For All the Saints

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by Liz Niehoff

Today is All Saints Day, and for many, including my dad, it is a monumental day in the church year. Celebrated in the local church, it remembers those Saints who have died, both past, and in the last year.

On this Sunday, my dad remembers that he died to Christ. For him, it is a tender and significant remembrance marker of when he became an adult Christian, despite having been raised and nurtured in the church by his parents. This day allows us as a Church to remember all those who have left us, and in the process, also to remember that moment or moments when the Holy Spirit captured our hearts and called us to the service of the Church.

My home church’s contemporary service, The Gathering, will celebrate communion today. Maybe at your church too, many will come to Christ’s Table to be nurtured, fed, and made whole. At the table this Sunday, not only will we gather to remember Christ, but we also will bring with us the names, memories, and love for all those who have gone to feast in glory in the company of the Holy Trinity.

As a child, I remember on this Sunday the singing of “For All the Saints,” a hymn written by an Anglican Bishop, first printed in 1864. Though the hymn has eleven stanzas, the one that stands out to me most is the seventh (which wasn’t sung frequently, if ever):

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one, in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

This stanza speaks to the saints who spoke different languages, celebrated with different sorts of loaves and cups, and held to different confessions. Despite these differences, they are one—all created in God’s image, all beloved in Christ, all blessed with faith by the Spirit, all believing with the same heart, and all were gathered numerous times at Christ’s Table, just as many of us will be today.

May we, this Sunday, remember all the Saints, their contributions to the Church and God’s Kingdom, and may they be inspirations and guideposts for us as progress-makers in the days and weeks, the years and decades to come. Amen.

Liz Niehoff has just begun serving as a full time hospice and home care staff chaplain in Danbury, Connecticut.

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