Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
I remember growing up the first thing my parents did, individually, after they exited their room after waking up in the morning was sit in a chair in the living room to pray silently. Eyes closed. For about 10-15 minutes. Then they would go on with the day – prepare breakfast, get dressed for work, etc. We’ve never spoken about this ritual. It has never been addressed. I just noticed. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. But now that I’m grown and away from home, I’ve thought about it. It’s stuck with me.
I grew up in a Puerto Rican, conservative, evangelical household, so the idea of saints to me was pretty foreign. To me saints were those idols that some people worshiped. The freakishly holy people that I would never be like – who have paintings made of them that are displayed in churches or on cards or necklaces in homes and around peoples’ necks throughout the world. It wasn’t until grad school that I realized that those are saints, yes, but those are not the only saints. It was then when the idea of a great cloud of witnesses became very real. It was then that I reflected on those individuals who influenced my life and my walk with Christ. It was then that I realized that I knew plenty of saints. It was then when Holy Communion became so much more meaningful to me. And I quickly identified my parents as the primary saints in my life. Not because they’re perfect by any means – there is no such thing as a perfect person. I haven’t told them this and I think they’d be a little weirded-out by the title – saint. Yet, they have in many ways taught me what it looks like to love God and to love my neighbor in their quotidian living.
This All Saints Sunday we remembered and gave thanks for those saints who passed on from this earth in the past year. We remembered and gave thanks for those saints who passed some other time ago – individuals who have touched our lives, influenced our beings, who have been examples of God’s love, and who have contributed to bringing us to where we are right now – for we do not do life alone. In our remembering and giving thanks for this cloud that surrounds us and promises us that we are never alone – God is with us and has gifted us to be part of a blessed communion. We are inspired and charged to live holy, righteous lives – not perfect, but ones that journey on the path that follows Jesus. A road that is often bumpy and that seems solitary at times. One filled with sorrows and loss, but also filled with comfort and peace. A road filled with suffering, but also filled with overcoming. A road of freedom, redemption and reconciliation. One that is always accompanied by a God who is present and caring, and a fellowship of folks past, present, and future. All of us stumbling after Jesus in our respective moments in time. Yet this fellowship goes beyond time and space.
Today we remember and give thanks, but we are also filled and aware of the hope that accompanies our faith – that we will one day gather with those who we never met or who have gone before – all of us arriving at different times at a place where we will one day be gathered together again to worship our Lord, and to celebrate in a joyous feast. May we honor those we remember by being aware that we too are saints – people set apart – who show to others, maybe not with words, what it looks like to follow hard after God.