Some of the most blessed gifts come in small packages. ... And, I know for certain that God is ever present around us, taking these small gifts and making them into holy moments.
And in the case of our All Saints Day service today, that small package came in the forum of our youngest daughter.
It is the tradition of our parish -- Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton -- that on All Saints Day each year, we read off the names of our congregation's members who have passed over the last year, and then we ring a chime, which is a powerful and holy experience beyond description. ... But possibly even more powerful is that after I am done reading the list of our congregation's saints who have passed, we leave a space for our congregation to lift up the names of other saints who have preceded us, regardless if they are a Faith Lutheran member.
So, the tradition goes: I finish reading the list, the last chime rings, and then we open the space for others to contribute. And once someone lifts up a name of another saint the chime rings again. ... And this goes on until the congregation no longer has names.
The service is moving beyond words, and 11 hours later I still get chills thinking about it.
But during this year's service, there was a contribution that nearly brings me to tears as I write about it tonight.
About midway through the tradition today, I heard a small voice from the congregation cry out, and from the front of the church it sounded just like an exuberant child. ... Not knowing what the sound was, both the organist, who does the chiming, and I ignored the voice.
Later, however, after church my wife shared with me that that tiny voice during the naming of the saints was none other than our youngest child, a fifth-grader with a tiny voice. ... Turns out that she figured out exactly what the sacredness of the naming of the saints was all about, and she had blurted out the name of a girl she had been in a school play with last year.
The death of her young friend, had shaken our daughter this summer, and obviously left a lasting impact on her. ... And all these months later, she was kind and compassionate enough to lift up her friend's name as one of God's saints who had passed.
Unfortunately, she was a bit bummed that no one other than my wife had understood that she was offering up her friend's name as a saint, and so no chime rung, and the moment passed without recognition. ... But, oh, not now so for this proud stepfather.
The story still nearly makes my eyes well up, and reminds me that many of the most holy moments are so small that we nearly miss them. ... But not this one; not this time. Thanks to my wife being next to our daughter this morning, this story was captured, and now I get to savor it for all the All Saints Days to come.
And I am reminded that God is ever present even in the smallest of moments. ... Amen.