Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-2 CEB
Today we celebrate All Saints Day, a Christian celebration that was introduced back in the 8th century.
This is a day when we remember Christians who have gone before us and honor them for their faith in Jesus.
We also express our gratitude for how their faith has influenced us for the better.
The writer of the book of Hebrews recognized how important it is for us to remember we are not alone in what is sometimes a very dark and difficult world.
In chapter 11, the Hebrews’ writer lists person after person who followed God through difficult times, but still retained their faith.
We can read their stories in the Bible and find inspiration to persevere as well.
Hebrews 12:1 says, with endurance, let’s also run the race laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.
Endurance is a key component for running any race. Certainly, we need this quality if we intend to finish in a timely manner!
The biblical writer connects endurance with remembering. When we remember those who led the kind of life where Christ was manifested clearly and compellingly and when we think about those who attracted us to God by inviting us and drawing us in, it strengthens us.
We see that God was so obviously active in their lives, and it inspires us to keep going!
On this All Saints Day, we want to take the opportunity to remember and to pay tribute to those who have gone before us, those who have lived and died in the faith during this last year.
We celebrate these saints, even though many of them would never have considered themselves to be a saint!
Nevertheless, God used them and still uses people as a means of grace to share and make His presence real and to reveal His mighty acts. The memories we have and the stories we share strengthen us so that we can face our own struggles.
Sometimes we have physical items that help us remember important events and people in our lives.
My wedding ring previously belonged to my Dad. He gave it to me because it wasn’t safe for him to wear as an elevator tech who worked with high amounts of electricity.
This ring also symbolizes God’s love and is a continual reminder of His love and presence.
In our celebration today, we are also using two significant symbols that God has given us here at my beloved Tomoka UMC.
Both are made by humans, but they are also gifts from God. One is on the altar there, a beautiful bronze Cross.
The other is this stole I am wearing. Both symbols are signs that remind me of God’s love, and they were given by lovely and faithful people.
Between both of them, the stole is the most meaningful sign for several reasons: I received it on my first day as a pastor in this church, and it is imprinted with the fingerprints of many saints, the members of this church.
Some of these dear people are already in God’s presence and they have left lessons of grace for us in the way they lived their lives.
This stole reminds me of the real inheritance that I have received from this community of faith. When I look at it and wear it, I will always think of this church and those whom God has used to impress His love and grace upon me.
The saints whose fingerprints cover this stole are not going to be forgotten. They are pressed into my very life. When I get it out and wear it, I will feel your strength and it will help me through hard times.
This morning, let’s remember the saints who have gone on to heaven before us this year.
By their faith and witness they imprinted Jesus’ presence into our lives by showing their devotion to their respective families and to this church.
My purpose in asking you to remember them is not to give them wings, but to provide you with an example or two of what a faithful saint is like so that you can recognize other saints around you and, perhaps,
be inspired to become a little more saint-like yourself!
Let your memories strengthen you in your own journey with Christ.
We know our loved ones will always be remembered by all of us who are present in this holy place and by all the ones they humbly served around the whole world.
Take a moment to remember those individuals who’ve graced your life and be thankful.
As you do, remember that they were only human; yet, in their own simple ways, God used them to touch you with the warmth of His grace and love.
By God’s grace, may we all touch the life of another person in just the same unforgettable way that someone has touched our lives.
O Lord, you are the mighty One who commands the armies of heaven! Yet you know and care for the poor and grieving. We rejoice that you have destroyed the power of death forever in Christ’s resurrection.
Thank you for the new life and hope that you so freely give. We dedicate our lives to the work of this church.
May you wipe away the tears from the eyes of all who mourn in our community and help us endure the challenges that we face. We pray in your holy name. Amen.