All Saints Day (November 1) is one of the few feasts in the Church year that John Wesley insisted Methodists keep. On All Saints Day, we remember the Saints who have lived for Christ before us and built the foundations on which we serve Christ today. Most of us in The United Methodist Church now celebrate All Saints on the first Sunday in November—usually focusing on the saints from within our local communities.
This week, saints are probably as far from your mind or mine as they could be. Writing to you, I am confronted with Halloween. There are Jack-o-Lantern patterned buckets around my house, pumpkins around the neighborhood, and Halloween cards arriving from afar. I am sure most of you know the story of Halloween—All Hallows’ Eve (the eve of All Saints Day)—that we celebrate our now largely secular event after sundown on October 31st in what was once the first act of the November 1st Feast of All Saints. The candy and ghouls, Jack-o-Lanterns and carefully sterilized macabre of today’s Halloween are an American phenomenon. This year, Abraham wants to be a ghost (straight out of Scooby Doo)—and while I don’t believe in ghosts, it’s all good fun, because nothing about our current celebration pretends to be real.
All Saints Day is a bridge between past and present—between those who have lived and died in Christ and those who are today living in Christ. While the make-up and costumes for All Saints are far less fantastic and exciting, being a Saint is really serious business! Not only is All Saints serious, it’s real in a way most of us would never wish Halloween to be. Saintliness is real—but not just in others, also as the purpose for us as Christians.
So, in this season of dress-up fun and childhood wonder, and before we come to the other end of November (with Thanksgiving and the unofficial kick-off to the Cultural Christmas Extravaganza that overwhelms our retail establishments and our lives each year), it is worth taking Wesley’s advice and reflecting on Saints and Saintliness. We hear a call to live like the saints before us throughout the New Testament, among other places in Hebrews: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:7-8 TNIV).”
The saints who have gone before us at Hampden Highlands UMC and Ellingwood’s Corner UMC have shown us what it is like to live for others, not themselves; these saints shared the good news of Jesus with Hampden, Winterport, Newburgh, Hermon, Frankfort and surrounding communities because that’s what Disciples of Jesus Christ do; these saints exhibited compassion, care, frugality, and generosity in powerful ways—world transforming ways. Our call is to live into that example—remember your leaders, consider the result of their lives, and live as they have lived.
As we plan for the future, make budgets, and consider the call Jesus has on us as a community today, it might be wise to consider those saints who have gone before—the way they have lived, the sacrifices and stretches they made to build the ministry of our communities, and to ask how the Lord might be calling us to live today. How is Jesus calling you to show compassion and offer care? How is Jesus calling you, and us, to live frugally and share generously for the good of the Kingdom of God? How might we share? What might we give of our time, talent and treasure? What is it that the saints of your community have showed you?
In Christ, with you,
The Rev. David Nicol, Pastor of Hampden Highlands UMC
Pastor-of-Record to Ellingwood’s Corner UMC