This weekend in worship we will celebrate All Saints Day. In the early days of the church it became customary to celebrate feast days for those who were martyred for their faith. Eventually because of persecution, there became too many to celebrate separately and so the church moved to a common day of remembrance for all of the departed saints. On Sunday in worship we will lift up the names of the faithful from our own congregation who have passed away in the last year. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on other people near and dear to you who have died, especially those who guided you in your faith.
Already this week, my family members are on my mind - particularly my mom and dad, Ellen and Rob Keller. They certainly had a lot to do with my faith development. They tried in the best way they could everyday to live out their faith and they did it by loving other people. I know where that deep faith came from because I watched their parents as well. My dad's parents Paul and Thelma Keller for a while were both employed as public school music teachers, then later he became a college business manager/treasurer. No matter what else they were doing their lives revolved around church and music. He as a church choir director and a member of a Gospel quarter for over 50 years; she as the church organist and quartet accompanist for the same amount of time. They were more vocal about their faith and its implications for every aspect of life. My mom's mother Helen Washburn had faith that sustained her through a lot of difficult moments in life. I appreciated when she lived with us and I would catch her reading her Bible and her daily devotions every day from the recliner in the corner of the living room. And while there are many others who shared their example of faith and are saints in my life, I would be remiss if I did not mention Daryl's grandmother Emma Davis. She died of a brain tumor when I just sixteen years old. She was an incredible example of selfless Christian love and service in the church where I grew up. Everyone wanted to be like her in every way except for her height (she was so tiny - we joked that's why she always worked with kids!)
Chapter 11 of Hebrews is often called the Hall of Heroes because it lists so many of the great saints of faith from the Old Testament....Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, David, Samuel and the prophets. And then Paul switches gears in the next chapter to talk about the life of faith as a race: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
I love picturing those who have gone before as a great cloud of witnesses lining the race of our faith, cheering us on, their examples encouraging us when we are about to lose hope. I hope you will take time to lift up the saints in our lives who have gone before us and line our race of faith. Who will be in your great cloud of witnesses?
Let us pray the prayer for All Saints Day: O almighty God, by whom we are graciously knit together as one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of Jesus Christ, our Lord, grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that we may come to those unspeakable joys which You have prepared for those who sincerely love You; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!