Sunday, November 1, 2009
All Saints Day, November 1st, is a day set aside to celebrate the lives of faithful Christians. It began as a day to honor Christians who were martyred in the Roman persecutions. In medieval England the recognition was called All Hallows Day with the preceding evening known as Halloween. Over time, All Saints Day came to be recognized as the time to commemorate all departed Christians.
The word saint conjures up images of perfect Christians known for their holiness. However, the New Testament refers to followers of Christ as saints living on earth. In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul referred to the followers in Corinth as, “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling….” Paul addressed letters to the saints of the churches at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1) Philippi (Philippians 1:1) and Colossae (Colossians 1:2). The author of Hebrews tells the readers to “Greet all of your leaders and all the saints” (Hebrews 13:24).
1 Thessalonians 3:13 refers to saints, not on earth, but in heaven, “and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”
On All Saints Day some congregations hold special services to remember the names and lives of church members who died during the past year. Other churches provide opportunities for their congregation to remember those who served as personal heroes of the faith. I have benefited from the encouragement of Christian saints all of my life. In fact, I can trace the spiritual journey of my childhood by recalling the names of these departed saints:
Mrs. Dibbrell and Mrs. McCay rocked me and sang Christian songs to me in the church nursery.
Miss Alyce Chatwell greeted me with a hug every Sunday morning in Sunday School and taught me Bible stories using the flannel board.
Miss Ellie Bell introduced me to new books each week in the church library and gave me stickers in the Summer Reading Program when I finished reading books.
Mr. and Mrs. Joe Lamb taught me how to use my Bible in weekly Bible drills. They made memorizing the names of every book in the Bible and finding scripture passages a worthy competition.
Mr. Joe Parks fostered in me a love for singing from the time I was a child until I graduated from high school as he led the music program at my church.
Mrs. Rosa Jo Smith taught me the importance of faithfulness in study as she led our youth department.
While it’s important to reflect on the role of saints who are no longer with us, it is good to take time periodically to acknowledge the influence of living Christian saints. Isn’t it important to express gratitude to living servants? At least one time a year, my dad made a point to call the Christian men who had impacted his life just to express his gratitude. Wouldn’t you like to be the recipient of such a call from someone whose life you influenced? As saints of Christ Jesus we’re not called to be perfect but to keep moving forward in our relationship with him. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). Let’s strive to live a life worthy of our calling…the calling of a saint.
Who are the saints, both departed and living, who have influenced your faith journey? What can you do to remember them in a special way?
Feel free to share the names of the saints in your life. Click on the title All Saints Day. Scroll to the bottom and write a comment.