The saints of God, by Pastor Noel

November 2 & 3, 2019    All Saints Sunday


     All Saints is the only feast that every congregation can move from November 1 to the following Sunday.

     For some, All Saints is a three day, triduum, event.

     Hallowe’en (the Eve of All Hallows Day) has been called a “thin” day. Whatever divides heaven and earth becomes “thin” and allows the dead to pass back to earth. So, we dress up in scary costumes to show them that we aren’t afraid.

     All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day, is when we remember and celebrate those we call saints. Some of them have names we know. Some are not on the calendar, but we thank them for their faithfulness and witness to God’s love.

     All Souls Day, November 2, is the day to remember and give thanks for all the faithful departed. This is actually an ancient Jewish tradition, kept by the church.

     As in any festival, we have special prayers and special music. One of my favorites is “I sing a song of the saints of God.” It’s the first hymn I memorized. When I realized that the tune was named for one of my favorite places, Grand Isle, it took on a new meaning for me.   

     The people we sing about were real, living, people. Let’s take a look at them. (Sat—read along—293)

     “One was a doctor.” That’s St. Luke. He’s often called St. Luke the Physician because of the many healing stories in his gospel and Acts of the Apostles. This title remind us of the importance of healing in Jesus’ ministry, and how important it is for us to be healers today—however we can.

     “And one was a Queen.” Margaret of Hungary, Queen of Scotland, also know as “Pearl of Scotland.” She promoted arts and education in a time when they were neglected. And she helped feed and clothe the poor, who were also neglected. She died in 1093. 

     “One was a shepherdess on the green.” St. Joan, Joan of Arc, was a mystic and a soldier. She was teenager when she helped King Charles VII of France. She was denounced and burned at the stake in 1430. Later she was found to be faithful and made a saint in the church.

     “One was a soldier.” This is St. Martin, a Roman soldier when he cut his cloak in half to share with a poor man who was cold. Martin had a dream in which Jesus said that he was that poor man. Martin converted to Christianity and was Bishop of Tours. He died in 397.

     “One was a priest.” John Donne was an English poet and priest. He’s known for “No man is an island,” and “ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” He died in 1631.

     “One was slain by a fierce wild beast.” St. Ignatius of Antioch was an early Christian bishop and martyr. He taught that the truth of the Bible was in Jesus’ words and actions. He put the church before the Emperor, and the Emperor had him killed by lions in the Circus Maximus in 115.

     Lesbia Scott wrote this hymn to help her children understand saints and church history. It ends, “They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds and thousands still.”

     So, we can all learn about the past from her words and live into a faithful future as we follow the saints.

     So we honor the dead and remember those we knew and loved. Remembrances like this are part of every age and culture. Sometimes more primitive cultures are looked down on for “ancestor worship” as if we were too sophisticated for such things.

     Remembering our dead is part of who we are. How can we forget? We sing about and pray about “a great cloud of witnesses” who are still with us even if we cannot see and touch them.

     Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And, yes, Jesus was human and also God, so he can do things we cannot. But, if Jesus is with us and with those who have died, they are also still with us.

     When we lose someone we love, we lose a part of ourselves.  For them we say, “Life has changed, not ended.” No matter how strongly we believe that they are with God in a way we can’t comprehend, we still grieve.

     “Love never ends,” we read in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. Because we go on loving those who die, our grief never ends.

     Grief is like a wound that slowly heals, but leaves a scar.

     The feelings that we have in grief change from day to day—from hour to hour! How we feel may be different in a few years, but that lump, that heaviness, that sadness, will always be there somehow.

     If you are grieving, whatever you are feeling at any given moment is the right way for you to be feeling. We may feel empty, angry, fearful, or even joyful at a happy memory. All this is normal, just as we had those feelings when our loved one was with us.

     If you are grieving, go into your cave and hibernate until it feels like spring. Or go get a hot fudge sundae and sit and watch the ocean. Every way is the right way.

     And know that there will always be “trigger” days or seasons that bring back love and grief in a strong wave.

     If you are not grieving, please let friends and family go through this as they need to. Be there to support and love, but don’t try to make them feel better or think they can just get over it.

     Love never ends, grief never ends.

     We grieve for many kind of loss, not just death.

     Sometimes we have to deal with the death of someone who hurt us. Then we grieve the part of us that was broken, and grief may be a way for us to heal from that.

     This weekend will remind us of those we loved who have died, so it may be tearful and difficult to sing the joyous songs about the saints.

     I hope that we can be remembering good things about those we’ve lost, as we remember the good things about the saints.

     Saint means “holy” and “blessed.” Many of the saints on the church calendar are known for amazing things that most folks wouldn’t do or endure. They are holy and blessed because of their faithfulness to God.

     They lived to show God’s love and mercy, and the peace and joy we can have when we live with that, too.

          The saints of God are just folks like us, and I hope you mean to be one, too.

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details