All Saints Day is the celebration of those who have contributed successfully to the creation of the kingdom and is traditionally celebrated on the fast approaching date of November 1st. As a church we remember and honor all the Christian faithful, both known and unknown. Reflecting on the lives and examples of the saints has been a widespread practice of Christians since the earliest days of the church.
It's interesting to note that Philip Melanchthon, Martin Luther's most important colleague in the Reformation, wrote of three ways that Christians should honor the saints: The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy… because He has given teachers or other gifts to the church… The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace truly super-abounds over sin, (Romans 5:20). The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues… (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXI, paragraphs 4-6)
I certainly can't argue with Melanchthon's suggestions! Here are a few more:
- recall family, friends or neighbors that have died...tell stores you remember about them. Light candles for them and say prayers of thanksgiving for how they touched your life.
- create a family tree. This can be done with your family and is a lovely way of telling the story of past generations to your children. This also could play out with a church congregation, Bible study or small group...ask members to chose someone from the Bible that they find inspiring. Write the name on a card. Have participants take time sharing what they have learned from this person's story. Place the cards in a time line or a family tree.
- embellish your worship space and wear stoles in white. As the Book of Revelation bears witness, God's saints are those who have ...washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14)
- sing or meditate on the hymn For All the Saints written by William Walsham in 1864. This hymn is a commentary on the phrase "I believe in the communion of saints" from the Apostle's Creed. An interesting note about the tune of this hymn is that it was first rejected as being "jazz music." It's nice that we got past that! The original hymn had eleven stanza's. Here is the first: