This Sunday and this week ahead are very special in several ways. 498 years ago (we are approaching a major anniversary), on October 31, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral. This set the Protestant Reformation in motion. Luther was pointing to things in the Church that needed to be reformed—things that were not Biblical—not faithful. He was hoping to get people praying about how the Church could be more like the Church God is calling us to be. He picked October 31 (All Hallows Eve), because he knew that a whole lot of people would be in church the next day (All Saints Day) for worship. They would see his posting, and the conversation would begin.
This has also been Celebration Sunday for us, the day we dedicate to God our financial pledges for 2016. I am intrigued by how “All Saints Day” and “Celebration Sunday” fit together. As we remember in love and prayer those who have gone before us, I am reminded of the many ways they have blessed us. There are lots of images for it. Deuteronomy 6:11 Moses says to the people of Israel that they are enjoying trees which they did not plant. “Take heed lest you forget,” Moses reminds them. I think of those great stone masons from the middle ages who spent their lifetimes building a cathedral which they would not live to see completed. I think of all of the brothers and sisters who have given of their time, and their talents and their money to help build a church which blesses us today. We get to do that for future generations.
The Rev. Dr. Tim Shapiro told us a story about his teenage son. They had visited together a church member who is in hospice care. His son had written something on his telephone “to do” list. Tim observed that he had thought teens only had “not to do” lists ☺ (“I’m not going to mow the lawn today, it’s too nice out…). On his son’s to do list there was only one thing: “Pray for Jim.” Pray for the man they had visited in hospice. Tim said he wants to give to support the church and the youth group that was shaping young disciples like that. Doing what we parents cannot do alone. Doing what the world so desperately needs. I want to do that, and I bet you do, too.
I’ve been thinking about a story regarding the “Butterball Hotline.” A call came in from someone who discovered a turkey long ago buried in their freezer. “Is it OK to eat a turkey that’s 13 years old?” the caller asked. “Well, I suppose so,” the Butterball operator said, “It should be safe. But why would you want to?” “Oh I don’t want to eat it!” the caller responded. “I was just wondering if it’s OK to give it to the church!”
This week we remember those who have gone before us. Those who did not give their “leftovers,” but, rather, those who gave with extravagant generosity. To bless us, and to bless generations yet to come. That’s what we get to do, too. We get to give our utmost for God’s highest.
Hebrews puts it this way, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” Amen! Let it be so!