'From ghoulies and ghosties. And long-leggedy beasties. And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!"
It's almost All Hallows' Eve – Halloween and a time to remember the words to this old Scottish prayer to protect us from the dark spirits that wish us ill. But Halloween also means that we are on the eve of one of the great feast days of the Christian calendar – All Saints' Day and remember all the spirits of light and life.
"Let us praise famous men," says the author of Ecclesiasticus, and we will on All Saints'. But let us also praise those who are not so famous those who have perished as though they never existed. For these also were godly individuals whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten – not forgotten by God and for today, at least, not forgotten by us.
All Saints Sunday is many things. It's a day to honor larger-than-life saints such as St. Paul or St. Francis. And it's a day to remember those saints who have entered into the full presence of God this past year. We remember a host of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends who have entered into the land of light and joy in the fellowship of the saints of God.
As the old hymn states, the saints of God are just folks like you and me. They are all around us, not just in the life to come, but the life we have right here and now. You might call us the rank-and-file Christians – ordinary in every way except for the fact that we have placed ourselves in the hands of an extraordinary God and an extraordinary Savior. That's where we derive our sainthood. And that's why we can list the faithful departed as saints – even the stubborn ones, the ones who were grouchy in the morning, the ones who suffered from foot in mouth disease. They are saints because of who God is, not because of who they are.
For me, All Saints' is a day to remember; to remember the godly individuals in my life so that their righteous deeds will not be forgotten. Every year, I walk around my house looking at the holy relics of my family – little things that tie me to the saints in my life, both living and dead.
When my mother had to move into assisted living, my siblings and I had the task that faces all children at some point in their lives, and that was to go through my mother's stuff – what to keep, what to throw out, what to sell. My mother didn't want to be with us when we did this. I understood that but her presence would have saved some missteps. For example, after we had finished dividing up everything, my mother came in and saw an old ceramic box in the "for sale" pile. It didn't look like much to us. But my mother was horrified that we were about to ditch it; it turns out, it was her mother's jewelry box.
You can tell by its size that my grandmother didn't have a lot of jewelry, but then again, she didn't need to: She was a pearl of great price. I've kept it as a reminder of her. When I look at it, I'm reminded that God looks on us with different eyes. We might see ourselves as unsightly, small or insignificant, but God sees us as a treasure. And I am reminded of the words of St. Paul, "But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us."
There are other relics that I keep in this clay jar. My father was a fighter pilot. In this clay jar are his dog tags. In the military, you don't go anywhere without your dog tags, especially during times of war. I hold this and am reminded that we also have an ID but one that can't be seen with our eyes or held with our hands. It's the sign of the cross, marked on our foreheads at baptism. You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own forever.
That is our identity as Christians, it's our "dog tag" and one we need to be reminded of during times of war. Not just foreign wars but the domestic wars that bruise and battle our souls – trying to make the mortgage, trying to keep our family together, maybe just trying to keep ourselves together. When we go to pieces, remember who you are and whose you are. You are that treasure, Christ's own forever.
The last holy relic I will share is my father's watch. Awhile back, when I dusted this box, I opened it and held his watch. Holding it made me feel closer to my father. I said out loud, 'I love you, Daddy,' and then gave the watch a kiss. It began ticking again.
For me it was a sign that my father was still with me in an ordinary moment when I needed to know that. Only later did I discover that this is one of those old watches that are motion activated. Instead of batteries, it was kept moving by being moved. When I hold this watch now, I am reminded of Jesus, in whom we live and move and have our being. And I am reminded that all time is in God's hands and in God's hands love never dies.
My prayer for you is that you will reclaim and remember the saints in your lives. Find that special something that reminds you of a loved one and hold it tight. And remember that you are always being held by the One who loves you best – Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Cynthia Taylor is the pastor of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Martinez.