Halloween is one of my favorite evenings of the year, for many reasons. We usually have a big get-together at our house for friends to come and trick-or-treat around our neighborhood. I delight in seeing kids in their costumes (particularly the creative ones!), and I love the way the holiday brings our neighbors out of their houses and into the streets together for pure enjoyment. And of course, there’s the chocolate! (And I’m not talking about Tootsie Rolls.)
But while Halloween gets all the attention (and is arguably the most fun), the real holidays, at least for the faithful, are the days following – All Saint’s Day on November 1 and All Soul’s Day on the following day. I love the way Barbara Brown Taylor differentiates the two: “On All Saints’ Day we remember all those saints who have left a name, whose stories we know something about, like Saint Peter, Saint Paul, or Saint Mary. Then on All Souls’ Day, we remember all the faithful departed, whether they made a mark in the world or not, the saints who are known to God alone, like relatives and friends and the old woman across the street. Between the two we come into communion with all those saints and souls who have gone before us, with all our kin, known or unknown, to whom we are related by Christ’s blood.”[i]
The juxtaposition of these two holidays marks a wonderful truth about communities of the faithful. The fact is that some people live remarkable lives of faith. They are publicly recognized for their acts of kindness and justice or for their leadership or for their righteousness. These are the folks that we celebrate on All Saints’ Day. For BWIM, they are Saint Martha, Saint Addie, and Saint Molly, among others!
But the vast majority of the faithful are unrecognized heroes. Each congregation is filled with them – the Sunday School teachers, those who rock the babies in the nursery or mow the lawns of the elderly, those who bake casseroles to share with the bereaved. Each of us could name the women and men in our faith communities whom we remember and celebrate for shaping our faith in these largely unnoticed ways.
Barbara Brown Taylor goes on to say, “The reality is that all of us who have been baptized are already saints, have already been given our halos, because all it takes to be a saint is to belong to God…. Once you have linked up with Christ’s body, once you have been baptized in his name and shared his body and blood, you have everything you need to be a saint. You have your identity, your halo, and a choice: to live as who you are or not.”
Yes, more times than not, it is the unrecognized heroes that carry on the work of God’s kingdom. Our faith is founded on the experiences of ordinary people who do not change the world in huge waves but by small ripples of faith. Each of us is a saint, recognized or not. Each of us can be a hero of the faith if only we choose to live our lives as children of God, faithfully serving where God calls us.
Thanks be to God for the saints of the church!
Julie Long is associate director
of Baptist Women in Ministry.
[i] Barbara Brown Taylor, “The Company of Heaven,” in Mixed Blessings, p. 80-82.