November 1st is All Saints day. That works out well when the first falls on a Sunday but it is an important enough holiday in the Church that we observe it on the Sunday following November 1st when that day is not a Sunday. Often the takeaway for Christians like you and me is that there are people in the past who lived good (though still sinful) lives and that we have something to learn from the good they did. Also, a particularly Lutheran perspective would be that all Christians are saints because they have been redeemed by Christ. This thinking follows the line that a saint is someone who is perfect and you and I are prefect because Jesus has redeemed us by His blood, therefore we are saints.
Another facet of this jewel that I would like to talk about with you briefly is the fact that all saints are different people and yet are one in Christ. This is a reality that is captured by the phrase in the Apostle’s Creed; ‘communion of saints’. This does not mean that we somehow benefit when the saints up in heaven take communion or something. It refers to the unity of the saints, the unity of all believers. Of course, there are more saints who are dead than are alive. We are clearly not united with past believers in life but we are still united with them in faith. This is something that happens any time we have faith which, I trust, is pretty much all the time for you. But this communion of saints is even more poignant during the sacrament of the altar.
The ‘Preface’, which is that paragraph I read right after the start of the Service of the Sacrament, ends with this sentence; “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying…”. That “all the company of heaven” part really encompasses a lot of people, including angels even. Though angels are not saints. When we take communion, it is not just a sign of unity with those who are taking communion with us it is sign of unity with those who have ever taken communion. It is a sign of unity with Christ Himself, and by extension all believers in Christ.
So, in a Law sense, we should make sure that we are right with not just the people communing at the rail with us but with all people, now and in the past, who have ever communed at any altar. (And by ‘right’ I mean you have forgiven them and do not hold a grudge against them or something.) From more of a gospel perspective, we get to be united with our believing friends and family who have passed away when we take communion. This happens every time we take communion, not just on All Saints day.
It is hard for me to imagine so large a group of people who are so united in any other way outside of the Church. There are large groups of people out there for sure. There are large countries and large movements encompassing large ideologies out there but they often fall apart because people are so different and are able to find an infinite number of things about which to disagree. That is one of the more surprising and wonderful parts of the ‘communion of saints’. All saints are saints because of what Christ has done for us. Though we are very different people who have lived in very different times and places, though we have different views and preferences, we are all saints. We are all united because Christ unites us. He makes us all saints.
~ Pastor Mehl