All Saints Sunday
All Saints Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays (and Saturdays). I look forward to singing For All the Saints all year long. The reading of the names of those who have died this past year is one of the most sacred acts I am privileged to perform as your pastor. The image of the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us is one to which I personally cling in my faith life.
This year, we’re observing the Festival of All Saints a bit differently. Rather than scrolling the names of our loved ones who have died, we are creating a visual display around the altar. We will see a glimpse of the great cloud of witnesses that gathers with us each time we worship and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. There will be pictures and names of people who have passed away. It’s not too late for your loved one to be included! Simply bring a picture with you when you come to worship and place it on the display at that altar.
We will also read during worship the names of all of our loved ones who have died since the last Festival of All Saints. We will toll the bell for each person who has entered into the great cloud of witnesses this past year.
All Saints isn’t just a time of remembering those who have died, though. It is also a time of giving thanks for the living saints among us. We will begin our service around the font reading the names of all those who have been baptized since the last Festival of All Saints. We will celebrate these living saints who have been named and claimed as children of God and who are counted among God’s saints today.
Martin Luther understood all of us to be simultaneously saints and sinners. Saints, according to Luther’s understanding, aren’t perfect, miracle performing people. Instead, Luther defined saints as forgiven sinners. Luther is quoted as saying, “The saints are sinners, too, but they are forgiven and absolved.”
We are all saint…and sinners…and when we worship we are joined to the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. So let us come together to give thanks “For all the saints who from their labors rest,” the saints among us and the saints to come.