Saints in the Plural

All Saints (November 1)

Revelation 7: 9-17
Matthew 5:1-12

When our two sons were about 8 and 12 years old, the younger one, Patrick, came home from school one day and announced to the older one, Drew: “I was named after a saint, and you were named after the past tense of a verb.”

This is the same younger son whom I once overheard say to a new friend: “My mom is a doctor but not the kind who can do you any good.”

Patrick is now in his 20s and he is still learning to live into his sainthood.

As all of us are.

We may find this to be a daunting proposition. Sainthood, after all, seems to suggest sinlessness, or at least a singlemindedness of devotion or piety or virtue that we could never muster. And maybe it conjures humorless, holier-than-thou-ness.

“Sainthood” might also remind us how small and disappointing our own lives can seem. We know ourselves: our worst impulses, choices we regret, hurts we have inflicted. We know how judgmental we can be. How petty or prideful or preoccupied with a thousand things other than the way of Jesus.

We know that our faith is often shaky—something we can barely admit to ourselves, let alone to others, let alone to God.

And our calling is to be saints? Read more

Feasting with the Saints

Feast of All Saints

Isaiah 25:6-9 or Wis Sol. 3:1-9
Ps 24
Rev 21:1-6
Jn 11:32-44

I love All Saints Day. It is one of my favorite feast days of the church year. It is a time for joyfully remembering those who preceded us in the faith, both those well-known and those known only to God.

It is one of the traditional days for baptism, too. When this happens it provides a community with a chance to look both backward to remember departed members of the body and forward with those beginning their new lives in Christ. I am also partial to the hymns for this day. This Sunday is one of those occasions when All Saints Day lands on a Sunday.

One way to focus our remembrance of the saints is to reflect on the rest and security those believers now enjoy in God. Even though they have died, “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, no torment will ever touch them” (Wis Sol 3:1). They are now removed from the world in which their steadfast fidelity often led to pain and suffering. This can be a comfort to us who remain behind in this world. Most importantly, their lives should serve to encourage our own greater fidelity. Read more

All the Saints

Luke 20:27-40

Last week, Tobias Winright reminded us that October 30th was the feast of St. Marcellus who was martyred because of his refusal to participate in the idolatry of the Roman Empire. From very early on the Church understood the importance of remembering and celebrating those who had departed to be with the Lord. However, over her two thousand year history, the Church has gathered far too many saints to give each their own feast day. Thus, while we still celebrate the most exemplary of the departed, we also set aside All Saints Day to remember the faithfulness of those every day saints who have gone before us. All Saints Day falls on the first of November, but at the level of the local church it is typically celebrated on the first Sunday of November. For this year’s celebration of All Saints the lectionary offers us a discussion of the resurrection from the Gospel of Luke. Read more

A Christian Memorial Day


Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6; John 11:32-44

Where I live, remembering and honoring the dead is celebrated annually in May. Over Memorial Day weekend, families flock to cemeteries, flowers in hand, to decorate the graves of loved ones who have passed. In many cases out-of-town relatives come in for this ritual. It’s a pretty big deal.

The church remembers the dead at an entirely different time of year. In Protestant churches, on either November 1st or the first Sunday in November, we celebrate All Saints’ Day. In the churches I’ve served, we remember and name the members of the congregation who have died since All Saints’ Day the year before.

What prevents the Church’s practices on All Saints’ Day from turning into ancestor worship, and what makes those practices different from the practice of decorating graves? Read more