You may be familiar with the amazing account of the migration of the Monarch butterfly, a lovely little creature who brings colorful beauty to our gardens in the summer. Every autumn, millions of monarchs from all over the eastern United States and Canada migrate thousands of miles to a small handful of sites in Mexico where they rest for the winter. Then in the spring, they begin their return trip to the north. One of the most sobering realities is that no individual monarch ever makes the trip to Mexico and back.
A butterfly that leaves the Adirondack Mountains in New York, for instance, will fly all the way to Mexico and spend the winter. In March, it begins the trip northward, but after laying eggs in Texas and Florida, it dies. Those butterflies will continue northward, laying eggs along the way until some of them, maybe three or four generations removed from the original, make it back to mountains of New York. But when August comes, they will head south, aiming for the exact place their great grandparents visited, a place they have never been before.
Sue Halpern, author of the book Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly notes: “The monarchs always migrate in community and depend on each other. Although a single monarch may make it from New York to Mexico, it is the next generation who completes the journey.”
Now here is the word for the church. No one completes their journey solo. It is only as a community of faith that we discover the fullness of God.
The old gospel songwriters witnessed to this when they sang:
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be.
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory!
So we gather, we welcome, we include, we receive all persons into the life-giving, joy-filled Body of Christ. And this is done in tandem with the generations of believers that have come before us.
All of this brings to mind the rich meaning of this coming Sunday known as All Saints. This is the one day during the liturgical church year when we make a special effort to remember and celebrate all of those saints of faith who have passed this way before us and are now departed.
We remember such saints as Abraham, Moses, Esther, Ruth, Isaiah, Mary, the mother of our Lord, St. Peter, St. Paul, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so on. We look to the example of their lives for inspiration as we struggle with what it means to live the Christian life today.
A day to remember the saints of the church has had a long, cherished history. In the third century, Christians set aside a special day to remember those who had been martyred, who sacrificed their lives for the faith. It was not, however, until the eighth century in the Celtic lands of Great Britain that this time of year became associated with the commemoration of the saints. In that part of the world, this day seemed to be natural for this sort of thing. This was a time of the year when the late autumn frost thickly blanketed the ground with an eerie white cover and suggested to many that the spirits of the dead had made a visit leaving their presence behind. From this Christian holiday came “All Saints Eve” or “All Hallows Eve” known as Halloween.
This coming All Saints Sunday, October 28, we will remember those saints who have touched and shaped us and who have encouraged us in our walk with Christ. We will name aloud those who are part of our Asbury community who have died this past year. Family and friends will be invited to stand in their honor when their name is announced. I will also continue our current sermon series, Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous! Taking Seriously His Sermon on the Mount with a special message for this Lord’s Day.
I would also like to take a moment and express my genuine gratitude for the kindness shown to me and Pastors Kelsey, Robert, and Greg this past Sunday on Pastor Appreciation Day. As always, I am honored to serve as your senior pastor during these exciting days at Asbury and look with great confidence toward the future as we share in all that God is going to do!
I pray you have a good week and I look forward seeing you in worship this Sunday!
P.S. We have an exciting weekend at the church…as usual! On Saturday, Oct. 27 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., the women of Asbury are invited to an Inspirational Women’s Conference with breakfast, music, and special guest speakers who will talk about change and how we should celebrate those moments that shape our lives. On Sunday afternoon, we will welcome the B’ham community to our church for Trunk-or-Treat! I understand Iron Bowl tickets are on the line for best trunk…now that’s my kind of prize! Please consider doing a trunk, inviting a friend to the event, or bringing your kids or grandkids for food, candy, fellowship, and fun. Trunk-or-Treat is from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. and if you have a child with special needs, they will have exclusive trunk-or-treat time from 4:00 to 4:30.