All Saints' Sunday is sometimes overlooked on the Christian calendar. Fortunately, that's not the case at First UMC where I serve as pastor. Over the years, it has become an important tradition for our church to give thanks to God for all of God's people who have faithfully lived and died.
Our church observes All Saints' Sunday by reading the names of people in the congregation who have passed away over the past year. We ring a bell for each person and light a candle. Family members stand up when their loved one's name is read.
As we prepare to observe All Saints' Sunday, I offer these thoughts about this important day on the church calendar.
- This is a day to help us continue to give thanks for those who have gone before us. In addition to reading the names of church members who have passed away over the past year, we also light a candle for all of our loved ones who are no longer with us. Yes, it's an emotional day because we miss those who are no longer with us but it's also a day of celebration as we are reminded that they are now shining in glory and one day we will feast at God's heavenly banquet together. What a great day that will be!
- All Saint's Sunday is a day to remember that we are all saints. Saints do not just include Mother Teresa and the members of the New Orleans football team, but they also include those of us who have sought to follow Jesus through our words and actions. The Apostle Paul was known to begin his letters to the several churches he founded by referring to them as saints. I'm no psychology expert, but I know that when someone dares to remind us of who we are called to be, we tend to set the bar a little higher and reach for our full potential.
- This day on the church calendar also reminds us that the church is bigger than we think. In the Book of Revelation, we are told that the author, John was able to peer into heaven and he saw those who were in heaven worshiping and glorifying God. What a powerful thought to remember that whenever we worship together, we don't just worship with the people sitting next to us or those who sit in the balcony, we are also worshipping with the saints in glory who are in the heavenly balcony! And pastors, I know how much you love to have record worship attendances, but no, you are not allowed to include the people who are worshiping in heaven in your Sunday count. It may be good worship theology, but it's also known as fudging the numbers.
"Maybe we should refer to each other as St. Fred..."
Since each person who is seeking to be a follower of Jesus is a saint, maybe we should refer to each other as St. Tom, St. Alice, and St. Fred. I know. It sounds kind of holier than thou, but it's good theology.
Happy All Saints' Sunday!
All Saints' Sunday Prayer
We bless your holy name O God, for all you servants who, having finished their course, now rest from their labors. Give us grace to follow the example of their steadfastness and faithfulness, to your honor and glory; through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.