This weekend, many of us in the Western church are celebrating All Saints Day. I’m grateful for the big Saints, people like Moses, the prophets, Peter, Paul, and John, who proclaimed and documented the faith, and those who shared it so that we could receive it, too. I thank God for them, but this weekend, I’ll be thinking of my little brother Mac, who I lost to Lake Ontario in Oswego, NY. He was the first of what is now quite a gathering of loved ones I miss who have gone on before me. How I look forward to our reunion!
When I attended confirmation class at Christ Church in Oswego, after early dismissal on Tuesday afternoons for religious instruction, I trudged through the snow a little over a mile and a half from the Oswego State Teachers College Campus School to Christ Church, though it seemed longer, especially on the cold, dark walk home.
Despite the boy’s hard snowballs stinging my bare legs (on Tuesdays, I refused to wear my baggy, hand-me-down snow pants) I loved going to church and learning the faith. I especially enjoyed our weekly hymn, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.” The second line still lights up for me.
“They loved their Lord so dear, so dear, and his love made them strong.”
Every week, I sang from my heart,
“For the saints of God are just folks like me, and I long to be one, too.”
For much of my life, I’ve tried “to be one, too.” I’ve had some not too spectacular failures and some of what looks like success. But it has taken me an inordinate amount of time to begin to really grasp the meaning of that second verse: “…his love made them strong.”
This weekend, I am playing the song in my mind (I often have a tune looping through my days and nights) with an emphasis on really receiving His love, not trying to be a good, saintly person so I can earn a halo.
Okay, I didn’t think I was working for a physical halo, but that really is the sum of my trying-so-hard-to-get-it-right actions, and the nighttime rehash of my days, my not-good-enough pronouncement on what I had done or failed to do that day.
I was struck recently picturing Adam and Eve in the Garden. There, Eve chose her own way to satisfy her longing for wisdom, for more of whatever she thought she needed. She believed the lie that God wouldn’t provide.
All through the Old Testament, we have the history of God promising what the people needed, and most of the time, people choosing to try to get what they wanted in their own way.
The outcome was loss, just as it was for Adam and Eve, the loss of everything they really needed.
When he celebrated his last Passover with his friends, Jesus broke the bread and offered it to them, and told them to keep remembering.
Keep accepting the love he offers.
Keep choosing life through him, not trying to meet our needs our own way.
When he died on the cross and rose from death, he drew a big X over the world and everything in it that drags our hearts into darkness and death.
This weekend, I sing a song of the saints of God, reminding myself of that freedom, that love, that promise of life with Him in eternity, grateful I don’t have to earn a halo, or even polish one.
I can simply take life from his hand as he offers it.
His love makes me strong enough.
Such a gift.
It’s not so much what we do, but where we go to meet our needs that determines the outcome of our lives.
What are you choosing today?