Unfortunately the end of October beginning of November is best known in our society for Halloween. As soon as Summer is over the shops begin to fill with sweets and chocolates, pumpkins and scary costumes for young children. Whether you think this is ‘just a bit of fun’ or like me have a huge aversion to it, I think its such a shame that this has become such a big emphasis of the time.
The festival of Halloween actually came from All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints’ Day, 1st November. Like many festivals it begins the night before. Now this is something that I think is worth celebrating. It is a time when we remember with thanks the lives of those Saints who have gone before us. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Church of England doesn’t canonise Saints, recognising all members of the universal church both past and present as Saints. In
other words when we enter Jesus family by His grace we become Saints.
Traditionally All Saints’ Day is a time when we remember those faithful believers who have died.
Hebrews 12:1 reads …
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.
This cloud of witnesses refers to the people that have gone before us that have been a witness to us, or whose lives have shown us a testimony through their faith of God’s love and faithfulness. This in turn offers us, as the passage moves on, a great encouragement to persevere with the race that we still have to run.
We will all have people in our lives who have died who will have greatly encouraged our faith. People whom it was a privilege to have as part of our lives. Very likely they will have been very ordinary people, but people whose faith impacted us.
For me, one of those people was my dad. He died 25 years ago this year and I only became a Christian two years before he died. But for my whole life he was someone who demonstrated to me to be ‘all in’ faith wise, someone who modelled a great enthusiasm for worship (with his keyring as his favourite percussion instrument), someone who had great integrity (I’m not biased, he was known for this in his work place as a manager at British Gas) and someone
who had a passion for sharing Christ with others. There are many other faithful women and men I remember with great affection whose faith while they lived have been either an encouragement or a challenge to me.
There are also others whom we might not know but whose stories impact us greatly. For me one of these is the life of Jim Elliot. His widow, Elizabeth, tells his story using his diary entries in the book “Shadow of the Almighty”. He is someone who went to Ecuador in the 1950’s to take the gospel to the Auca tribe, a people they had not yet met. He and his co-workers loved these people so much they were fully prepared to die for this mission … they did. But what his story impressed on me was of someone who sought only to do the will of God and that his strongest desire was that his life would serve as an example to the value of knowing God … it did. Elizabeth later returned to the Auca tribe herself and saw the fruition of her husbands sacrifice, people believing in Christ, and the longer-term fruit was the building of a Bible College at the start of this century.
Jim Elliot said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”. That’s been such a challenge and witness to me.
All Saints’ Day then is a time for remembering, yes, but also an opportunity for story telling. A chance to share the stories of those who have impacted our faith and also perhaps to pray that we in turn might impact the lives of others. I love the fact that the name of our church is All Saints’; a great reminder that we are all saints and that we can be a people that cheer one another on in the faith.
Lesley Currie (Associate Minister)