Last Sunday during worship, we celebrated All Saints’ Day. In the Presbyterian Church USA, a saint is anyone who claims Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
There is no sparkling crown you wear or dazzling robe you don. A saint is about who you are in relationship to God and your neighbors. It is not about being perfect, or saintly in the purest sense. It is about being faithful.
During the “Children’s Moment” last Sunday, one of our parishioners had agreed to dust off his clarinet and lead the congregation in a rousing rendition of “O When the Saints Come Marching In.”
He explained — as he put his clarinet together — that this song was played in New Orleans for the funeral march to the cemetery. People would dance and sing along as the instrumentalist played the song over and over again. I loved what he said about the condition of the mourners’ hearts as they marched their loved one to their final resting place. He said their hearts were happily sad — happy because their dear saint had made their way home to God, sad because they will be missed dearly.
As the clarinetist marched the children around the sanctuary, the choir fell into step, and then members of the congregation joined the procession. As these saints clapped and sang and marched, I was reminded of the power and strength of being in a community of faith. I was remembering all the funerals that I had performed over the last 11 years. I could see the faces of all those saints who had made their way home to God. I realized that their ministry had laid the foundation of our ministry in 2015.
I think it is important for us to remember those loved ones who have gone before us, those special people who have paved the way for our lives to be richer and fuller. I think it is also important for us to recognize that we need to be there for others in our community.
We all need to be saints in the broadest understanding of the word.
No one should sleep in a cold field at night. Food is so plentiful, why should anyone in our community go hungry? We have great schools in Delaware and the surrounding area. We have an excellent university and community college right here. Why are we not building up those students who are struggling? Each one of us has the ability to mentor a young person who is feeling lost.
It’s time for each of us to recognize our role as members of this community. Like a strong church, a strong community needs to move and dance together, picking up those who have fallen and guiding them to places of security and success. As a saint among many in our church and this community, I believe that God’s call to us is to be there for our neighbors, known and unknown. By doing so, we will strengthen our lives together.
The Rev. Deb Patterson has been the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Delaware for 11 years.