Halloween is over. Christmas music has started to play in stores and on the radio. The grumbling about skipping Thanksgiving and going straight to Christmas has started to creep into conversations across the land. It must be Nov. 1. But before we dive too deep into the holiday madness, I want to slow us down for a day and pause for a moment and honor one other holiday: All Saints’ Day.
All Saints’ Day is typically recognized in Western Christianity in liturgical churches on Nov. 1. Being a pastor in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ, I can’t speak to how All Saints’ Day is observed in the Catholic Church. But in many protestant traditions, it is a time to remember all the saints of our faith who have gone before us. In many churches on Sunday, we will read off the names of those who have died in the past year, ring bells, and maybe light candles in their honor. We acknowledge the pain and grief of those who remain here on Earth, because of the tremendous value those folks added to our lives.
It’s a chance to reflect on the fact that we are all saints (and sinners). The beautiful thing about our faith in God is that none of us got to this faith on our own. Some of us grew up in the church or learned about our faith from our relatives.
Growing up, my grandmother had a framed copy of the Lord’s Prayer in counted cross stitch hung up on her wall. And I knew the fact it was hanging there meant it was important. So every time I walked by it, I worked to memorize it, getting it more and more every time I saw it. That same work of art now hangs on my living room wall. I’m certain my grandmother never considered how much influence that simple act of attending church with me and hanging that prayer on the wall would affect my faith, but it did.
And isn’t that how it is with most of those who have lived out their faith in our midst? They have touched us in various ways throughout their lives. Sometimes it was in reaching out to us, and in other times it was just in living the lives they have felt called to live. It was in their way of following God and Jesus that wasn’t loud, flashy, or even necessarily anything out of the ordinary, but was as simple as doing their best to love God and love their neighbor as themselves.
It’s in the living of those lives that these people have become saints to us. And none of us are ever the same for those people having touched our lives. And it’s incredibly painful when we have to say goodbye on this side of Heaven. But All Saints’ Day gives us the reminder that their spirit, or their sainthood, lives on in all of the lives they have touched, sometimes in quite profound ways. All Saints’ Day gives us permission to slow down and reflect on those people who have passed, and maybe even possibly our own lives and the legacy we are leaving for those in our midst.
For we are all saints of the faith. We don’t have to perform great feats of strength, take vows of poverty, or be the next Mother Theresa. We simply need to continue to live our lives of faith, and we will be Saints in someone else’s life. Are you living the life worthy of someone being influenced by your faith? Only you can decide that.
The hymn “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” sums this up all perfectly: “I sing a song of the saints of God, faithful their whole lives through, who bravely labored, lived, and died for the God they loved and knew. And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and another a shepherd in pastures green: they were saints of God, if you know what I mean. God, help me to be one, too.” Amen.