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Halloween or All Saints’ Day? — part 2

November 1, 2021

Picking up right where we stopped yesterday —

Wesley cautioned against holding saints in too high regard. The Articles of Religion that he sent to the Methodists in America in 1784, include a statement against “invocation of saints” (Article XIV—Of Purgatory, Book of Discipline ¶104). Wesley did not see biblical evidence for the practice and discouraged Methodists from participating.

However, he also advised against disregarding the saints altogether.

In an All Saints Day journal entry dated Monday, November 1, 1756, Wesley writes, “How superstitious are they who scruple giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints!” If your 18th century English is as rusty as mine, it might help to know that the word scruple means not doing something because you think it’s wrong.

Tradition: A Theological Guideline

In studying John Wesley’s theological method, scholars have found four, inter-related theological guidelines: Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. These are the sources of our understanding of our faith.

By tradition we mean all that has gone before us in the Christian church. We are part of a long history that goes back through John Wesley, to the early days of the Church, and the apostles of Jesus. When we think theologically we need to keep in mind the creeds, prayers, sermons, books, music, and all other ways Christians have understood the work of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in their lives.

All Saints Day is an opportunity to give thanks for those who have gone before us in the faith. It is a time to celebrate our history, what United Methodists call the tradition of the church.

From the early days of Christianity, there is a sense that the Church consists of not only all living believers, but also all who have gone before us. For example, in Hebrews 12 the author encourages Christians to remember that a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounds us encouraging us, cheering us on.

Who all’s in your cheering section? As you formulate your answer, let’s listen to my unassuming Breakfast Bud the Bishop William Boyd Grove, who advises —-


Spend the day remembering and giving thanks for two saints; one GREAT SAINT, whom all the world would recognize and one LITTLE SAINT; perhaps someone close to you.

In the monasteries, each morning the monks are given the name of a saint, and told to think of that saint that day, and to dedicate the day and the work they do that day to that saint.

I will be thinking about two saints; giving thanks for them and living the day for them. One is John Lewis, who died last year. The other is my brother Bob Grove. They had a great deal in common. Both of them are in my thoughts and prayers.

They are with each other and with the angels.

—- I have a group today: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Wesleys, Anne & Harold Kuhn, Red Hampton, Faye the Carmelite, Bob Hollis, and both of my parents but for different reasons.

Who are yours?

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