Celebrating All Saints Day

Published 8:36 am Thursday, November 3, 2016

On the first Sunday of November in our place we do something I think is fairly common among Christian churches: We remember the dead. Not in a morbidly, obsessive way; we do shed a few tears, but for the most part, it is a remembrance of thanksgiving.

The first of November is called “All Saints Day,” the day that really set the stage for the more popular Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve). It’s a time to remember the great saints of the church, all those heroes and heroines who set the standard for being faithful; the ones who went to their death in faith, and also those who spent their lives in full devotion to Jesus and sought to share his love.

It’s a good thing to do, to remember with thanks people like Paul of Tarsus, Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena. But we know that the saints of the church were not just those who are pictured with haloes and beatific looks. There is also John Calvin of Geneva or Dietrich Bonhoefer of Germany or Oscar Romero of El Salvador or Mother Theresa of Calcutta. We give thanks for their lives and their witness, and yet their work and their inspiration might seem beyond us. Who is going to go to the slums of India or stand up to the forces of extremism to the point of giving their lives these days?

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A saint is a holy one — one set apart. That includes all of those mentioned, and all of those who come to mind for you, those people who showed you what the love of Jesus looks like, those who worshipped God in the ordinariness of life.

People like one of your teachers, who took a special interest in you.

People like one of your coaches, who spent extra time helping you at practice.

People like someone at work, who goes the extra mile when there is a difficult situation and who does not walk away but hangs in there to work through an issue.

People like one of your friends, who sits there and listens to you even when it seems like your feelings are bouncing all over the room.

People like your spouse, who works with you on how to deal with family issues.

A saint is not just someone who does and says the perfect thing. A saint is someone who is close to God and close to you; someone who knows they are messed up, but who doesn’t let that handicap them; someone who knows how messed up you are, too, but doesn’t let that get in the way of love.

This first week of November, may we be thankful for all the saints of our lives, even (or especially) the ones who would never have given that title to themselves. For they are probably the best ones.

Rev. Dr. Tom Robinson is pastor of Farmville Presbyterian Church. His email address is robin216@embarqmail.com.