A Message for All Saints’ Sunday Clinton Halladay, Chair Elgin United Church Council
Dear friends, Sunday November 1, 2020 is our first official Sunday without Reverend Takouhi’s worship presence, whether in the pulpit or virtually. It also happens to be All Saints’ Sunday. So, although I am far from being a person “of the cloth”, I thought a brief message at this time, and especially in the midst of our present environment, would be in order.
We are in a period of relentless challenges and instant gratification. Everywhere we turn there is unrest, protest, famine, suppression of human rights and untold environmental disasters. At the same time we want everything to move faster. High-speed rail, pre-portioned, pre-cooked meals delivered to us, artificial intelligence and even with communication at the speed of light, we have to shorten our sentences to acronyms, LOL. We have emojis, so we don’t have to actually use language to express ourselves, IKR! We have forgotten Psalm 46:10 “be still and know that I am God”.
But what does any of that have to do with saints? Those larger than life people of old who’s images we see in Bibles and on stained glass windows. Those revered souls who lead perfect, yet sometimes difficult lives. Those whom in some denominations have been canonized to officially be called saints. What, or who, is a saint? Well as the little boy in the story, when looking at the stained glass windows, told his dad, “a saint is someone who lets the light in”. From the mouths of babes, yes, a saint is simply a follower of Jesus Christ.
A saint is human. We, you, me, we’re all saints. A saint isn’t perfect. A saint is not infallible. The early followers of Jesus, the Apostles, made mistakes. They learned as they went, and they learned from their mistakes. They learned to allow God’s forgiveness. They learned to become more and more loving, less and less judgmental, more and more accepting of others, and less and less condemning of others. This is not a transformation of God, this is a transformation of us and our feeling of worthiness. Are we dedicated? And by that, I mean we may fall down, but a saint gets back up again. We may sin, lose our temper, hurt another verbally or by actions, but a saint asks God for forgiveness, accepts that forgiveness and asks God for the strength to grow to better love others. God is always there. I particularly like a phrase from Tattoos on the Heart”, Gregory Bell, the Free Press 2010, and I paraphrase, “he did not discover he had a father, he discovered he is a son worth having”. And so are we, each and every one of us, worth having.
At this very moment we are exploring the future of Elgin United Church in our community. Perhaps the spirit is telling us that rather than agonizing over what may be lost, or what may change, we should determine and focus on the opportunities to move forward and upward, with wholeness and inclusiveness in our community, God’s community. We have to open our hearts and our minds to the presence and guidance of God.
I’ll close with a condensed version of a story which many of you have heard before, but which I think clearly underscores this point. A tsunami was approaching a small island village. The townspeople ran to the church and told the pastor to come with them to be safe. The pastor replied, “God will save me”. As the water began to enter the church, an islander came by in a canoe and called to the pastor to jump in and be saved. The pastor replied, “God will save me”. The water continued to rise, and the pastor climbed onto the roof. Just then a helicopter appeared, and the crew called to him to grab the rope ladder and climb to safety. The pastor replied, “God will save me”. As the sea closed over the pastor’s head he called out, “Father, I have served you faithfully all my life, why have you now forsaken me?” To which a voice replied, “I have not forsaken you, my son. Three times I came for you, and three times you rejected me!”
We have to open our hearts and our minds to the presence and guidance of God. We are all saints. We are not alone.