“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “ (Matthew 5:4, NRSV)
October 31, 1517, was the date on a letter Martin Luther, a German monk in the Order of St. Augustine, sent to the Archbishop of Mainz in protest of Pope Leo X’s sale of indulgences to raise money for the Catholic Church. In the letter were 95 theses Luther used to support his argument against the sale of these instruments that shortened or abolished the time people stayed in purgatory after death and before going to heaven. (Purgatory is a concept that United Methodist theology absolutely rejects.) It was only after Luther’s death in 1546 that the story circulated, stating he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenburg. Whether it happened in 1517 or not, it makes for a dramatic story.
Luther’s actions were the seeds of the Protestant Reformation, and this year is the 502nd anniversary of that bold and prophetic protest. Indeed, it was out of the Reformation that John Wesley created his renewal and reform movement in the Church of England a little over 200 years later. God’s work of reforming the church is both necessary and constant. It takes all of us seeking to be as faithful as possible that allows the church to become more of what God is calling us to be.
This Sunday, we celebrate all those who have gone before us in the church and whom we recognize as Saints. The Saints aren’t just the ones who are canonized by the church; instead, the Saints are more often the ones who have quietly served God in our midst. They have not sought out fame or attention. They may not have any theological works or even writings of any kind. They have merely met each day of their lives with a determined faith that helped them respond to life’s challenges with an awareness of God’s love and grace at work in their lives. They did the best they could to represent Jesus Christ within the routine of the day-to-day challenges we all face. They were and are still Saints.
We celebrate the saints among us who have died in the past year and the contributions they made to our lives and to this community. Whether they ignited something as big as the Reformation, or they faithfully showed up every week to teach Sunday School, we are grateful for the difference each of these Saints made in so many lives. We give thanks to God for all the Saints of First United Methodist Church of Florence!