All Saints' Day
by Elaine Pierce
Today is All Saints' Day, and in worship today, you will hear many, many names read aloud as we pay tribute to our loved ones who are now part of the 'great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. I have been a member at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church for 20+ years now, and every year I recognize more names of these dear brothers and sisters. We may sing the great hymn, "For All the Saints," and these words will ring true:
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed, thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia! Alleluia
What were the accomplishments of this "great cloud of witnesses?" Hebrews 11:33-35a lists several: -they conquered kingdoms
-they administered justice
-they shut the mouths of lions,
-they quenched the fury of the flames
-they turned weakness into strength
-they were powerful in battle and routed armies
-they received back their dead, raised to life again.
But I would be only giving you half the story if I didn't continue to list what some of these saints endured. Hebrews 11:33b-38 continues:
-they were tortured
-they faced jeers and flogging
-they were chained and put in prison
-they were stoned/
-they were sawed in tow
-they were put to death by the sword
-they were destitute, persecuted and mistreated
-they wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes n the ground.
Perhaps the loved ones you have lost never experienced such dramatic highs or lows, but one thing that we as Christians all have in common is that we live by faith, which Hebrews describes as "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (11:1) The "Hall of Faith: Chapter," as Hebrews 11 is often called, makes it clear that faith in Christ is not equal to a conflict-free, pain-free, poverty-free life. In fact, quite the opposite:
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would the be made perfect (11:39).
As we remember the saints above today, let us remind ourselves that these years on earth are not the final chapter. When we meet Jesus, and we become part of that great cloud of witnesses, we will see clearly that, even in the hard times, he was always with us, always caring for us, always loving us. Join me in claiming Hebrews 12:2-3 and remembering that he will never, ever, let you down:
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
On All Saints' Day, we pause to remember those who have gone before us, that great cloud of witnesses. Lord, give me strength day by day to fix my eyes on you, and help me to do good and love others in your name. Amen.