Dear City of Light,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus! Bonnie and I are looking forward with excitement to worshiping together on All Saints Sunday. In 2015, All Saints was the first feast of the church year that we celebrated together as a church.
The Church Year
As an American culture, we order our time around many secular seasons and feasts: school, tax day, the Super Bowl, Labor Day and Memorial Day, the weekend, summer vacation, the Olympics, etc. As the church, we enter into the Christian calendar to order our life around the saving work of God in history. We journey with Jesus through time.
Secular feasts celebrate a variety of things—great individuals, autumn or spring, a sporting event, etc.—and sometimes enshrine values that not worth emulating. The feasts of the church year honor key events in the life of Jesus (his birth, his baptism, his death, his resurrection, his ascension) and of the church (Pentecost, All Saints) and teach us to emulate Jesus and his values. We become what we celebrate.
What Are Saints?
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of All Saints. In the Bible, a saint is someone who is sanctified (made holy) by Jesus (Hebrews 10:10). When the apostle Paul addresses his letter to the Corinthians, he begins:
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:”
In old English, this feast was called All Hallows Day (the name Halloween is a reference to the eve of All Hallows day). To hallow means to make holy (“hallowed by your name,” from the Lord’s prayer). We are ones that Jesus has hallowed through his death and resurrection.
All Saints Day
On All Saints Day, we remember what the Nicene creed calls “the communion of saints”. As the Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala, recently reminded a group of us meeting with him, “We are not alone!” In Christ, we have communion with saints around the world.
We are also connected with saints who have gone before. The Apostle John tells us that saints who have died are worshiping around throne of God in heaven, robed in white, and that their prayers are rising from the altar as incense (Revelation 8:3-4). They are the great cloud of witnesses that surround us and urge us to persevere (Hebrews 12:1). As our communion prayers remind us, when we worship we join “with saints and angels and all the company of heaven who forever sing this hymn to the honor and glory of his name: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord; God of Power and might” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8).
This Sunday, we join in prayer and worship with saints around the world and in heaven. We pray especially for our brothers and sisters who are suffering and being persecuted for their faith. We remember that we are not alone and that, “There is one body and one Spirit...one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6).”
I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday!
Your brother in Christ,
"For in the multitude of your saints you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses, that we might rejoice in their fellowship, and run with endurance the race that is set before us; and, together with them, receive the crown of glory that never fades away." —Book of Common Prayer
Art credit: "Love One Another" by Laura James, laurajamesart.com.