I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day. E. B. White
I am a big fan of this quote from the author of Charlotte’s Web. White’s dilemma is a daily one for me – do I tackle the “to-do” list, or do I pause and enjoy the quieter gifts that a new day brings. On sermon writing weeks the dilemma shows itself in even greater relief. Does the text call for an exhortation – a call to action and faithfulness – the “to-do” list of faith? Or does it beckon us to stop – to pause and look up in wonder and gratitude for all the grace and beauty that surrounds us?
All Saints’ Day is no exception.
It is a Sunday here in this church where the tradition is to pause in the midst of worship to read the names of those who have joined the “Church Eternal” in the last year. In recent years we have expanded that list to include loved ones and family members who aren’t members, but are “remembered” all the same. It is an image I treasure – that as we gather at the communion table, we are surrounded by all those saints who’ve gone before us – all those who showed us something of the love of God and what it means to live that love. They are there. And they are here – cheering us on as we seek to live well the lives we’ve been given.
We move so fast in our world. The world hustles on past the grieving, getting back to “normal” and all that “world improvement” with great haste. One of the things I’ve heard again and again from grieving families is that all too soon, friends stop talking about their loved ones, and their names are no longer spoken. So at least on this day, we pause. We name them. We remember them.
And in doing so, somehow White’s dilemma softens and blurs. I remember my saints and the way they lived their lives, and my internal push to “improve the world” is not just about items on a list to be checked off. It flows organically from enjoying the memories of those saints. I am invigorated to be the “saint” I am ironically called to be, because I picture them right here, each day – cheering me on as I muddle my way deeper into faith and faithfulness.
I see them; I remember them, and, yes, I want to be one too.
With gratitude for these saints: Grandmother Shelton (“Mimi”), Grandma Love, Uncle Arch
Dan Love is Co-Pastor at the Rye Presbyterian Church.