I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.
I love All Saints’ Day. It’s probably my favorite church holiday. I know, as a priest, I should be saying that Easter or Christmas are my favorite, but the truth is that this holiday holds a very special place in my heart. For me, All Saints’ Day was when I finally decided to talk to the priest about starting discernment for the priesthood…it was a calling I had ignored for a couple of years. But that’s not why it’s my favorite church holiday. It’s my favorite because it’s a time when we remember and rejoice in the Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven. It’s a time when we re-member our community.
Now there are two kinds of saints in the church. There are the capital letter “S” saints…the ones that have been canonized and honored by the church for centuries. Among these Saints are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, James, Paul, Teresa, Francis and Claire. Perhaps some of those names are familiar to you. The lower letter “s” saints are the ones who have made contributions to the community and to our faith tradition. Among these saints are Martin Luther King, Jr., Florence Nightingale, Sojourner Truth, the Martyrs of Uganda, Japan and the Sudan, Julian of Norwich, and Oscar Romero. At the Wednesday Eucharist, we celebrate a different saint each week. In fact, there are 295 saints listed in Holy Women, Holy Men…that’s almost 1 a day for an entire year!
While the stories of these big “S” saints and little “s” saints are inspiring and hope-filled, they aren’t always the stories of our “everyday” saints. So who are the “everyday” saints? We are. Take a look around you…there are saints everywhere! In the news this week, we have heard stories of people who have traveled from all over the country with the Red Cross and other first responder teams to offer assistance to Sandy survivors. Episcopal Relief and Development is taking contributions to assist those not only in the US who were affected, but also those in the Caribbean. Among us are people who feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give shelter to those without a warm, dry place. Among us are people who share a smile and a kind word in our most troubled times. If you look to your right and to your left, I would be willing to bet that these people have done something kind, courageous, loving, and life affirming. There are saints among us.
A few years ago, I bought a bumper sticker that says “What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?”. I thought it was funny, a bit irreverent and perfect for a priest’s office. From time to time I’ve gone back to that question and tried to answer it, and I’ve concluded that yes, the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about. And here’s why. When we do the Hokey Pokey, one at a time, we put our body parts in and shake them all about…we turn ourselves around…and we do a little dance. At the end of the song, we sing “I put my whole self in, I put my whole self out, I put my whole self in and I shake it all about. I do the Hokey Pokey and I turn myself around. That’s what it’s all about”. Now according to the Great Commandment, we are to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul and love our neighbors as ourselves. In other words, we put our whole selves in, we experience a metanoia (or turning to God), and we shake things up a bit. Perhaps our shaking things up a bit makes life a little easier for our neighbor. That’s what it means to be a saint…putting your whole self in, turning around, and shaking it all about. We all have the capacity to do the Hokey Pokey, and we all have the potential to be a saint.
I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true…They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still, the world is bring with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school, or in the lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea, for the saints of God are just folk like me…
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.