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October 31, 2016 “For All the Saints”

Grandma Holland—my Mom’s mom—could pour the warm water over my hair with a cup in a magical way so as not to get a drop of shampoo in my eyes!  I always wanted her to be the one to perform the shampoo job after a long day of play.  Grandpa Holland could take his pocket knife and use it to form a perfect spiral of peelings as he prepared apples for my brother, me, and our cousins as we waited patiently in line.  I vowed that one day I’d be just like him!  I would be able to keep the spiral going from the apple’s top to the apple’s bottom with never a gap in the continuous peeling.  Grandma Biggerstaff—my Dad’s mom—could always manage to have the best pies and baked goods ready to serve us even though we most times showed up unannounced for visits.  She made “stickies” when my brother and I went over to spend the night.  They were delights of rolled up dough stuffed with brown sugar and butter, cut into rolls, and baked in the oven.  I vowed I would make them for my own grandchildren one day.  So far I haven’t!  Grandpa Biggerstaff was an amazingly quiet man who had the kindest, gentlest spirit you would ever want to find in a man.  I remember him for taking the daily shopping list in hand as my grandmother produced it and dutifully driving to the nearby country store to get the things needed for her to cook.  I rarely saw my mother without fabric in hand working at the sewing machine or without scissors and thread and thimble for doing hand-sewing as she sat in her rocker watching “Love of Life.”   Her life had held much tragedy, including the early death of my father; yet, she never lost her love for life.  I will always remember my step-father who came along to fill the loneliness, the void, left in my mother’s life, but more than that I will cherish the man who so readily took on two of another man’s preschool children to raise all the way to adulthood.  I will remember aunts and uncles and church members from our tiny country church, all of whom had a part in helping to encourage my brother and me and to help us become the adults we ultimately became.

We can all tell such stories—stories about people who were important to us, people who nurtured us and brought us up in the life of faith.  The Christian faith takes seriously the lived heritage in faith.  It celebrates the lives of people who have gone before us in faith, who now are residents in heaven.  And although we need to give thanks for these folks every day of our lives and celebrate their contributions to our lives and to the lives of people around us EVERY day, the church established November1 as All Saints Day.  Most churches observe the day on the first Sunday in November.  May we all spend time this week as we approach All Saints Sunday to recall specific stories of saints who have been important to us.  May we thank God for how these stories—the witness of these folks—have woven themselves into our lives much like the seamstress takes the individual pieces of fabric to form a beautiful garment!  The song, “For All the Saints” expresses well our praise and thanksgiving, “For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed. Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.  Alleluia! Alleluia!”

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