Monday, November 7, 2011

Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day, which also includes dia de los muertos – the day of the dead. These Holidays have their origins as far back as ancient Egypt where they believed the spirits of the dead returned each fall to visit the living and they welcomed these spirits with lights and food. These traditions spread to Rome and eventually found their way into Christianity. Today we celebrate all saints Sunday.

This is the day we remember all those who have passed on from this life to the life eternal. On this day we are especially reminded that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

When someone mentions the word saint, what image comes to your mind? Perhaps you think about the saints you have read about in books. These are persons who have done great things for God and perhaps even performed some type of miracle. (todays saint)

Maybe you think about statues you have seen of saints, especially in Roman Catholic churches or in cemeteries. Maybe you think about necklaces and medallions made of the saints. I can remember a special gift I was given when I was growing up.

It was a silver necklace with a Saint Christopher’s medal. I think every good catholic boy and girl received one of these at some point. I was told that it would keep me safe and protect me as long as I wore it. I truly believed that, and the necklace became part of my everyday attire.

A saint can be defined as a holy person, a person who has been redeemed, or someone who has been declared righteous by God. By this definition, anyone who has acknowledged Jesus and attempts to follow his ways is a saint.

The book of Acts (9:32-41) tells of Peter going down to the saints, the followers of Jesus, who lived in Lydda and to a disciple named Tabitha (or Dorcas), whom Peter restored to life.

The Bible also tells us the importance of meeting the needs of the saints. In Romans 12:13, we read, “Contribute to the needs of the saints”; in 2 Corinthians 9:11-12, we find, “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.” The words saint and Christian, or follower of Jesus, are used interchangeably.

Interestingly enough we have heard pastor Bob speak of Holy fools in the past referring to saints. Jim Forest in praying with Icons tells us that “few taunts are sharper than those that call into question someone’s sanity.” Yet often this was the case for those who are called saints. This is because their behavior flew in the face of conventional wisdom.

Think of Saint Francis who stripped of his clothes and stood naked before the bishop in Assisi’s main square, or his preaching to the birds, or taming the wolf and finally during the crusades he walked unarmed across Egyptian dessert into the sultan’s camp.

Jim Forest states further that “Perhaps there is a sense in which each and every saint, even those who were scholars, would be regarded as insane by many in the modern world because of their devotion to a way of life that was completely senseless apart from the gospel.” This reminds me of Saint Margery Kemp. . . As followers of Christ we are called to go against the grain.

Today’s passage from the First Letter of John reminds us that when we accept God’s love through Jesus Christ, we are called “children of God”—saints. A person becomes a saint through the love of God. Saints can be called children of God because of the great love God has poured out for us. As God’s children, we have worth beyond this world, but being a child of God is not some distant or future state; we are God’s children here and now. As God’s children we live differently, following the example of Jesus. It is as if the world does not even know us.

We live abundantly, filled with love, joy, hope, and peace. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the characteristics of a saint and a child of God.

Are these fruits evident in our lives? What are we doing to cultivate them? The passage also tells us that being a saint is a work in progress: “what we will be has not yet been revealed” (1 John 3:2). In other words we are a work in progress.

In this life, we strive to become more and more like Christ. We are becoming reflections of God. This process of becoming a perfect reflection of Christ will take us all of our days on this earth until one day when we see God face-to-face.

The Christian rock artist Chuck Girard has a song that I love it says : “People try to tell me that I can't live this way

That things have changed and life is not the same

And they try to tell me that I'm missing all the fun

But I know this peace I've found has only now begun

Some have tried to tell me to live and just be free

That we must seek life's pleasures while they last

And they try to tell me that these are modern days

And that I'm just a fool to go on living in the past

Someone's always tryin' to shake my faith and bring me down

But all I know is what I feel inside

People to try to tell me that I am just a fool

But I guess I'll be a fool for Jesus

If this is our hope and our destiny, then we will do all in our power to make ourselves ready: “All who have this hope in Christ purify themselves” (3:3), says Paul. He even talks about his own process of becoming all that God wants him to be: “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. “(Philippians 3:12-14)

Paul would later refer to this process as a race (2 Timothy 4:7). All Saints’ Sunday reminds us of the saints along that racecourse who encourage us and cheer us on. We are truly surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

On this day I invite you to remember those who have entered “the Church Triumphant.” Perhaps they died during this past year or some time ago. Maybe they were a little crazy, or too foolish for this world, Remember that they are still with us. They surround us each and every day. I like to believe that anytime I stop to remember my grandmother, grandfather my friend Harvey or daddy Nick, they come close. I still talk to Nick now and then. As you travel this road of life, striving to become what God wants you to be, know that you are not alone. Standing along that path is a great cloud of witnesses, and they are cheering you on.

May we all persevere until the day when we see Jesus and our loved ones face-to face.

Today day we celebrate all souls day, the day of the dead, all saints day. We honor those who have honored us with their lives. By living with the Christed one we are called to live life to the fullest, to live life outside the norm, to be a fool, for when we transition from this life to the next we will be prepared to know love and life in the fullest of the covenant of the bread of life that is Jesus the Christ.

I read this poem last year and would like to conclude with it again;

I will not die an unlived life.

I will not live in fear

of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,

to allow my living to open me,

to make me less afraid,

more accessible,

to loosen my heart

until it becomes a wing,

a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance;

to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which came to me as blossom goes on as fruit.

Let this poem be a candle that your soul holds out to you, requesting that you find a way to remember what it is to live a life with passion, on purpose to take chances and risks perhaps even looking foolish to the world.

When you have the courage to shape your life from the essence of who you are, and who God is in you, through you, you ignite, becoming truly alive, alive in the Love and Life of Christ.

I pray these words today find their way to your heart and comfort your soul, amen.

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