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“As sparks through the stubble, they will run about” (All Saints Day)

October 30, 2012

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, by Fra Angelico (15th century)

November 1 is All Saints Day.  It’s a holiday in the church calendar of multiple Christian traditions: Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and others. Halloween gets its name from All Saints Day.  All Saints Day used to be known as All Hallows Day, and Halloween was a contraction of All-Hallows-Even, or All Hallows Eve.

All Saints Day is meant to remember the saints, or fellow believers, who have gone on before us, walking in the way of Jesus.  The author of Hebrews writes, “We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” We have the example of men and women who have walked with God, who have struggled with God, and who have triumphed in life with God.  As we look ahead to All Saints Day we can pause today to remember their example, and ask God to strengthen our faith, too.  We are part of that number.

Psalm 85:8 in the NIV says, “I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints.”  Some 30 times Paul addresses congregations of believers as “saints.”  We who follow Jesus are rightfully called “saints.”  We are part of a narrative that is much bigger than ourselves, much bigger than any one community, and much bigger than this period in history.  We are a part of a timeless, worldwide communion of saints—the body of Christ.

Wisdom of Solomon (yes, it’s from the Septuagint!) puts it beautifully:

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.

In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was considered to be suffering,

and their going from us to be destruction,
but they are at peace.

For even if in the sight of human beings they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality,

and having been disciplined a little, they will be greatly benefited,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;

as gold in the furnace, he tested them,
and as a sacrificial whole burnt offering, he accepted them.

And in the time of their visitation they will shine out,
and as sparks through the stubble, they will run about.

They will judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be king over them for ever.

Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will remain with him in love,

because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his chosen ones.

–Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 (NETS)

In the coming days I’ll post about a series of lesser-known “saints” in the Church’s history, righteous ones whose “souls…are in the hand of God.”

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