Pastor of Decatur United Methodist Church
Monday was Halloween. I so enjoyed seeing many of your faces, especially the kids, dressed up in your costumes on Halloween. There’s some scary ones out there and cute ones and some you weren’t really sure. I have found that having kids makes Halloween fun again.
On Monday night we went over to my parents’ house and built a fire on the patio. Not really sure why we built the fire, after all it just caused us to sweat being so hot out. But we built a fire and ate chili, nonetheless. Then we got the kids ready and went trick-or-treating. Jaxon decided at the last minute that his costume wasn’t going to work, so he went as himself. But Jayden had, in my professional opinion the best costume.
She was batgirl. And right now they have some great super girl costumes that I just love. I think that they help build into our girls that they are powerful and strong, and as a dad I just think it is great. Hope and I both had our own versions of batman to go along with her batgirl costume.
I don’t know what it is about Halloween, but there is something great about seeing kids of all ages going around and collecting candy. Maybe it’s that in this day and age neighbors don’t know each other, and people don’t spend time just walking around the streets. But on Halloween, that just all changes. Life slows down. Kids stay up late on school nights (of course they are grumpy the next day).
On Halloween we have fun and dress in costumes; we pretend we have different names: batman, supergirl, minion, dinosaur, or clown, or whatever creative thing you can imagine. There are stories behind these costumes and names. Such as a friend of ours who made a homemade Thomas the Train costume for their two-year-old son who refused to wear it.
But Halloween isn’t the only day this past week where we remember different names. In fact, the church, for generations, has marked a different day—November 1st. If October 31st is Halloween, November 1st is a sacred day—All Saints Day. This is a day that the church has aside to remember those that have gone before us in faith. This is a day that the church has set aside as a time for remembering that the faith did not begin with us, but has been handed down from generation to generation.
Today we said the Apostles Creed, and in this affirmation of what we believe we say, “I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints.” And it’s this part about the communion of saints that we remember on this All Saints Sunday.
So, I want to try something different. I want to ask you a question. What is a saint? Give me your answers…
A football team. A Roman Catholic thing. A statue you burry upside down in your yard so your house will sell (maybe I need to try that one).
If you are from a Roman Catholic background you might know something of the process that the catholic church goes through to name someone a saint. This is a process called Canonization that’s been around since the 10th century. The process begins after the death of a Catholic whom people regard as holy. Often, the process starts many years after death in order give perspective on the candidate. The local bishop investigates the candidate's life and writings for heroic virtue (or martyrdom) and orthodoxy of doctrine. Then a panel of theologians at the Vatican evaluates the candidate. After approval by the panel and cardinals, the pope proclaims the candidate "venerable."
The next step, beatification, requires evidence of one miracle (except in the case of martyrs). Since miracles are considered proof that the person is in heaven and can intercede for us, the miracle must take place after the candidate's death and as a result of a specific petition to the candidate. When the pope proclaims the candidate beatified or "blessed," the person can be venerated by a particular region or group of people with whom the person holds special importance.
Only after one more miracle will the pope canonize the saint (this includes martyrs as well). The title of saint tells us that the person lived a holy life, is in heaven, and is to be honored by the universal Church. It’s important to note, though, that Canonization does not "make" a person a saint; it recognizes what God has already done.
You know, United Methodists don’t have a process of labeling someone a saint. Instead, United Methodists call people saints because they show what it means to live a Christian life. In this sense, every Christians can be considered a saint. In last week’s message I talked about how we are sinners, but it is also true that we are saints. And on all saints day we remember this, particularly, we remember those who have gone before us in the faith.
This morning I want to share with you a scripture passage out of 2nd Timothy. Tradition tells us that this was a letter written to Timothy by Paul. Paul is this hero of the faith. He planted churches throughout Asia minor, and much of our New Testament is comprised of letters originally written by Paul. In this letter Paul is writing to Timothy, his protégé. Paul was a mentor, so to speak, to Timothy and it is from his mentor that Timothy listen. These words, come from the introduction this letter.
2 Timothy 1:1-7
From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, to promote the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.
2 To Timothy, my dear child. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I’m grateful to God, whom I serve with a good conscience as my ancestors did. I constantly remember you in my prayers day and night. 4 When I remember your tears, I long to see you so that I can be filled with happiness. 5 I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you. 6 Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.
If you will notice in this letter, Paul addresses Timothy in a very particular way. He doesn’t comment on how Timothy is a great Christian loved by God. Instead, he comments on how Timothy is part of a shared faith. A faith shared by Paul and by others. And because of this shared faith, they are linked together in special ways.
Firstly, Paul talks about himself and says that he is connected to his ancestors who served God as he now serves God. It’s this idea that Paul’s faith didn’t just begin with him. That Paul does not stand alone before God, because he has grandmothers and grandfathers in the faith that have before him. And he is grateful for this.
Then he tells Timothy how Timothy’s faith didn’t begin with Timothy. This is very interesting to me. In our culture we tend to emphasize the individual and the importance of one’s person faith. But here, Paul isn’t so much concerned about Timothy’s personal faith. Instead, he seems more concerned with how Timothy’s faith is linked with others.
When he addresses Timothy, he says, your faith “first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice.” Timothy didn’t get this faith on his own. But it was handed to him, and taught to him, and modeled to him by his ancestors in the faith: by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. These two faithful ladies went before Timothy in faith.
Finally, Paul notes that he also had role in Timothy’s faith. Paul tells Timothy, “I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Timothy was taught the faith by his mother who learned the faith from her mother. And Paul laid his hands upon Timothy that conferred some type of gift from God. Perhaps this was ordination; perhaps it was something else. But it clearly demonstrates how Timothy’s faith is linked to other people. How Timothy doesn’t have faith alone, but shares it with his family and others who have made a difference in his life.
When I read these words, they seem very personal to me. For I was taught the faith by parents. I was taught the faith through songs sung in my grandparent’s pickup truck. I was taught the faith through women and men who devoted their free time to spending time with children and youth at my church. People like Lettie, Kim, Tracy, Brad, Patty, Teresa. I was baptized into God’s family as a child by Al. I was confirmed into membership in the church by Dennis. And then at a time, hands too where laid upon me at my ordination by my bishop.
If you go into my office you will see my credentials handing on my wall from my Bishop, Mary Virginia Taylor, it says “I, a bishop of The United Methodist Church, have, by the imposition of my hands and by prayer, set this one apart for the work of an elder in the Church, to preach the Word of God and to administer the Holy Sacraments, so long as this person continues to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ and adheres to and teaches the Gospel of our Lord and the doctrine of the Church.”
That document is not primarily about me. But is about the faith to which I am connected. Because, like Timothy, I didn’t get here alone.
And you didn’t get here alone.
You have your own stories of those that have gone before you. Perhaps you lit a candle today in memory of one of those saints who taught you the faith. Perhaps your father, your mother, an aunt, a brother.
I want to pause, just for moment and allow you a time to think about those have impacted you; those who taught you the faith. And as you do that, I want to show a short video that continues this theme of the saints who gone before and taught us the faith.
When we remember those that have gone before us it can bring up feelings of sadness. But, since we are in November, we can also be grateful. That we, like Timothy, have people that taught us and modeled to us the faith.
But, you know, it doesn’t really end there. This gratefulness for those that have given us the faith is not really gratefulness if we just smile and go how. Because ultimately, gratefulness isn’t about a feeling you have that makes you happy. Gratefulness is this thing that should cause you to act. Because we have been given so much in the faith, we are called to pass this faith to others. We are called to be the saints that others learn the faith from. Trust me, years from now, you want to be the person that someone thinks of on All Saints Sunday when their pastor asks them who made a difference in their life of faith—who was influential in making sure they received the faith.
Because we have been so richly blessed, we are called to pass this blessing of faith on to others. It doesn’t really matter how old you are. You could be 15 or 50 or 100. God is calling each of us to be the person that passes the faith on to others.
So be grateful to those that have gone before you in faith, and from that gratefulness work to pass on the faith to someone else.
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.