Sunday, November 1st we celebrated All Saints Day. This is the day each year that we set aside to remember all those who have gone before us in the faith. Not only do we remember all the Christian people of every time and place who have gone to the Church Triumphant, but particularly we remember those from our own congregation who have passed since last November 1st. This year our list includes some wonderful saints of this church: Virginia Vice, Eloise Patterson, Dean Hamner, and Don Cole. We remember them for the gifts they brought to us and for the lives they shared with us. We remember them as life-long church members, as new believers, and as those returned to Jesus. We remember them all as children of the Living God for whom we are truly thankful.
Each year when we come to this day on the church calendar I think of the rich history of the church as it has evolved over time since The Book of Acts first saw the followers of Christ begin to live-out the mission that Jesus modeled for them. History shows us a church that struggles to hold true to its message in the face of cultural influences and often violent persecution. We read stories throughout the New Testament and in other historical literature about a group of people who want desperately to be loyal to their God and yet encounter obstacles at every turn.
History also shows us a church that eventually divides within itself over issues that grow out of humanity’s need to control circumstances and to interpret God’s Word in self-serving ways. At different times reformers try to bring the church back to Jesus and then we run astray and the cycle repeats and repeats. Maybe that’s what draws me to this topic – the idea that history tends to repeat itself.
Remembering and celebrating the faithful in our congregation reminds us of the work of all the faithful throughout time. It makes me want to think that history will repeat through the actions of those of us who are still here and through our children and grandchildren for generations to come. The history that I would like to see repeated is the work of people like us in congregations around the world. Work that focuses completely on who Jesus was and who Jesus calls us to be. A history of loving God with all that we are and loving others as God loves. That is what we say we believe in. That is what this congregation has been working on for quite a while now. When we focus on Jesus and what He asks we cannot help but repeat the kind of work that those early Christians started in Jesus’ name.
Repeating history is a good thing when we focus on repeating the right things. Those right things are taking care of each other; feeding hungry people; loving unlovable people; and praying with hurting people. Those right things include letting our faith inform every decision we make, whether in the voting booth or in our place of business.
It is said that repeating the same behavior while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I would agree, particularly when we are talking about historically bad behavior. The inverse of this axiom is also true and valid when we apply it to good behavior: It is perfectly sane to repeat good behavior and expect good results. Let’s keep repeating the good history passed down by generations of Christians and expect the church to grow.
Hoping for good history,