So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. [Hebrews 1-2a CEB]
This Sunday is All Saints Sunday. As United Methodists we don’t officially canonize the saints like they do in the Catholic church, but we share those people, they belong to us, we belong to them. We sometimes think of saints as referring to the epoch figures from the New Testament's narratives. Even as United Methodists, we commonly attach the word “saint’ in front of the Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; to Paul; and to the disciples, such as the namesake of our own church, St. Andrew.
These saints are the “Hall of Fame” Christians. Those who get a lot of ink in the Bible or Christian literature. The ones who get churches and cathedrals named after them. But they are not the only ones we celebrate on All Saints Sunday.
The true saints are the ones who say yes, not just with their heads and their hearts, but with their lives. They’ve figured out that what God needs is not those who say, believe, and stand up for the right things. The world is full of those people. What God needs is some people who will go when God says go and do when God gives them something to do. Think about the saints in your life. Most likely they are ordinary people with an extraordinary willingness to take belief and turn it into action.
This Sunday we will read the names of those persons in the family of this church who we lost this past year. As their names are read, you may know some of them and say to yourself, they truly were saints. They were a saint to me. Think about the people who have meant the most to you. They aren’t mega-talented, overachievers as much as they are extraordinary in their willingness to put their beliefs into action. It doesn’t take a lengthy, elaborate process to decide that they truly are saints. You just know. They are the ones in our lives who spread around the love that God gave them so that others may experience it.
Yes, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. And on this Sunday, we rejoice and say a word of thanks for those saints in our lives and in the life of the church.