What is All Saints Day?: a brief summary

Today, November 1, we celebrate All Saints Day. All Saints Day is a feast day in the church year that follows All Hallow’s Eve (October 31). All Saints Day offers an opportunity to remember all those saints who have gone before us in the faith and to celebrate the reality that we stand amidst a great cloud of witnesses.

The epistle to the Hebrews offers one of the most comprehensive examples of this in chapter 11, which traces the history of great people of faith who have gone before us. As the writer holds before us example after example of faith, he helps us see how their lives with God are examples to us in our daily living but also encouragement to keep going in the way of faith. Closing that great passage out, the author writes:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Not only does All Saints Day hold before us the people of faith from past times, it also offers an annual reminder of our connectedness as Christians today. In times of fracture or disunity, as well as in times of peace, All Saints Day reminds us that all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation are brought together as one new community by faith in Him. It is in light of this that the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)

Not only does All Saints Day lead us to look back to believers who have gone before us and around us to the believers we share communion with in Christ, but it also points us forward to the reality that we will one day gather around the throne of God. While we live here on earth, believers are spread throughout many times and places, but there will come a day when we will all be brought together into the eternal presence of the Lord. All Saints Day reminds us of that reality described in Revelation 7:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

Here is a traditional prayer often used for All Saints Day:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical Body of your Son: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Eastbrook at Home – October 31, 2021

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM.

This weekend we continue our series, “Who Do You Say I Am?,” as Pastor Ruth Carver preaches from Matthew 15:21-28 about Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman, which shows us some very interesting things about the nature of Jesus’ mission.

This series continues our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes our previous series “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” and “Stories of the Kingdom: parables of Jesus.”

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, and you no longer need to RSVP ahead of time.

If you are new to Eastbrook, we want to welcome you to worship and would ask you to text EBCnew to 94000 as a first step into community here at Eastbrook.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 October 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Lord's Prayer Luke“Christ’s Prayers Can Transform Ours” – Catherine J. Wright: “Alongside Jesus’ astonishing miracles and teachings, the Gospels depict something just as compelling: Jesus—who is himself fully God—prayed. In fact, he prayed a lot. Luke, the go-to
Gospel for a theology of prayer, includes more descriptions of Jesus’ own prayer habits than any other Gospel. When we look closely at how Jesus’ prayer life is depicted Luke, we discover how essential prayer is for the life of faith and our participation in God’s kingdom….Luke draws a vital connection between Jesus’ faithfulness in prayer and the inauguration of and empowerment for his earthly ministry. If we want to be used by God for God’s kingdom work, the preliminary step for us also is to be faithful in prayer.”


church breaking apart“The Evangelical Church Is Breaking Apart” – Peter Wehner in The Atlantic: “The election of the elders of an evangelical church is usually an uncontroversial, even unifying event. But this summer, at an influential megachurch in Northern Virginia, something went badly wrong. A trio of elders didn’t receive 75 percent of the vote, the threshold necessary to be installed. ‘A small group of people, inside and outside this church, coordinated a divisive effort to use disinformation in order to persuade others to vote these men down as part of a broader effort to take control of this church,’ David Platt, a 43-year-old minister at McLean Bible Church and a best-selling author, charged in a July 4 sermon….What happened at McLean Bible Church is happening all over the evangelical world. Influential figures such as the theologian Russell Moore and the Bible teacher Beth Moore felt compelled to leave the Southern Baptist Convention; both were targeted by right-wing elements within the SBC. The Christian Post, an online evangelical newspaper, published an op-ed by one of its contributors criticizing religious conservatives like Platt, Russell Moore, Beth Moore, and Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, as “progressive Christian figures” who “commonly champion leftist ideology.” In a matter of months, four pastors resigned from Bethlehem Baptist Church, a flagship church in Minneapolis. One of those pastors, Bryan Pickering, cited mistreatment by elders, domineering leadership, bullying, and ‘spiritual abuse and a toxic culture.’ Political conflicts are hardly the whole reason for the turmoil, but according to news accounts, they played a significant role, particularly on matters having to do with race.”


webRNS-Refugees-Afghanistan1-100821-768x512“Showing Hospitality to Strangers: Texas Churches Welcome Afghan Refugees” – Heather Sells in CBN News: “As many as 50,000 Afghan refugees will soon be re-settling in US communities, most fleeing right after the Taliban takeover of their country in August. The regime change happened at breakneck speed, forcing many, like former US Army interpreter ‘Zaheer’ and his family, to flee with little more than a small bundle of personal items. Zaheer initially applied for his SIV visa in 2018 but admits he struggled in August when it became clear he and his family must go. ‘It’s very difficult to walk away,” he said. “I got only one small bag with me, a little bit of clothes.’ Thanks to the faith-based resettlement agency World Relief and church volunteers in the Ft. Worth area, Zaheer and his family were able to rent an apartment and find furniture. Zaheer’s priority now is to find a car and a job. He’s willing to take anything to provide for his family.”


Blanchard Hall“Wide Awoke at Wheaton?” – Vince Bacote in Current: “I experienced a range of emotions—including exasperation and anger—upon reading Gerald McDermott’s “Woke Theory at Evangelical Colleges” in First Things last week, an article written as an exposé of what is happening at my own institution, Wheaton College, and elsewhere. McDermott charges Wheaton, Baylor, and Samford, among others, with a compromising submission to standards and practices identified with the broader social justice movement in American higher education at large. The use of minimal evidence, anonymous voices, and suggestions of infidelity to the faith presented a genuine temptation to respond in anger and take the road of holy rage in reply to an ephemeral and thin article—ephemeral, because of the ongoing avalanche of media content; thin, because the article seems not to be the result of an effort to know what is really happening at institutions like my own and others. One wonders whether McDermott thought to go to the sources of purported wokeness at Wheaton, Baylor, and Samford, instead of merely to the voices of concern or worry.  But rather than anger, I write from a place of lament.”


Self-Portrait-with-Grey-Felt-Hat-846x1024“Vision, Leadership & van Gogh” – Derek R. Nelson at Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program: “Before he was a great-but-not-much-appreciated painter, Vincent van Gogh was a lousy-but-very-much-appreciated pastor. The details of this little-known chapter in his life are of some interest, I think, to those who are wondering about how early career pastors find sources of resilience to sustain them in their ministries, and also how pastors seeking to exercise leadership in their communities can do so effectively….After some failings in love, work and art, van Gogh needed a new start. He hoped to become a preacher like his father. He was not considered a strong candidate by the theological faculty at Amsterdam because of his volatility and apparent mental instability. His refusal to learn Latin — he already was fluent in four “living” languages and did not wish to learn a dead one! — gave them the pretext they needed to deny him admission. Lacking a path to the usual credentials, Vincent volunteered to be a missionary preacher to the Borinage, a very impoverished mining region in Belgium. He went at the age of 25 and remained there two years.”


online radio concept
rivalry between old and new:laptop computer and retro radio on the table

“How to Fix Social Media” – Nicholas Carr in The New Atlantis: “Around two o’clock in the afternoon on October 30, 1973, a disc jockey at the New York City radio station WBAI played a track called ‘Filthy Words’ from comedian George Carlin’s latest album. ‘I was thinking one night about the words you couldn’t say on the public airwaves,’ Carlin began. He then rattled off seven choice examples — ‘f***’ was among the milder ones — and proceeded to riff on their origin, usage, and relative offensiveness for the next ten minutes. A Long Island man named John Douglas heard the broadcast as he was driving home from a trip to Connecticut with his teenaged son. He promptly filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. ‘Whereas I can perhaps understand an “X-rated” phonograph record’s being sold for private use, I certainly cannot understand the broadcast of same over the air that, supposedly, you control,’ he wrote. ‘Can you say this is a responsible radio station, that demonstrates a responsibility to the public for its license?’…Today, mired as we are in partisan, bitter, and seemingly fruitless debates over the roles and responsibilities of social media companies, the controversy surrounding George Carlin’s naughty comedy routine can seem distant and even quaint. Thanks to the Internet’s dismantling of traditional barriers to broadcasting, companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter transmit a volume and variety of content that would have been unimaginable fifty years ago. What’s at issue now is far greater than the propriety of a few dirty words. Arguments over whether and how to control the information distributed through social media go to the heart of America’s democratic ideals.”


Music: Jpk., “Some Days.”

Malcolm Guite, “A Sonnet for All Saints Day” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Malcolm Guite’s poem “A Sonnet for All Saints Day.” This sonnet is taken from Guite’s book Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year. Malcolm Guite is an Anglican priest, poet, and songwriter, who is a Life Fellow and former chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge.


Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards
Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,
It glances from the eyes, kindles the words
Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright
With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,
The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.
Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing
He weaves them with us in the web of being
They stand beside us even as we grieve,
The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,
Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above
The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,
To triumph where all saints are known and named;
The gathered glories of His wounded love.


Previous poems in this series:

The Field of Pastoral Ministry: Eugene Peterson on the congregation as topsoil [Under the Unpredictable Plant 4]

I recently re-read Eugene Peterson’s classic book on pastoral ministry based in the life of Jonah, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992). There is so much in this book, but I am merely sharing a few pieces that have stuck out powerfully to me in this particular season of time.

Where Peterson earlier discusses spiritual growth through the lens of organic farming, he carries on later to compare the congregation to topsoil. Drawing upon the rich agrarian writings of Wendell Berry, Peterson opens a view on the congregation through agrarian imagery. While shepherd is one of the literal meanings of pastor, the agrarian image is found through Scripture as well, most notably in Paul’s description of his ministry in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.

The parallel with my parish could not be more exact. I substitute my pastoral vocabulary for Berry’s agricultural and find Berry urging me to be mindful of my congregation, in reverence before it. These are souls, divinely worked-on souls, whom the Spirit is shaping for eternal habitations. Long before I arrive on the scene, the Spirit is at work. I must fit into what is going on. I have no idea yet what is taking place here; I must study the contours, understand the weather, know what kind of crops grow in this climate, be in awe of the complex intricacies between past and present, between the people in the parish and those outside. 

Wendell Berry has taught me a lot about topsoil. I had never paid any attention to it before. I was amazed to find that this dirt under my feet, which I treat like dirt, is a treasure — millions of organisms constantly interacting, a constant cycle of death and resurrection, the source of most of the world’s food. There are a few people who respect and nourish and protect the topsoil. There are many others who rapaciously strip-mine it. Still others are merely careless, and out of ignorance expose it to wind and water erosion….

Berry says that ‘in talking about topsoil, it is hard to avoid the language of religion.’ Congregation is the topsoil in pastoral work. This is the material substance in which all the Spirit’s work takes place — these people, assembled in worship, dispersed in blessing. They are so ordinary, so unobtrusively there; it is easy to take them for granted, quit seeing the interactive energies, and become so preoccupied in building my theological roads, mission constructs, and parking lot curricula that I start treating this precious congregational topsoil as something dead and inert, to be rearranged to suit my vision, and then to bulldoze whatever isn’t immediately useful to the sidelines where it won’t interfere with my projects. But this is the field of pastoral work, just as it is, teeming with energy, nutrients, mixing death and life. I cannot manufacture it, but I can protect it. I can nourish it. I can refrain from polluting or violating it. But mostly, like the farmer with his topsoil, I must respect and honor and reverence it, be in awe before the vast mysteries contained in its unassuming ordinariness.

Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 133-135.

Other posts in this series: