Honoring Those Who’ve Gone Before Us

"All Saints Day is a day of remembrance for the saints, with the NT meaning of all Christian people of every time and place. We celebrate the communion of saints as we remember the dead, both of the Church universal and of our local congregations." (United Methodist Book of Worship)

What is a Saint?
In the Bible, the name “saint” is commonly used to designate a Christian. For example, some of the letters in the NT are addressed to “the saints at such-and-such a location.” Saint literally means “holy one.” Those who follow God have been set apart by God and made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Click here to read Joshua 1.1-9

“The world has changed.” (Opening line of movie, “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” 2001)

Honor the past, but don’t idolize the past!

“Moses my servant is dead!” (KJV)

  • Yes, we remember Moses
  • We honor Moses as a great follower of God, as a great leader
  • We build on what Moses did
  • But we don’t idolize him!
  • We don’t do everything the way Moses did it (e.g. 2 spies vs. 12 spies)

One of my favorite services at Annual Conference is the retirement service where we honor those who have dedicated their lives to serving God and the Church as pastors. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that looks down on age and worships youthfulness! We’re always looking for the new-and-improved. And if it’s old, it has little or no value.

But in some cultures, and certainly, in God’s estimation, age has great value.

  • "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life." (Proverbs 16.31)
  • "The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old." (Proverbs 20.29)

Be careful with traditions. They can become idols!
I want my successors to build on whatever I accomplish in my ministry. But I don’t want them simply repeating what I did because it may have worked for me and my generation. I want them to have the freedom to totally change everything I did during my life and ministry. They need to have the freedom to contextualize the ministry of Jesus Christ for their generation!

Be careful with buildings and stuff. They can become idols.
I have not been in a building program, but if I am ever in one, I want my successors to NOT be tied to that building. A building should be functional, able to provide for ministry today. Any building we build today will not meet the needs of future ministry!

We do not honor our spiritual ancestors by hanging onto their stuff and repeating their methods, especially if it leads to death! We only honor them if we build on what they did, in the Spirit of Christ!

Learn from the past, but don’t long for the past!

We can’t long for the “good old days.” We tend to romanticize/glorify the past, anyway!

“Saint: a dead sinner revised and edited.” (Ambrose Bierce)

Don’t keep repeating the same mistakes …

“Learn from the mistakes of others—you can never live long enough to make them all yourself.” (John Luther)

When I think about those who have gone before us, I’m not so much interested in their methods as I am interested in their hearts!

Remember the past, but don’t be distracted or derailed by the past!

Click here to read Philippians 3.12–14

How do we honor the past? By moving forward!

  • "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God." (Jesus in Luke 9.62)
  • "All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race." (Hebrews 11.39–40)