Junia, John and Clayton

Flowers in memory of the saints in our lives. Photo Credit: Melissa Johnson
Flowers in memory of the saints in our lives. Photo Credit: Melissa Johnson

Today is All Saints’ Sunday, a day when we remember the community of saints who have gone before us and reflect on their meaning in our lives. I love All Saints’ Day for so many reasons. Today at Northwood Presbyterian Church we each brought up flowers and laid them on the front table, remembering and naming saints who have a special place in our hearts. Today I told the story of three saints that mean something special to me this year, 2014.

Junia – Junia is an apostle whose appearance in the Bible is limited to one important verse. Romans 16:7 in which the apostle Paul says, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Junia is clearly and convincingly a woman’s name and in the oldest New Testament manuscripts we have, her name is preserved. Later, though, Junia was changed to Junias, a man’s name. There’s a whole book dedicated to this small (but so important) change. It feels plain to me. Junia was erased. There’s so much I could say about women’s identities and voices being erased throughout history and today, but I’ll leave it where I left it this morning: I know what it’s like to be erased because of my gender, and I’m grateful that those who said “Yes, you are called” and “yes we believe in you” were louder than the voices that said “Women can’t be ministers.” See also: JuniaProject.com

John – John was a colleague in my Presbytery. We didn’t know each other very well, but we had a few important things in common. We were (are) both European-Americans married to Colombian-Americans, we both love(d) to dance and laugh. We were(are) both deeply concerned about the suffering of Central American Refugees in the United States. On John’s last day on earth he opened a meeting with this prayer for refugees.. It feels like a sort of gift and also a challenge. More about John here.

Clayton – Clayton was my grandpa. (Readers of this blog know that this is also my son’s name). As I told the church this morning, grandpa Clayton understood faith in a very different way than I do. His was a quiet and personal faith. My grandpa kept a diary every day (or nearly every day) from 1933 until the mid 90s (they started getting more sporadic when his memory started to fail.) I, too, keep journals. The difference between Clayton’s journals and my journals are stark. Whereas my journals are emotional and rambling, his are concise and non-emotional. Got a haircut. Listened to Moody Bible preaching on the radio. There are lots of entries about the car. Oil changes. Even so, the entries reveal a person of deep and inspiring faith. On one particular day, he is reflecting on the death of a family member and writes simply “XXX died. The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away.”  Powerful.

Today I named Junia, John & Clayton. Who are the saints you name this day?

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