“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason, I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Ephesians 1:15-19, NRSV)
Those who seek to live a life connected to God are counted among the saints. This designation as a saint includes both the living and the dead who desire to love and serve God. That’s why Paul could commend the saints in Ephesus for their love for each other. Yet, life in the church is fraught with conflict and disagreement, so Paul appealed to God to provide his Christian brothers and sisters with wisdom and insight. These gifts flow out of understanding Jesus’ love for us and the world. We are to love each other with God’s love, trusting his love will guide our way into healthier and more satisfying relationships.
This Sunday, we celebrate the lives of those saints from among our congregation who have left this earthly life and entered the next phase of eternal life. They now enjoy the blessings of living fully in God’s presence and among their loved ones who preceded them in death. We celebrate their lives, for we know that we stand on their shoulders as we carry on the legacy of First United Methodist Church of Florence, Alabama. Not only is their faithfulness to God part of their legacy, but the relationships they nurtured in this congregation reflect what they left behind. We remember their lives, faith, and witness because they made a difference in our church. In remembering, we honor their contribution to the Kingdom of God, and we seek inspiration for our spiritual journey.
Next year, celebrating our 200th anniversary, we’ll share stories that flow from two centuries of ministry. We’ll hear about times of joyous exuberance as well as times of deep despair, yet our church kept moving forward. We’ll share the impact of national events on our life together, such as the Civil War, the Spanish Influenza pandemic, and the Great Depression. Yet, the strength of our congregation grew despite any temporary setbacks. We’ll hear about simpler things like bake sales to pay off debts and womanless weddings that both amused the audience and helped raise necessary funds for ministry. Through all of this, the saints of First United Methodist Church led the way.
As we memorialize our most recent class of saints dearly departed, let’s recommit developing ourselves as the saints who are willing and able to respond to the challenges of this day. Just as the saints we memorialize were God’s instruments for their time, let us recognize that we, too, are called to be God’s instruments for such a time as this. After all, we’re all saints!