Greetings Saints of the Church!
November 1 is All Saints Day, a day when we remember the faithful lives of those who have gone on to glory before us. It is not nearly as well known as the day before, All Hallows’ (Saints’) Eve, better known as Halloween, but is far more important in the life of the church. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, enjoyed and celebrated All Saints Day and encouraged others to do so as well.
Now, you may be thinking, ‘Wait a minute! United Methodists don’t believe in saints. Right?’ Well the answer is yes…and no. Wesley cautioned against holding saints in too high regard. The Articles of Religion that he sent to the Methodists in America in 1784, included a statement against “invocation of saints.” Wesley did not see biblical evidence for the practice and discouraged Methodists from participating. However, he also advised against disregarding the saints altogether and found comfort in celebrating the day.
All Saints Day is an opportunity to give thanks for all those who have gone before us in the faith. It is a time to celebrate our history. From the early days of Christianity, there is a sense that the Church consists of not only all living believers, but also all who have gone before us. For example, in Hebrews 12 the author encourages Christians to remember that a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounds us, encouraging us, cheering us on.
On All Satins Day we remember all those, famous or obscure, who are part of the “communion of saints.” Alongside the likes of the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John and Charles Wesley, we tell stories of the grandmother who took us to church every Sunday. We remember the pastor who prayed with us in the hospital, and the neighbor who changed the oil in the family car. We give thanks for the youth leader who told us Jesus loved us, the kindergarten Sunday school teacher who showered us with that love, and the woman in the church who bought us groceries when we were out of work.
Retelling these stories grounds us in our history. These memories teach us how God has provided for us through the generosity and sacrifice of those who have come before us. The stories of the saints encourage us to be all God has created us to be.
We also think of the inspirational people with whom we worship with on Sunday, and those across the world we will never meet. We celebrate fellow United Methodists who inspire us, and those of other denominations whose lives encourage us. It is a day to remember our blessed companions along the way.
This All Saints Day, which we will celebrate on Sunday, November 5, let us give thanks for both the saints in glory and those on earth, who have led us to Jesus. As they have shared the gospel with us, may we add our voices so someone else may hear about the grace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for the lives of his Saints!
See you on Sunday,