rest.” These persons are those, as the hymn by William How (1864) and sung to Sine Nomine, who have confessed their faith in Jesus before the world, and asks that they will be forever blest. When it comes to saints, Christians have different understandings. Some traditions have a formal process by which certain persons are designated as saints. As a Protestant, my own tradition doesn’t have such a process. We may recognize the saints proclaimed by other traditions, but more often we think closer to home, to the saints in our congregations, the persons who have demonstrated a firm commitment to their faith and to service to God in the world at large.
As I contemplate this All Saints day, and consider the “blest communion, company divine!” I’m mindful of those persons, no longer living, who have contributed to my own life journey. Women and men who demonstrated what it means to be a true follower of God. Some of these persons have been directly involved in my life – often church members. These are persons who have exemplified what it means to be a person of faith, who has “fought the good fight.” Among those remembered by me is one of my own church members who has faced incredible struggles with his health in recent months, but who fought hard to regain his health. He died yesterday morning, on the eve of All Saints Day. As I pause this All Saints Day, I remember him and others like him, who have trod the path of faith. May he join the company of the faithful who are forever blest.
On a day like this we’re not called upon, whatever our traditions, to remember the saints who have been honored far and wide, persons like St. Augustine or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, St. Teresa of Avila or Martin Luther. Instead we remember those closer to the ground – the common saints – who have trodden this path of life and left the world a better place because of their presence.
On this All Saints Day, as you read this, I invite you to ponder who are the saints who have influenced your life? I’ll name but a few: Rev. Gary Wells, my former pastor, John Harmon (a member of my church as I was growing up who showed me what it meant to be both a man and a person of faith). I’d name others, but I might get in trouble!!
As you consider who you might add to the list, I invite you to consider this prayer that I’m taking from my own denominational book of worship, Chalice Worship (Chalice Press, 1997).
Eternal God, make us this day to remember the unseen cloud of witnesses who compass us about:
- Those who in every age and generation witnessed to their faith in life and in death;
- Those who by their courage and their sacrifice won for us the freedom and liberty we enjoy
- Those who served their sisters and brothers at the cost of pain, of persecution and of death;
- Those for whom all the trumpets sounded as they passed over to the other side;
- Those whom we have loved and who have gone to be with you, and whose names are written on our hearts.
Help us to walk worthily of those in whose unseen presence life is lived.
Help us to have in our lives
- Their courage in danger;
- Their steadfastness in trial;
- Their perseverance in difficulty;
- Their loyalty when loyalty is costly;
- The love which nothing can change;
- Their joy which nothing can take away.
So grant to us in your good time to share with them the blessedness of your nearer presence, that we may come to that life,
- Where all the questions are answered;
- Where all the tears are wiped away;
- Where all shall meet again, never to be separated from them, those whom we have loved and lost awhile;
- Where we can be forever with our Lord.
So grant us in this life never to forget those who have gone before, so that in the life to come we may share their blessedness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (pp. 181-182)
Reposted from the Troy Patch.