During last week, as we entered into November, several branches of the Christian Church marked All Saints Day. A day to celebrate men and women who have given their lives to serve God, bless His people, and through whom the church has seen the grace of God at work. It’s an opportunity to give thanks to God for that grace, and to seek encouragement from the example of those gone before us.
In some traditions, especially amongst our Catholic brothers and sisters, it’s an important day of remembrance. Indeed, from the 4th century, feasts commemorating Christian martyrs were held, yet it wasn’t until the 9th century that the date of 1st November was universally extended to the whole Catholic Church by Pope Gregory IV. However, conversely in some other Christian traditions All Saints Day will come and go unnoticed, as seeking to label someone as ‘Saint so-and-so’ can be seen to set them on a holy pedestal and appear counter to New Testament teaching on the body of Christ (Galatians 3:28).
I think perhaps there’s a healthy balance to be reached, and now is not the time nor the forum to develop either side of that argument, but coming from Northumberland I’ve long been interested in the lives of the Celtic saints, perhaps Aidan and Cuthbert particularly amongst many others. Men and women through whom God in His grace chose to work, as a powerful missional movement swept across great swathes of our nation. A movement often characterised by the hallmarks we seek in our modern-day missional endeavours; contextual, organic mission blending ordinary every day occurrences with the miraculous, and impacting lives as the love of God is demonstrated amongst community.
As I look back on my own life, I’m aware of people who’ve had a similar impact as they’ve demonstrated Kingdom life and encouraged me on my journey. Whether we choose to call them saints or not, they are certainly people who have acted in a saintly manner, and this week I’ve been giving thanks for them; my parents who supported me during my teenage rebellion (and beyond!), the Pastor who believed in me, mentored me and was willing to take risks on my behalf when I was in my early 20’s, my wife, who many people think must indeed be a saint for putting up with me! The list goes on…
As you go through this week I’d urge you to recall who those ‘everyday saints’ have been, or indeed still are, in your own journey. Seek them out, write them a letter, ping them an e-mail, or if like the saints of old they’ve gone before us, give thanks to God for them and their godly influence in your life. We can spend a lot of time looking to the future, wondering what’s next and seeking the next initiative for our church or Christian community, yet perhaps All Saints Day gives us a chance to reflect, look back, give thanks for those key influences in our lives, and let their example inform our future.
Thanks be to God for the everyday saints!
Director: Scotland & Northern England
Photo: A stained glass window depicting four women Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa Benedicta, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Catherine of Sienna at St. Therese of Lisieux R.C. Church in Montauk, NY