Thursday, October 29, 2015

Our continuing love story

As the month of October draws to a close, we prepare our hearts for the double celebration of All Saints Day (Nov 1) followed the next day by All Souls Day (Nov 2). On All Saints day, which is this Sunday, we honor the whole communion of saints: those who went before us and we who are saints in the world today. We also pray for those who are yet to come. On All Souls Day we remember the faithful departed who have gone before and now rest in the “land of our ancestors.” (Gen 15:15) The juxtaposition of these two feast days helps us remember that ours is a continuing story of the love of God for us, and that death, which Jesus defeated, does not interfere or interrupt that story.

Part of the abundance of gifts available to us can be found in the communion of saints who have gone before. For example, when a
parent seeks prayer support for their wayward child, they can call upon St. Monnica, the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, who was a rogue in his youth. Monnica knew that God had a plan for her son and despite evidence to the contrary, she prayed for him continually for 19 years. Augustine eventually became one of the greatest theologians in Christian history. Monnica’s perseverant prayers are available to support us now. When we pray for racial and cultural peace in our world today we can call upon the prayerful support of Chief Seattle and Black Elk, 19th century Native American converts whose faith led them to seek and establish peace with the white settlers descending upon them. When we need the strength to speak the truth as we stand against oppression in our world, we can call upon our friends in heaven who did so before us: Sojourner Truth or Harriet Tubman.

On All Saints Sunday we “dress up” as a favorite saint (or carry a placard available in the narthex) and walk in solemn procession calling out the names of those who have gone before. Knowing we embody the same gifts and graces that moved them in their time, we call upon them, our friends in the heavenly realm, to pray and walk with us now as we serve God and God’s people in our time.
One of our responsibilities as part of this continuing love story is preparing those who will come after us to carry the message of salvation in Jesus Christ to the generations that will follow. It’s why life-long Christian formation is so important to The Episcopal Church. We are always learning, always growing, always maturing in our faith. As St. Paul said in his epistle to the Philippians: “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (3:12)

As Episcopalians we are devoted to the traditions we have inherited from our forebears in faith. We are also constantly opening ourselves to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to the new thing God is doing as the plan of salvation continues to unfold in our time. It’s a balance about which we are intentional.

We believe in a living God who is at work in the world about us. We believe that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, bearers of the love of Jesus into the world today. We believe that God will equip us to serve because the work is hard. Thankfully, we don’t do it alone. We do it held in the love and prayers of the whole communion of saints.

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