Did you know that this was, prior to the Reformation and even for some today, a Holy Day of Obligation (which means you have to go to church - or else!) There is also a day called All Soul's Day, of which is slightly different. In the pre-Reformation tradition, All Saints was reserved for the commemoration of those that were assuredly in heaven, the saints. All Souls, however, was for those that have died that have not yet attained access to heaven. Sounds a bit out of sorts, a bit foreign I imagine.
Or at least I hope it might.
All Saints Day was retained by Martin Luther and many of the reformers of the church, but not a day to pray for only the Saints recognized by the church. All Soul’s Day was not something that lined up with the thinking of the Reformation. You see, we believe in the beautiful grace of Jesus Christ that has saved us from the pain of death and the clutches of darkness - and nothing we do here on earth can change that. That means we need not pray so much for the dead to be sent to heaven, rather we pray for them because we know they are looking into the face of their savior. All Saints Day has been a time to remember and commemorate those that have gone on to Christ before us in the previous year.
It is also a day to look around us and see the living saints that are working here on earth for the Gospel. I believe that each of you at St. Stephen’s are members of the living saints, walking this earth and living out your call into the priesthood of Christ. I believe that as the church begins to pull itself up from the ground and shakes the dust off, we will begin to see all the wonderful places where we can bring Christ to those that need a message of hope and salvation.
We cannot, however, do this alone. We need to remember our history, we need to know of the saints that have been before us as we add our names to that list. So, on All Saints Day, we will be adding something to our worship. We will have the names of our loved ones that passed away this year read aloud. There will be candles in the prayer chapel for you to light before the service, during communion, or after the service is over. In addition, we will have a book of names - your names dedicated to the church. It will contain all the names of the current members of St. Stephen’s and we will, one by one, sign next to our name. It will be a piece of forever history marking your place amongst the saints of St. Stephen’s.
What a good time to invite those that have been away back to the church!
I bet that each of us knows of someone that has left the church in the past four years - perhaps even in the past ten years. I wonder if they found a new church home, or if they are ready to come back to St. Stephen’s? It takes only a phone call, email, or a visit...and one little invitation. Let us also use this day to welcome back those that have been away for a while.
In addition, the book would then be used as we welcome new members to our fold, one by one, new names will be entered into this book.
Let this be a reminder that while we move forward, we do so on the shoulders of the saints that have built this church. Our history is the sure foundation of our future.
Yours in Christ,