To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons;
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. –Philippians 1:1-2
There are many churches in Fayette County. Three little ones in the bucolic countryside are a big part of my life. Upon completion of seminary, I was sent to serve them as pastor. Of the three, two remain. One closed and its former members now worship in the other churches. Their church building is now an antique store. Sometimes when church buildings are sold, they become taverns or restaurants. I’m a history buff and prefer antiques. I treasure the past; those who’ve lived before me. I love remembering the saints of the Church.
Everyone who believes ‘Jesus is Lord’ is a saint of the Church. All saints are living—on earth or in heaven. We regard saints mostly as those who have died. On the first Sunday of November every year, we celebrate All Saints. Congregation members who’ve died in the past year are named in the prayers. A bell is chimed for them. We remember. We love them. In great and small ways they influenced our lives. Most importantly, they are loved and remembered by God. Their lives are redeemed in Christ. They live forever. We will see and greet them in a grand reunion. We can never underestimate this comfort.
Recently, one of the remaining three churches that I began serving thirty years ago held a Homecoming Day. Barbara and I were invited back. The lectern Bible in this church was dedicated to the glory of God by the congregation and in celebration of our wedding day—March 16, 1991. During the homecoming (with a sizable plate of food and drink in hand!), I spent time reading the names of deceased church members inscribed on memorial plaques mounted on the walls of the sanctuary. At the homecoming, only three in attendance were members when I served as pastor. The names of most I knew are now on the plaque boards. They have died in the past thirty years. One by one, I read their names and remembered. One played the organ; one was a podiatrist; one enjoyed fishing on Lake Erie; one flew planes; one loved serving as a lector; one sat in the back pew and tormented me by swinging her wrist watch in the air when she felt worship should be over.
They are all gone. I remember them. When it was my turn to speak at the homecoming, I had tears in my eyes as I remembered their lives, faith, and service to God. “Best of all,” the saying goes, “God is with us.” A close second are the saints, who are with us too, graciously urging us on; waiting and watching how we are keeping faith until our reunion comes.
When writing to the church at Philippi in the first century, Paul addressed his letter, “To the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi.” To the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Mount Lebanon United Lutheran Church, I say, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” As long as I live (which in Christ is forever!), I will remember and give thanks for you. Your names I will remember. By your service and devotion to God you are blessing the world with love. You are blessing my life and the lives of all the saints. Join us for worship on November 3 when we remember our precious saints. Join us every Sunday. Treasure the experiences of your sainthood in Christ. Best of all, God is with us. Best of all, we will live forever. This is our faith. O blest communion, fellowship divine!
Love in Christ,
Pastor Doug Heagy