Last Sunday, we celebrated “All Saints Day” which is traditionally every first Sunday in November. Members of our church have painstakingly made banners that remember some of our loved ones that have passed on. We decorate the Church walls with these banners and the walls are full. This is a great tribute to people in our life that have influenced us in our Christian walks.
Who has had an Influence on you, on your life and on your heart? It is usually people in your immediate communities as you have grown up and maybe ventured into new surroundings and communities. People such as your Sunday School Teachers, School Teachers, Coaches, Pastors, Parents and Grandparents, Spouses, Family, Friends and Colleagues.
I remember my Sunday school teacher from when I was about 10-12 years old. Lee Rice, he went on to become a pastor and just recently retired. He was full of energy, passion and loved to teach Sunday school class, he would take us on trips and occasionally get some snacks and treats for us. He had a raspy voice, was thin and tall and loved the Lord. My pastor at that same church was a person I really admired, Joseph L Milligan! I remember the day I gave my life to the Lord as he called sinners to the Lord’s altar. He served in the Navy and I always remember how he would tell us the day that he got saved.
Of course, through all this was my mother who always took us to church and Sunday school week after week. We sat in the fifth or sixth pew from the front on the left side, all of us. My mother never missed a chance to go to church. We didn’t have a car so we rode the bus or hitched a ride with some of the other church people.
Ron Seigert my wrestling coach in High School was a man that I admired because of his confidence in my abilities even when I didn’t see them. My Wife was and is a constant influence on my life, she sees the best in me even when I know that I have many faults.
I could go on and on with people that I have met in College, Seminary, Pastors, Friends, Neighbors, Colleagues, Strangers, Community, People in this Church.
These are some of the saints in my life who helped bring me to where I am today in my faith-journey with God. You will never read about them in any church history book. There will never be any days of commemoration in the church calendar set aside to honor and remember them. No, they are just ordinary folks like you and me, but in the course of seeking to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ, in striving to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind, they ended up touching my life in ways that changed me and had a profound effect on who I am today. You know, I really can’t remember any one thing in particular that they taught me, but I do remember them. I don’t have a very good memory for names, so for me to remember someone from 30, 40 years ago means they must have been special to me. Somehow, by their example and witness and faithfulness to the love and grace of God, they made an indelible mark on me.
What about you? Who are the ones you remember? Who are the saints in your life who brought you to this place today so that you are in church this morning to worship and praise God, hear God’s word, and celebrate God’s love and grace. That’s what this All Saint’s Day is about — to set aside a Sunday each year to remember and to thank God for all those saints down through the ages, whose names may not be recorded in the church history books, but whose names are certainly written in the Book of Life, and whose names and faces are recorded in our hearts and our memories. Some of them are long gone and long forgotten, others are more recently departed whom we remember today, and some of them are still alive and still play a part in our lives. But the one thing that all these saints have in common is their love for the Lord, and their willingness to allow the Lord to use them in reaching out to and ministering to others, allowing the grace, love, compassion, and generosity of God to shine through them and flow out from them to us and to those around us. Like a stained glass window in church depicting the saints of times past, what makes them a saint is that the light shines through. Only light never darkness!
They were diamonds in the rough… When someone calls you a “diamond in the rough” Would you get offended. I hope not. I would suggest you take it as compliment. For what it essentially means is that at a glance you may appear to be common or ordinary but Christ recognizes a very precious and valuable potential within you which may require some effort to bring out the inner beauty. God can polish and cut off the jagged edges so you light reflect His radiant light.
All Saints’ Day is a day that we remember the special people in our lives. We see in them as finished products; we focus on their greatest qualities and their greatest achievements. Their perfect sparkle!
The question that we must face is, “Will others remember us and will our rough edges be polished by Jesus Christ? Will we be remembered with fondness and gratitude and thanksgiving on some All Saints’ Day 10, 20, 40 years from now?” Think about this for a moment: We have encountered lots and lots of people in our lives – relatives, friends, colleagues, teachers, neighbors – lots of people. Why is it that some of them stand out in our memories, while so many others are just there?
Don’t be “just there”, let Jesus be the greatest influence on your life and you will indeed standout in others memories as you pass on to your Heavenly home!
Nighbert Memorial UMC is open to the public Monday through Friday (9-4) if anyone would like to come and see the banners decorating their sanctuary walls.
Rev. Thomas Beckette is pastor of Nighbert United Methodist Church and a member of the Logan Ministerial Association.