All Saints Day (Living Stones – Part IV)
Sermon Title: The Light of Saints Shines In Us
Good News Statement: God sends us light through the saints
Preached: Sunday, November 06, 2022 at Dogwood Prairie UMC & Seed Chapel UMC
Pastor Daniel G. Skelton, M.Div.
Scripture (NKJV): Ephesians 5:8-10 Today’s scripture reading comes from the words of Paul from his epistle to the people of Ephesus. We will be reading from Ephesians chapter five verses eight thru ten. Listen to the words of Paul and God’s promise of newness…
Walk in Light
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
This is the Word of God for the People of God; And all God’s people said, “Thanks be to God.”
All Saints Day is annually observed on November 1st. It is not nearly as well known as the day before, All Hallows’ (Saints) Eve, better known as Halloween, but it is far more important in the life of the church. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, enjoyed and celebrated All Saints Day. In a journal entry from November 1, 1767, Wesley calls it “a festival I truly love.” On the same day in 1788, he wrote, “I always find this a comfortable day.”
All Saints Day is an opportunity to remember and give thanks for those who have gone before us in the faith, who have granted us with words of wisdom, who have left an impression on our heart, and whose smile and laughter bring light to our life. Among the remembering and giving thanks, All Saints Day is also a time of celebration. In Hebrews 12 the author encourages us to remember that a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounds us, encourages us, and cheers us on as we celebrate their life.[i] We are inspired to live out the legacy and story of the saints in our life by modes of celebration and remembrance. Because of the many saints who have gone before us, we have been given an eternal light that shines brightly through our ability to remember, to have hope, and to rejoice in the teachings of those who have made us into the person we are today.
Let us pray… Dear God, I pray that you allow this time of worship to be a place and space where we all take a moment to remember the saints in our life who have gone before us to live in the land of glory. God, help us to remember them, to give thanks for them, and to celebrate the eternal light that they have passed on to current and rising generations. O God, we remember the saints today. May my words fall to the ground as your words settle in the hearts of all those before me. In Your name we pray, Amen.
A few months ago I came across a story about a young man who found himself doing something he never thought he would have to do: he found himself standing before aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, family friends, and strangers in his home church giving the eulogy for his grandmother. In this story, the young man shared that his grandmother asked him to write her eulogy several years before the day would come, and every time they got together she would ask him if the eulogy was completed. His response was what most of us would have said, “Grandma, I have plenty of time. You aren’t going anywhere.” The young man felt as if he had eternity to write his grandmother’s eulogy; but his grandmother knew something he didn’t know: eternity was just a few years away.
When the young man received that dreadful phone call, he knew before he answered the phone that eternity had ended. Through the phone he could hear the cries of his parents, his aunts and uncles, and a few cousins. After hanging up the phone, he packed his bags and headed home. When he got home, to his parents’ house, he sat at the kitchen table trying to figure what to say about his grandmother. He thought, “How can I possibly do this? No words can adequately define or describe my grandmother. I had several years to write her eulogy and now I only have a few days before I have to say good-bye.” The young man continued to struggle to find the perfect words.
In a moment of desperation, the young man wrote, “What is a saint?” The more he thought about this question, the more he realized that his grandmother was, is, and always will be a saint. He realized that to be a saint involves being a wife, a husband, a mother, a father, a grandmother, a grandfather, a sister, a brother, a daughter, a son, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a friend, or a neighbor. He realized that his grandmother’s love, support, encouragement, laughter, words of wisdom, and endless amounts of peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches were acts of her sainthood. He recognized that his grandmother’s sainthood is the lamp upon his feet and a light unto his path. He acknowledged that his grandmother’s sainthood is what set her apart from everyone else: her holiness, faith, love, hugs, and grace consummated everything that he needed in life to be who God had called him to be.
This young man who struggled to find the perfect words to describe his grandmother during a time of sorrow and grief, understood that nothing could truly describe her accept for the idea that she was a saint to all persons and still is to this day. She is the light of this world. Who are the saints in your life? Who are the people who give your life light and meaning and eternal love? Who are the people that, although have gone before you, still live in your heart today?
All Saints Day is one of the most solemn days of the year, but yet it is a day filled with hope. First, it is a solemn day of mourning. Whether current or years ago, the death of a loved one always seems so recent: tearing apart the fabric of relationships and love, and leaving a gaping hole in your life and in your heart. You may even still be trying to figure out how you are going to knit those raw edges together into a new reality, a reality that you would just as soon never had to deal with. If this is you, please know we are all holding you in our prayers during this time of sorrow, grief, and suffering.
Second, All Saints Day is a day of sweet of hope that stems from cherished and prized memories. My dad’s father passed away when I was six years old, so I don’t have a lot of memories of him. But my mom’s father passed away when I was in third grade. During the funeral service for my mom’s father, I remember the pastor sharing the story that I shared with him. We were at our family cabin in Wisconsin and my dad locked my grandfather’s keys in the truck. That was the first time that my vocabulary extended beyond school language: there was a beep beep here, and a few more beep beeps over there. During a moment of mourning, hope was experienced through a joyous memory. The laughter that filled the room didn’t mean that we missed my grandfather less. Instead the laughter suggested that though there is an ache because of his passing, there is still time to smile and embrace the hope and joy that comes from remembering our loved ones. Through our pain and laughter the light of the saints still shines brightly.
When it comes to light, the saints that have gone before us exhibit the power of Paul’s words to the people of Ephesus and us today. Paul wrote, “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:8-9). “For once we were darkness” means that we have sinned, that we have stepped away from God, and that we have allowed the valleys in our life to keep us from climbing the mountains before us. This darkness has removed our ability to soar on the wings of eagles, to walk and not grow weary, and to run and not be faint. This darkness has stripped away our light. In moments where darkness prevails, we must remember two things: first, that Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12) and nothing can conquer that light; and second, the saints in our life give us the light we need to see the path below us. This light comes from remembering.
All Saints is a time to remember because memories are a gift that heals the raw edges of grief. In our thoughts, the loved one is still alive. As we figure out how to live going forward without them physically beside us, we still take them along in our hearts and minds, and somehow those memories begin to dry our tears, bring us comfort, and warm our hearts. So, All Saints Day is a day of remembrance and a celebration of how those memories help us and encourage us and give us the light we need to see in the dark.
“Walk as children of light” calls us to experience hope through the saints in our life. For all of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one, we hold onto the promises of God—we hold on to the hope that we will see them again. Jesus saw all people as having the ability to obtain hope. He saw practicing Jews as having hope; he saw those before his time as having hope; he saw the Samaritan woman at the well has having hope; and he even saw hope in the thief being crucified next to him. Jesus even sees that we have hope during a time of mourning and darkness. Through the light of Christ, the saints in our life give us hope to become a child of God.
As beloved children of God, we can trust the saints into God’s loving care with hope. God remembers them and loves them. It isn’t our job to figure out what happens to them eternally and it certainly isn’t our job to keep them out of heaven. Our job is to simply live out the hope that they have planted in our hearts; and this hope is part of the light that they have passed onto us so that we may see what they need us to see, so that we may live out their legacy and story, and so that we may share their light of hope with future generations. We are children of God who have hope.
Lastly, “for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true” and this fruit is the light we need to celebrate the saints in our life today. All Saints Day is a time to look forward with rejoicing. In the Book of Revelation we read about a scene from heaven. There is a great multitude from every nation standing before the throne and before the Lamb singing the praises of God (Revelation 7:9; 19:1-6). We are promised that when this happens there will be no more hunger or thirst. There will be no more pain. The Lamb will be their shepherd and he will guide them to springs of the water of life. At this moment the tears will dry up. Why? Because all of those things that cause us physical and emotional pain and tears are gone. The pain of separation is gone. The fear of want is gone. The limitations of our physical bodies are gone. And so we sing praises and celebrate the joy of being with God: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God” (Revelation 19:1). For our loved ones who have gone before us this is what we believe and hope they are experiencing. For us, this is what we look forward to. For us, we celebrate that the saints in our life are no longer experiencing pain or hunger and thirst or even sadness. For us, we celebrate the saints in our life because they have given us the strength to face tomorrow and the light that will conquer any darkness. All Saints Day is a day of rejoicing in the light of hope that has been passed down to each of us.
One of the realities of life is that we shall die. Whether we want to admit it or not, our day will come. Someday loving family members will light a candle for us. But until that day comes, we must remember the saints in our life; their words of wisdom, their smiles, their laughter, their weird habits, their colorful language, and their ever present eternal light that perpetuates our very spirit down to our core. Through their memories, we must find ways to live out their legacies, pass on their stories, and embrace their gentle touch and hugs as we let their light shine for years to come. And we must have hope that one day, one day, we will see them again face-to-face, and we must have faith that Christ will give us the light we need to overcome the darkness in our life so that we, too, can become a beacon of light and hope for those in our own life. We must celebrate the saints in our life so that their love shines for eternity.
On All Saints Day we can remember all those who are part of the “communion of saints” and we share the stories of those “to glory gone.” Retelling these stories grounds us in our history. These memories teach us how God has provided for us through the generosity and sacrifice of those who have come before us. The stories of the saints in our life encourage us to be all God has created us to be. Because of the many saints who have gone before us, we have been given an eternal light that shines brightly through our ability to remember, to build our faith, and to rejoice in the teachings of those who have made us into the person we are today.
Several months ago the young man from our story earlier, stood before the multitude, and boldly proclaimed that his grandmother was, is, and forever will be a saint to all people as her light shines brightly in those who will always love her. May the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control be the light that is gifted to us from the many saints in our life. Who are they saints in your life? Who is shining brightly through you today? Who do you hold close to your heart?
Remembering the Saints:
In honor of the saints that have passed from within our church family from 2015-2022, we light a candle for Beverly Newbold, Judy Gullett, Harold Sholders, Phyllis Meese, John Meese, Cathy Wood, Scott Akins, Elsie Leffler, Archie Coker, Sue Coker, Stanetta Novakoski, and James Bolen. And we light this candle to symbolize all the saints that have gone before us to the land of glory.
Let us pray:
Dear God, thank you for the saints in our life. Thank you for their love, their sacrifices, their meekness, their righteousness, their mercifulness, their peace and understanding, and their pure in heart. May we walk humbly in their example of faith, dedication, service, and love; and may we live out their legacy and story each day of our life. O God, let their perpetual light shine brightly upon our path as we remember them, honor them, celebrate them, keep them, and love them in our heart. We have hope that one day we will walk hand-in-hand with them once again. Let their light shine within us. To your honor and glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
As you go about this week, take some time to remember the saints in your life: share their story with others, cherish the memories, live out their hope, and let their light shine in your life. May you be blessed this week until we meet again. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit go transforming lives as you live well and wisely in God’s world. And all God’s people said, Amen. Amen. Amen.
[i][i] Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley, wrote a hymn which sheds light on the importance of the saints in our life. In the first verse of “Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above” (The United Methodist Hymnal, #709), Charles Wesley penned these words, “Let saints on earth unite to sing, with those to glory gone, for all the servants of our King in earth and heaven, are one.” On All Saints Day we remember all those who are part of the “communion of saints” and we share the stories of those “to glory gone.” Retelling these stories grounds us in our history. These memories teach us how God has provided for us through the generosity and sacrifice of those who have come before us. The stories of the saints in our life encourage us to be all God has created us to be.
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