Thursday, November 1, 2012

Remembering the Saints

Our texts for this first Sunday in November, traditionally celebrated as All Saints' Sunday (All Saints' Day proper is today, November 1!) are the first chapter of the book of Ruth (read the whole thing--it's worth it!), and the brief but central teaching of Jesus from Mark 12:28-34.

As a Baptist I didn't grow up celebrating All Saints' Day--or even talking about saints, really.  What did saints have to do with my life, after all?  Most of them were nuns or priests or monks, living in another culture and country and day and time, doing insane things like being beheaded for the gospel or drinking the pus out of people's festering wounds (Catherine of Siena did this--no lie).

As I have come to appreciate the liturgical calendar of church holidays as an adult, however, today has become one of the most holy and bittersweet and sacred days of my year.  Because it is a day to remember not just those from long ago, those martyred and canonized; it is the day to remember the people with whom we are connected across time, by faith as well as DNA--those to whom, in many senses, we owe our lives today for the way they blazed before us, and the example they gave us of how to live faithful lives as ordinary, broken people.

Our biblical examples for this week are Naomi and Ruth--two common, unlikely saints if ever there were any:  a bitter aging widow and a young foreign widow, two women with no one left who are suddenly connected to one another by an act of faith--an act that will join not just their futures, but the futures of many generations to come--including ours.  Their story is a rich one I am looking forward to exploring together.

But today, I encourage you to think of who the saints are in your life--those who have taught you by love and example what God's faithfulness, what God's steadfast love, looks like.  Pull out old pictures, old letters, remember those related to you by blood and by spirit who have shaped who you are in Christ.  Remember especially those who have gone on to the next life over the past year whose lives continue to be joined to yours in some mystical, memorable way.  I am going to spend today remembering two great saints I was blessed to be related to who have left this earth over the past year--my Great Aunt Lucy (otherwise known as "Sister"), and my grandmother Eleanor (otherwise known as "Grams").  This picture is the only one I have of me with both of them, and I'm making it my wallpaper on my computer today as I reflect on what sainthood really is.  Both of these women lived lives of faithfulness into their 90s that looked quite different from one another, but that taught me lessons about independence, the fierceness of love, steadiness, unconditional care, and perseverance that I hope I can hold onto into my 90s if I am gifted with a life this long.  They are saints to me because of what they have taught me about my connection to God and the way I want to be connected to others as I live on this earth.

So who has been a saint to you?  Not for the extraordinary things they have done, like slaying lions or bringing about miraculous healings, but for their everyday acts of faithfulness that have changed your experience of God and this world?  Take time today to remember them, to celebrate them, to live in the bittersweet memory of those who have come before and after whom we hope our legacies will be patterned. And hear Paul's words to the church at Corinth as words of blessing addressed even to ordinary old you:

"To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

1 comment:

Jeremy said...


The raw emotion in the entire book of Ruth(though short) is incrediably deep (by my reading). I thought of your exploration of "salt in the fire" from a few weeks ago- the mixture of life, struggle, and unexpected creative joy.

Lucy and Eleanor must be special people (tense is intentional, btw) to have been a part of making the person we see day in and day out.
To undersatand even a bit of what made them as they are, the choices they made that help define them...seems very salty.

Thank you for sharing.