The saints are awesome. With such a great cloud of witnesses, it is humbling for me as an up-and-coming pastor to live up to their legacy. Whether dead or alive, whether they’re famous saints or every day saints, I revere their persistence to follow the gospel, sometimes even unto death. Paul, Ambrose, Augustine, and Peter for crying out loud! Are you kidding me? Don’t forget those every-day saints, either. Grandpas, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers are all among us, too. Who are the saints in your life?
With all of these feelings that come with the saints: humility, gratitude, awe, I need to catch my breath and reflect on the importance of All Saints Sunday. Looking to this week, I realize that I have much to learn about the saints and their importance in my life from an unexpected source, the Catholic Church. On this All Saints Sunday, we build on the celebration we felt last week on Reformation Sunday, to opening our minds and hearts to that same wider Church from which we broke 499 years ago.
This is a time when we can embrace our Catholic sisters and brothers, so that we can learn from their ability to cherish the deep wisdom and gift that the saints offer each and every day. All Saints Sunday is a celebration and a reminder of those people who, despite their brokenness, were chosen by God to do great things in the world. All Saints Sunday is also a time for us to uplift those saints in our everyday lives who impacted us and continue to impact us in deep and meaningful ways through small, regular acts of love.
A story comes to mind when I think of commemorating and celebrating the saints every day, as the Catholics do. Once when I visited Saint Paul, Minnesota, a group of friends and I decided to take a walk through the gargantuan Cathedral of Saint Paul. As we entered through the large oak doors, I noticed that there were statues and shrines around the sanctuary. Later, I found out that these shrines were for the national patron saints of the many immigrants who settled Minnesota. To name a few: Saint Anthony of Padua (Italy), John the Baptist (French Canadians), Saint Patrick (Ireland), Saint Boniface (Germany), Saints Cyril and Methodius (Slavic Nations), and Saint Therese (protector of all missions). I was in awe of these memorials to the saints that protected those peoples on their journey to America. What a cool way to give thanks to those saints that came before us and who still watch over us!
Luther believed that all baptized people are saints. This All Saints Sunday, we get the chance to remember, celebrate, and commemorate the witness of those saints who have gone before us and who are among us here and now. We invite you to bring a picture, token, memorial of a saint in your life to church this Sunday, so that we can be reminded of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. There will be a table at the front of the sanctuary for you to place those items and, if you chose, sign a card in their memory. The cards and writing utensils will be provided in the Narthex as you walk in. You can place the cards and tokens on the table at the front of the sanctuary before the service. Please join us on Sunday to remember, honor, and commemorate all those saints in the great cloud of witnesses. Thanks be to God!
To conclude, a quote from professor and theologian Mary Luti, "Faced with intractable fears and exhausting complexities, the world whips out the sensation, the quick fix, and the magic of celebrity. The church's ancient wisdom offers instead 'mystic sweet communion with those whose race is won.' We have the saints, and if we look carefully, we find that they are us—extraordinary signs that ordinary vulnerability, love and repentance, courage and perseverance still count. For a lot. For everything."
Happy All Saints Sunday, saints of God!