“All Saints Sunday”

November 1, 2015
Cheryl Neff Lorenz, Barb Eppley, Tom Safford, Mary Ellen Neitz, Bob Vanik
Hebrews 12:1-3

Introduction to Message in Word

All of us have special “saints” in our lives, the “great cloud of witnesses” of the scripture.  Some are part of our earliest childhood memories.  Some are saints in the sense that they’ve gone on before us to live with Jesus in glory.  Some are saints of the present day, living among us still, mentoring, teaching, loving, inspiring us.

God gave us each other, intending for God’s children to live together in community.  Our relationships are complicated by the fact that each of us is unique—we’re so different from one another that sometimes we wonder if we’re even communicating.  But our Christian community is also immeasurably richer because we’re so diverse.

We’d like to share a few stories about the saints of our faith.  In learning about each other, hearing each other’s stories, we learn about God, and how God works in our lives.  May you be inspired to think of the saints in your own lives, and maybe even to write down your stories.

Message in Word

Shared By Cheryl Neff Lorenz

I grew up in Canton, Ohio, with all my grandparents close by.  To me this was “normal,” but as an adult I came to realize that it’s far from common.

Birthday parties and holidays were all family-oriented.  When my parents had a rare evening out, our grandparents were our baby sitters.

We all belonged to the same Lutheran church in Canton—grandmas, grandpas, aunt and uncle and cousins.  Mom always sang in the choir, and Dad often did, so my brother Bruce and I would sit with Grandma, who always had mints in her purse and a little plastic puzzle.  She would share a red hymnal with me and teach me how when the notes went up and down on the page, so did the music.  Even as a very little girl, I loved being in worship on Sundays with Grandma.

In the summers, I would spend a week at a time with my grandparents, a special week in which I was free to read books, help with baking and learn how to mend clothes, play cards with Grandma and Grandpa in the evening, and often just daydream.

So I was with my grandparents—especially my grandmas—a lot.  I learned from my grandmas in two ways: through words and by example.  Both of them grew up with very little money.  Both of them raised children during a Great Depression and a World War.  And both of them belonged to the church—not just attended, but belonged, with all the joys and responsibilities that belonging meant.

More than talking to me, they listened to me.  Their wisdom was tempered with gentleness.  A young child will believe what she’s told, so when Grandma told me I had beautiful hair, I believed her.  When Grandma told me being tall was good and special, so I should never slouch to appear smaller, I believed her.  When Grandma told me I was a very good reader, I believed her—and I loved it when she shared her books with me.  There was acceptance of me as a unique individual, together with an expectation that I would extend that same acceptance and kindness to others.

When I was 15, my 18-year-old cousin Karen died in a car accident.  What I saw then was my grandma being there for the rest of the family, quiet and strong.  What I heard then was my other grandma saying that neither joy nor sorrow lasts forever, so even though we’d always miss Karen we would indeed be happy again.

There are so many saints in my life that I could write a book, and maybe I should—when I retire?  My beloved grandmas are two of my saints, women who taught me by their words and by their lives about Jesus.  I think of them often, and I count on seeing them again someday.

Shared By Barb Eppley

In 1985, when my family joined this church family, there was only one Fellowship Hall but there were two kitchens.  The Kitchen and Fellowship Hall were connected as they continue to be today, and they were the heart of the church.  Those rooms contained the food stuffs and people that fed both body and soul of this family.

There are many men here today who remember the Sunday morning Kitchen Class, frequented by several of the menfolk, every week.  Some weeks the Bible was discussed, other weeks fellowship was the order of the day.  Coffee and laughter was always present.

But I will briefly speak of the Kitchen Ladies: Those who took ownership and pride in our kitchen, and produced more than food, on a regular basis.  They tended to every meal that came out of that room, and served up some soul and spirit repair along the way.

As a young mother of 33, who hadn’t been to church regularly since my 20s, they served to both fold me in and raise me up, in the name of Christ.  They folded me like egg white or whipped cream into the fabric of their groups, like the Deborah Guild that met during the day when I needed a break from the kids and didn’t know many people yet.

We learned from these ladies that you CAN make something from nothing, when you work together and pray together, along the way.  As Christ fed  the 5000 men, and more women and children, with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread, the Ladies made Christmas cookies by the hundreds to sell and give away , using the money to tithe back to the church and support the Guild.  Funeral meals appeared out of nowhere, after only a few phone calls. Volunteers for set up and clean up appeared.   Meals for ill or recovering people were arranged easily. No one said “no” to the Kitchen Ladies. Certainly the food fed empty bellies, but their souls were fed just as full.

We learned from these ladies that “All are invited, All are welcome”.  New members were solicited and welcomed and they knew that like seedlings, we all needed nurturing and support to maintain that growth in the group and growth in our faith.  Our souls were both educated by the monthly Guild programs presented by others, and in the times we ourselves had to come up with a program. You sat by someone different every month, and learned from everyone.  Everyone has a place at the table, whether it be the kitchen or the parlor.

We learned that everyone has something to offer.  Some offer money, some offer the ability to teach, some can organize and lead, and others offer the time and willingness to either learn or do. The trick …. Is spending the time to figure out what you yourself, or others around you, can offer. The Disciples themselves had to learn this lesson, from Jesus, and from evangelizing to others.

We learned as well to step forward and say Yes, when something needs done.  Like Joseph of Arimethea, when Jesus body needed a burial tomb, and he had one, it requires both support and courage to step up and say Yes, I can do that.  Jeanne Galehouse and her Salvation Army Bell Ringers come to mind.  That woman could get anyone to do or give anything.

As young women, we were the beneficiaries of God’s greatest gift, the nurturing of our faith by these wonderful ladies of the kitchen, who spent their time with us, teaching , listening, and loving us.  I could never pick just one of them to talk about, their whole was greater than any single one.

Our lives were enriched by those Kitchen Ladies, they were the cornerstones of our church, and I am sure they were met at the Pearly Gates with the greeting, “Well done, good and faithful Servant. Come and share your Master’s happiness.”

Shared By Tom Safford

Many years ago, while I was on active duty with the U.S. Navy, I spent two years on sea duty assigned to the USS Bainbridge, a nuclear powered guided missile cruiser.  Not the current USS Bainbridge of Captain Phillips fame, but the predecessor ship, which was decommissioned & broken up in the 1990’s.

Being at sea at the height of the cold war, with Russian Navy warships shadowing every move in all types of weather, in a fast paced, high-pressure environment was very stressful. While it was not combat conditions, there were some pretty tense moments.  Under those conditions a sailor’s true character is quickly apparent.

As you may have heard, sailors can be a rough and tumble lot, and I can assure you that is correct.  They also have a keen eye for hypocrisy.  But not all are rough and tumble. On nearly every naval ship though, there was always a small subset of sailors who were very forward in professing their Christian faith.  Unfortunately, quite a few of them were not the best examples of Christianity.  I won’t go into to details other than to say most of the ship’s crew saw them for what they were and had little use for them.

There was one, however, who I was privileged to call a friend, a guy named Bill Berry.  Bill was constant example of the very best that Christianity has to offer.  In fact, he’d be very embarrassed if he knew that I was talking about him this way in public.

Bill was a Naval Academy graduate who wanted to go to Flight School, but he had a physical problem that made that impossible.  He overcame that disappointment and went the Naval Nuclear Propulsion School, a very competitive and challenging program.  After graduating from that school he found himself, along with 500 other sailors, on board the USS Bainbridge.

I was not particularly religious at that time in my life.  I too had little use for the holier than thou crowd on the ship, people who walked around with the attitude that they were a cut above, because they were believers.

Bill was not like that though.  He never assumed airs and never judged anyone.  He was always a humble, forthright Christian who was very direct and frank about his faith.  Despite some deliberate provocations Bill never lost his composure, never lost sight of his faith, and never lashed out at people.  His bearing and behavior were exemplary and wonderful to observe, serving as a living example of how the right kind of rock solid faith is the very best argument for Christianity.

By the end, Bill had the full respect of nearly everyone on the ship.  Today, 35 years later, the memory of his behavior and faith stick with me and in the intervening years I’ve striven to stay true to his example throughout my own faith journey.

Shared By: Mary Ellen Neitz

Who remembers Reverend Gene Chiavetta?

When I began attending First Christian Church, he was interim pastor.  I was just out of the hospital.  I was broken.  My spirit was confused and weary.  As I listened to his sermons and watched his demeanor, I felt as if he was taking me by the hand and leading me back home.

The first Sunday attended I cried through the service.  Lib held one hand, Someone else held the other.

I remember one sermon he did about Winnie the Pooh.  The characters are on a bridge when they see Eeyore float by.  They comment on it but no one does anything.  Eeyore has to call “Isn’t someone going to rescue me?”  Reverend Chiavetta and this congregation rescued me.

Later as a new Elder he gave me advice that boosted my self-confidence.  When he made this his Church home, we had wonderful conversations.

He was Christ-like in every way.  He was gentle and soft-spoken.  When I looked into his eyes, I could see Jesus.

I want to read an excerpt from “This I Remember.”  These are his words at the banquet.

Here in the Stow First Christian Church, I found a “church home” where I can belong, whose HISTORY is ROOTED in the traditions of the Disciples of Christ; whose MINISTRY is BRANCHING OUT into the community and world; whose PROGRAMS are BEARING FRUIT, in young and old to “grow up” in faith, good works and witness; whose FELLOWSHIP is NOURISHING those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).  I am glad to say these few words: As we REMEMBER our RICH HERITAGE and the SAINTS who have gone before; and as we PREPARE for the RICHER HARVEST that has yet to be GATHERED!  Thank you!  Reverend Gene Chiavetta

I thought it was fitting that he should end with a thank-you.  One of my memories of Rev. Chiavetta is that he would start the service each Sunday with a heartfelt “Thank you for coming to Church!

Shared By Bob Vanik:  Litany of the Saints

Please pray with me… Gracious God, we praise you for the women and men whose faithful witness to your love inspires each generation of your people.  Teach us to follow their example.  Let us clearly recognize what it means to be called the children of God, and may we know we are to be your saints, not by our own choosing nor in our own strength, but simply by the call of Christ Jesus our Savior.  Amen.

We remember now the saints of First Christian Church who have died since last All Saints Day:

Richard Brandon    (wait for bell toll)

Jeane Galehouse    (bell)

Vera Scott    (bell)

                       Dora Truver    (bell)

We rejoice in the company of the saints.  We thank God for their lives and love, and rejoice that for them “all is well, and all manner of things will be well.” Amen.

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