October 24, 2017
I grew up in France, where All Saints day (“Toussaint”) is a national holiday celebrated mainly by a two-week vacation for schoolchildren. At the time I did not bother to wonder what the weeks of freedom commemorated, and it was only recently that I stopped to think about those early holidays in conjunction with the Church celebration I have come to love.
All Saint’s day is, at its simplest, a Feast day commemorating all of the saints, known and unknown. Woven into the tribute is a call to holiness, as the collect from the Book of Common Prayer reminds us. “Give us grace,” it intones, “to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living.” This day is an opportunity to celebrate the heroes of the faith—and they have much to teach us.
The Anglican Communion gives us a list of saints ancient and modern, from the likes of the apostles and early church Fathers to George Herbert, Florence Nightingale, and C.S. Lewis. Clearly these are people worth imitating.
Yet All Saint’s Day is more than just a call to remember and emulate (Hebrews 12:1). It is also meant to draw us into the “communion of saints” that we proclaim belief in when we say the Nicene Creed. This communion is a theological reality that reminds us that all believers are in fellowship through Jesus Christ, including the dead who are now truly alive in Christ. Rather than a musty heritage, it is a deep and beautiful connection full of the living breath of the Spirit. As such All Saint’s Day is a day to celebrate fellowship and community, not just a litany of names.
We will see this enacted on Sunday (November 6) when individuals are baptized into the Church family, and when we join together in the Eucharistic feast. Beyond the Sunday church service, we can enact this Feast day in our communion with friends and family, enjoying the communion of saints and beckoning others into it. Christians have a large and holy family both on earth and in heaven, and on this All Saint’s day at Resurrection we are blessed to be called to a Family celebration.
October 16, 2017
A small band of Church of the Resurrection members regularly pray outside an abortion facility in Glen Ellyn. We refer to it as a "peaceful, prayerful presence on behalf of the unborn and their mothers and fathers." Often people ask, "But does this prayerful presence really do any good?" Of course we often don't see how God is answering our prayers, but here's one story of a specific, and we think miraculous, answer to our prayers.
Usually when we pray at the abortion facility, clients try to park as far away from us as possible. This time was different. The abortion facility’s “escorts” (whose job it is to rush clients past anyone who might offer to help them find an alternative to an abortion) had already gone home for the day. A young couple parked their car in front of us. The woman inside had been crying, and the man beside her appeared frustrated. Praying that Jesus would give them the courage to leave this place, I handed them a brochure from CareNet, a crisis pregnancy center located right across the street. I explained that CareNet helps provide food, clothing, and shelter for women in crisis pregnancies. On the brochure I jotted down the name of Church of the Resurrection and a number where they could find more help.
Instead of the usual, “No thanks, we’re not interested,” the young man replied, “We already have two kids. We can’t afford a third.” In these moments, the Holy Spirit helps us answer. “I have three children,” I replied, “and I can’t imagine life without my third. She is a joy to me, and I know you will love your third child just as much as you love your first two.”
Sometimes there is great drama, as a couple may become angry or just indifferent and march straight inside the abortion facility. There have been times in similar situations when a couple might talk for half an hour before deciding whether to go in or drive away. After a few minutes of discussion, the young man said they had decided not to have an abortion. Praise God they left that day, three people in their car, and not just two. I pray that they have contacted CareNet and found the help they need to support their growing family. Please pray for them. I cannot say for certain that they did not change their mind later and return on a different day. I do know that in His mercy God puts us in the places where He wants us to be to help others who need to hear His Word. By His power alone, may we be willing to go when He calls us.