November 3, 2013 by Ken Dale
Communities of faith that mark All Saints usually focus on remembering those of their church family who have passed during the past year ? more specifically since the first Sunday in November of last year.? Today we remember Neal Ward who was a long time faithful member who sat with his wife Ginny in that back corner.? Neal served in many ways and has passed on his bbq and bbq sauce recipe as he used to do the chicken bbqs for this church ? many stories.? We also remember Vuella Reed.? Not too long after I came to this church Vuella had difficulty getting here for worship from her home in Edgecomb.? I had visits with her in her home and got a kick when then pastor of the Edgecomb UCC, Tom Clough, called me to tell me Vuella was becoming an associate member there ? but associate because she did not want to give up her membership in this church. Toward the middle on this side of the church sat Joy Chase.? An amazing young lady who in her early 90?s continued to play tennis and helped here at the church in any way she could.? She couldn?t have been more appropriately named as she did everything with greatly uplifted spirit.?? These people are greatly missed by all who knew them within and beyond this church family and there are many stories that celebrate them.
And finally ? there was yet another very special person in the life and history of this church who sat right about where Jim and Pat Hudson sit. ?Every Sunday as I sat in this seat she was there smiling, nodding, waving.? ?Afton Haggett ? a member of the church for over 80 years ? who at one time was married to the pastor, Rev. Cecil Whitham.? Affie was very active in the church ? especially the ministry of children?s music.? She had an impact on a number of the youth of the church, creating many fond memories.? And that impact continued long after as she shared the special gift of who she was ? memorably dressed in bright clothes and fishnet stockings and ?those shoes.?? Afton had a great life and a great faith and in many ways I felt a connection with the past of this church through her.? Stories ? especially stories shared by other older members of the church.? I remember Anson Pearly telling me about one Easter when the sermon Cecil delivered was, well, less than good.? Evidently it was the talk of the town that week ? after all it was Easter.? The next Sunday Cecil stood up in the pulpit and commented that he had heard of the mumbling and he said he was not going to waste a good sermon on a bunch of people who only came to church once a year.? That gave me a great glimpse of Cecil.? And that?s not too far back in the scheme of things.? Cecil died the year I was born.
As you sit in these pews I wonder if you can, with your minds eye, go back and just imagine people sitting in here at worship or in meetings ? even back to the early 1900?s — or back to when this church was first built in the mid 1800?s ? can you picture people sitting in their new church building ? how exciting that must have been?? And yet they had the same gospel we heard this morning ? I wonder if they struggled as they heard as it blesses the poor and condemns the rich.? They are our ancestors as the people of this church ? and by God?s grace, we who sit here this morning will one day be the ancestors of future generations.? I wonder what stories will be told?
In our reading from Ephesians this morning Paul speaks of an inheritance that we have in faith in Christ.?? In his letter to the Ephesians Paul proposes a way in which, God in Christ brings all who believe into unity.? That unity takes two forms ? unity in time or in the present moment, and unity across time.? Unity in time or in the present Paul saw as happening in the overcoming of divisions within the church.? In his time the most crucial division was between Jews and Gentiles.? Both being affirmed as Christian, regardless of what they were originally, was the manifestation of unity in God. ??Unity across time is a main focus of the passage.? Paul writes that through Christ and in Christ believers inherit (among other things) Christ?s resurrection ? much like property that is passed on from generation to generation.? Thus there is a unity in Christ between those who have died and those who are living that are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit for resurrection.? Or as we hear in the gathering words from scripture in the UCC order for the celebration of life for one who has died ? ?whether we live or whether we die, we belong to Christ, who is Lord both of the dead and the living.??? This is a unity we are especially mindful of today as we remember Neal and Joy and Vuella and Afton and today you are invited to add to that list ? bring to mind those who have touched your life, your journey of faith in such a way that they are called ?saints.?? There is a piece of paper in your worship bulletin this morning and you are invited to write a name or two on that paper and when you come forward for the sacrament of communion bring their presence to the table with you and experience that unity across time.
Today we are reminded once again that as church we are part of something and about something that is greater than ourselves ? something that actually transcends time and space.? Surely that awareness helps us overcome and get beyond any differences we might have with one another.? For Paul it was the Jews and Gentiles issue that could be lost in that unity in God. Perhaps we have differences that could be given up in that same unity in God through Christ.
In our remembering ? in our bringing to mind once again those saints in our lives ? we can be re-membered ? brought closer together and reconnected ? unified ? as community of faith.? There is an old Hassidic tale about a disciple who, one evening, asked his rabbi about community, when they were all sitting around a campfire.? The rabbi sat in silence for a while as the fire died down to pile of glowing coals.? Then he got up and took one coal out from the pile and set it apart on the stone hearth.? It?s fire and warmth soon died out.
All Saints ? community ? it is in the company of the saints that we find our life and vitality ? and in such company we experience comfort in our losses, courage for our daily struggles, and hope as we face the future together.? Amen.