St. Paul’s Congregational Church
November 7, 2021; All Saints’ Sunday
The Rev. Cynthia F. Reynolds
Today we pause – we take a breath and remember,,, today on All Saints Sunday we stand at the intersection of past, present, future – we intentionally savor that connection in time and space! All Saints Sunday invites us to remember those we love who have joined the great company of saints, to look back to the very early days of the Church and remember people who whose lives have been an inspiration to us. And, All Saints Sunday also reminds us: to realize that we, too, are called to inspire others as we have been inspired.
One of my favorite writers is Frederick Buechner – and I love his definition of a saint: he says, “Sainthood is not something people attain but something God does in them. A saint is essentially a life-giver. A saint is a human being with the same sorts of hang-ups and abysses as the rest of us, but if a saint touches your life, you become alive in a new way. We are all called to be saints – regardless of our past.”
Very early on Thursday morning one of those saints, a life-giver who I have known and loved, awoke in the arms of God after a long and difficult illness. His wife and children were asleep but were awakened by the alarm indicating a drop in his blood sugar levels – his friends and family knew this day would eventually come but today there is such great sadness in so many people – I feel a hole in the universe, but also there’s a gratitude for Jim’s life among us: he indeed was a life-giver – he worked at Integrity House for many years and became New Jersey’s only Commissioned Minister specializing in addiction recovery. He spoke at many churches through his ministry – I know he touched and saved lives of not only our brothers and sisters at Integrity and other recovery agencies but also our brothers and sisters in faith – Jim was and is a saint – and I am so grateful for, so blessed by his life and love among us. Do you know someone like that – a saint who has lived among us? Who has touched you so profoundly in your life journey? And how have you passed that on? Because that’s what saints do – give life.
Today we remember those we have loved and lost but it’s also a time of remembering, savoring, the gifts we have received from our predecessors in the faith. We give thanks for those whose faith has transformed the world. Those who brought healing to the sick, justice to the oppressed, welcome to the outcast and compassion to the vulnerable. Those who sought justice and loved mercy – those who sacrificed their comfort and lives for God’s vision of Shalom.
They didn’t do it themselves or on their own, though. They did it grounded in God’s faithfulness – and we are called to realize that we too are part of that great company of saints with a responsibility to share the faith with generations to come, to become life-givers ourselves.
Richard Floyd is one of the UCC Still Speaking Writers who wrote a meditation entitled From Generation to Generation:
“One thing I do know about faith is that you don't come to it alone. Faith is not just belief in a set of doctrines, but a deep trust that God is real and good and loving. I think of the many people who help us along the way of our faith journeys. Faith is not only something we have, but also something we get from others. Often it was not what they told me so much as who they were, a certain authenticity about them and the way they acted. I don't know if I ever consciously thought, "I want to be like that person" but that’s the way it worked. Authentic faith is contagious, something you "catch" from others. From generation to generation, faithful witnesses live it out and pass it on.”
We sing the hymn “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” on All Saints’ Day every year – it reminds us that ordinary people, like each and every one of us just going about our daily business, can be saints – those who reveal God’s grace whose faithfulness changes the world, those who give life!
Our observance of All Saints’ is about inspiration. God asks ordinary people to do extraordinary things: we are called to take our places as revealers of the amazing grace God offers – by responding to the needs of the world, letting our light shine so that our world may know that God is alive, seeking beauty, healing, and justice in our midst. We can do this: we, each of us, can be a model of holiness – a person of stature, grace, and hospitality. We can share God’s healing love and break down barriers of gender, ethnicity, nationality, ability, sexual orientation – the list goes on today, doesn’t it – we can share this love and compassion throughout the ordinary business of everyday life.
Just by listening for God's vision for your life – discerning how your gifts meet the world's needs: and as we move into that vision – you and I become part of the saints among us.
We gather in a few moments around the Table, surrounded by the eternal presence of the saints and we will receive all the nourishment we need to live out our call. Remember those saints who have shaped your life and world. And then, ask yourself – what kind of saint is God calling me to be? Let Christ feed you!
Mary Luti, another of the Still Speaking Writers, wrote a devotion entitled, “Come and Have Breakfast.”
Years ago a young man started started coming to worship. He sat in the back and spoke to no one. He stood for the hymns, but couldn’t get through them. He’d crumple, close the book, sit back down. The pastor noticed him and wanted to talk to him, but he fled before the benediction.
A deacon noticed him, too. She began sitting in his pew. One morning, passing the peace, she made eye contact. He didn’t look away. He seemed like a skittish rescue pup, she said. She didn’t mean it condescendingly; it was a tender observation.
On Communion Sunday, he didn’t stir when people started forward. She whispered, “Coming?”
“No. I’ve done some bad things.”
She nodded, waited, then said, “But do you want to come?”
His pain showed. “I can’t.”
“Well, you’d be welcome.”
He stayed behind.
The next Sunday he asked if there would be Communion. She said no, but maybe something could be arranged. Something was.
Eventually, he moved away. Then a note came. It started with verses from John 21 about Peter the denier, and Jesus making breakfast for him. He thanked the pastor for having served him Communion in the parlor after church that day. He said he still felt unworthy, but also grateful, because his unworthiness had made him a magnet for Jesus, or at least for one of Jesus’ deacons. He said he still sits in the back of his new church. Still can’t get through the hymns. But he lets Christ feed him.”
Do we let Christ feed us? And then how do we, will we, go forth to feed others? God is calling us to action! And, we have the promise that God will be with us on our journey, now and always. We need nothing else! Alleluia! Amen.