Today is “All Saints Day”, and I figured with all the evil I was involved in last night (evil in the form of my daughters dressing up like incredibly cute little girls and going to neighbors houses asking for candy…so…not really evil at all), I should probably make up for it. There are a wide variety of contexts when it comes to celebrating “All Saints Day”. In fact, there are several different theories and stories about how it began, and who decided who was honored on that day. From Mary, to the Martyrs, to those the Catholic Church has declared “Saint”, to even being combined with Nov. 2nd as “All Souls Day” (those who celebrate “All Souls” believe most people who died have to go through a period of “cleansing” before they’re worthy of joining those in Heaven who are celebrated on “All Saints Day”).
So from this buffet of traditions and theologies, what do we take from it, and what do we pass on to our children?
The word “saint” is not actually found in scripture, but what we do read is the plural form “saints”. A group of people being described by a word connected to Holiness, Sacredness, being “set apart”, purity, and something “awe-inspiring”. In both Old and New Testament, this is used to describe groups of people following God and Christ. Most often, it seems the word (hagios) is actually translated “holy”, so that Acts 9:13 “..the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.” could actually say “..the harm he has done to your holy in Jerusalem.”
With that in mind, today is a great day to talk with our kids about people who have made a Holy impact on our lives, and the world we live in. That may actually be Saint Peter, or Saint Augustine, or a martyr who has given their life in a way that has transformed yours. But it may also be Grandma Jones, Pastor Steve from when you were a teen, or Jim from down the street. People who have been used by God to reveal a Holy Love that transforms the world in a given situation.
It’s a difficult, but necessary thing, to hold these two things in tension. On one hand, the humility of not desiring labels like “Saint”, and reminding our children that every believer stands on equal footing before God’s presence – both now and when we come to be with him (or He returns to be with us finally). On the other hand, recognizing that we are “the light of the world”, encouraging our children to show God’s Love in such a way that He is revealed and “carried” into all creation.
And not that our children will do this all “someday” when they are grown. But that they can be speaking and acting from God’s Holy Love even today, and the world can be transformed by such “saints”…