I wanted to talk about a date on the church calendar… November 1st… All Saints Day. As the church in the West began to grow and age, many believers were remembered for their service and suffering. Their example served as an inspiration to the community of faith. Special days to commemorate these heroes in the faith were designated: Polycarp, Agnes, John of the Cross… Augustine, Felicity, Valentine… they began to proliferate.
So, some regions of the Western church began to set one day was set aside to celebrate all saints, remembered and forgotten. By the 10th Century, the entire Catholic Church celebrated All Saints Day.
Now, while I enjoy church history, it’s not a subject that floats everyone’s boat. Still, I think the spirit of All Saints Day embodies something we see in the scriptures… specifically Hebrews 11 & 12…
1135b Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
I want to introduce you to a saint that has been an inspiration to me in my walk with Christ and in my ministry: James Harry McElroy… or as I call him, Uncle Harry.
He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and for most of his ministry life, pastored a small rural church in northeast Pennsylvania. He taught Bible courses at a local seminary, coached baseball, served as a poll worker for elections and lived a life a public service. He continued to preach the Gospel in a culture that was growingly hostile to the message… and sometimes in a church that was growing more intolerant of the Gospel. Is he perfect? Far from it. But well into his 80s, facing increasing health challenges, surviving COVID…he keeps putting his trust in the life, death and resurrection of Christ… the great promise of his own redemption.
The author of Hebrews wrote “Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” so many examples of faith and trust in God’s promises it’s as thick as a dense fog! This week of All Saints Day, remember those who travelled the road before you. It might be a well-known saint of the church… maybe it is mentor… maybe a family member. But think on the example they set for you. Not that they were perfect, but in their weakness, their failings, in their suffering, they kept looking for their vindication in the mercy of God.
Who’s your hero in the faith? Think on how God worked in their life and find inspiration for your own.