I'm not Catholic so I don't quite know what All Saints Day means to them, but I have my own take on it. "Saints" is actually a word for all Christian believers, not just those who have been canonized in the liturgical church. And so, every November 1, I pause to thank God for all of saints who have blessed my life in the past 32 years that I have known Jesus. I could list all of the people here, but they would mean nothing to most of you. But I roll these names around in my brain and my heart, recalling each one as best I can.
There is much remembering to do, for there have been countless men and women who have nurtured me in the faith, taught me the Scriptures, set the real life example for me, and spoken such grace and truth into my life. When I trace God's gracious hand of Providence in my life, I can see them at the intersections, standing as road signs, pointing me this way or that.
I'm not going to write a book this morning, but I did want to share an example of one cluster of saints whom God used to lead me along the way. In April 1977, I had just moved to Baltimore from San Francisco. I had just become a Christian the year before and had not yet become part of any church fellowship. Coming in as a "new kid" at the very end of the school year is a tough way to make friends, but God had already given Anne Rittler a welcoming heart. When I sat next to her in chorus class, she befriended me and invited me to her church. Her parents, Don and Chickie, were so faithful to drive out of their way every week for over two years to come pick me up for Sunday services and youth group. At Timonium Presbyterian, the pastors, youth leaders, and Sunday School teachers laid such a firm foundation for me in the Scriptures, prayer, worship, fellowship, evangelism, and global mission. It is through TPC that I first heard about Teen Missions and went on summer outreach trips to Scotland and Israel. That's how I eventually ended up in Florida, where I met my husband, Thad. Like I said, this is just one example.
I write this to encourage you to think about those whom God has used in your life. Take the time to write a grateful note or two, even if it means you need to hunt someone down on the Internet. This past year, I finally managed to track down Rev. Jim Midberry, who had been my youth pastor at Timonium. He was really glad to hear from me, three decades down the road.
I also want to remind you that you can make a difference in the life of someone else. Be like Jesus to them and trust that God will use it, even when you when you don't see immediate results. You may not know for 30 years (or even until eternity reveals "the backside of the tapestry") how crucial your heart investment has been to them.
I leave you with the first verse of an old Anglican hymn, "For All the Saints, that I have loved since the InterVarsity Urbana '84 missions conference:
"For All the Saints"
by William W. How, 1864
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
(You can see the whole hymn and listen to the tune at: "For All the Saints" at Cyberhymnal. The painting here is "Les Jour de Morts" by William Bougueareau in 1859.)
Thank God "for all the saints"! And thank you to those who have been my friends all of these years! You are so precious to me!