Saints and Sinners
Here we are teetering between All Hallow’s Eve and All Hallows, October 31st and November 1st.
Let me tell you a couple of personal experiences, also known as stories.
I was settled in my first pastoral charge in the month of October. I invited a friend over for dinner on October 31st that year, and we were deep in discussion later in the evening when there was a pounding on the door. I was not expecting any children because the manse was located out in the country. I answered the door and in walked six fully disguised adults who stood in the kitchen and just looked at me.
Initially I was amused, but when I asked them who they were and what they wanted, they said nothing. Then I got a little concerned. I stepped closer to the figures and looked into their eyes. Perhaps I could recognize them just from their eyes. I stepped back and took in their body size. Slowly I began to search for names that were becoming familiar to me over a few short weeks.
During my ministry at this pastoral charge I came to know its parishioners as hard-working, faithful people. As trust was built they began to tell me their stories. They told me why they sat on this side or that in the sanctuary. They told me about divisions within and reconciliation; they told me about “keeping up appearances” when all indications would point to difficulties.
They were dealing with two issues that resonate with most pastoral charges then and now: insufficient resources, human or financial, and trying hard enough to keep the parish alive, let alone growing.
The solution was to take “make believe.” They reminded people in the rural area that they were a worshipping community, celebrating the sacraments, sharing hospitality in meals and activities, using their hall. For those people who were told years before that the church would close, these parishioners kept up a good appearance of existing by the grace of God.
And actually that “make believe” was not false, it was their faith. They did not change their appearance; they continued to act in faith. It was their leap of faith. And it is these people who taught me what it means to move from All Hallows’ Eve, October 31, to November 1st, Feast of All Saints, or All Saints Day.
There are many demons that would sap our strength, and then we triumph because, regardless of one’s religious preference, we can honour the unnamed heroes and heroines of our families or parishes.
Saints are sinners turned inside out, writes Edward Hays. By throwing off all our disguises and demons we use our talents and time to hold fast to our faith in these changing times.
In fact, this is exactly living in a new life in Christ. Christ showed us the way, so let’s give it a try. And in living as saints we will be given the strength to discern the way forward.
Peace and Blessings
Rev. Arlyce Schiebout
Lakeshore United Church