Last Tuesday, Nov. 1, the day after all hallows eve, was, and is, one of my favorite days in the church year: All Saints' Day. All Saints' Day is the day when we Christians remember, recall, and give thanks for the saints who have gone before us; those who have helped mold us and make us the persons we are.
Let me be clear that when I use the term "saint" I am not speaking in the Roman Catholic sense of one who has been set apart by the church for their miraculous deeds and lives of piety and their service to the church. I am speaking in the Pauline sense of saints as those who believe. Paul writes to "the saints at Rome"...to "The saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus" and to "The Saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi." These are the same saints who inhabit the lives of us all.
The saints in my life have to include my dear friend Don. I met Don at that awkward time in life when one is no longer a child but not yet an adult--when one no longer lives with one's parents, but doesn't yet feel like a guest in their home. For thirty years or more Don walked through the trials and tribulations, the joys and celebrations that make up life; through loves lost and won, school, jobs, the birth of our children we laughed, cried and prayed together. When I told him I was considering answering a call to ordained ministry he simply replied: "About time." He was a rock to lean on and an ever willing ear to listen. He was a saint of my life.
Another saint who inhabits my life and my soul in Roger. I met Roger shortly after what can only be described as a failure of pastoral care. I was 18 or 19 and wrestling with the dichotomy of trying to be both a soldier and a Christian. The pastor of the church I was attending closed down my inquiry by decreeing that I was to to my duty to my country. The chaplains on base weren't any more help, they simply handed me the paper work to submit if I wanted to seek a discharge.
Roger, a pastor and the father of friend of mine, took a different tack. He asked hard questions that demanded thoughtful answers; he assigned me readings from church fathers and current theologians and ethicists; he called me to prayer and guided my inquiry--not with the purpose of influencing my decision, but simply to ascertain that I came by in rightly. To this day I don't know if he agreed with my decision or not--but he supported me, held me accountable, and showed me what pastoral care and counseling are really about. He showed me how to pastor, and I pray that I have been half the pastor he was.
There have been, and are other saints still in my life, but All Saints' is about those who have gone before us and who wait to embrace us on the other side of the Divide. There is not a day that goes by when I don't thank recall, remember, and rejoice in Don, Roger, and the other saints of my life. Who are the saints who inhabit your life? Have you thanked God for them today?