St. Paul’s Congregational Church
All Saints’ Sunday; Luke 6:20-31
November 3, 2019
Let us pray: may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Today we take a breath and remember…we stop, take a breath and realize we gather at the intersection of past, present, future. We stop, take a breath and savor that connection in time and space. All Saints Day invites us to look way back to the very early days of the Church and at people whose lives are an inspiration to us. It invites us to remember those we love who have joined the great company of saints. It calls us to notice those in our midst who show us a brighter way to live. And it calls us, reminds us, to realize that we, too, are stewards of the future.
In some mysterious way we are gathered now, with all those who have gone before, with those we love who live in different parts of the world, with those who are in this room with us. We are invited to join in the celebration – we are invited to enter the mystery...we are invited to remember. And we are invited to look ahead, to ponder how are we too are to live as the Saints God has called us to be.
We have the story in our gospel lesson – we have Jesus’ crash course for his disciples – how they are to live as Saints of God. That course is for us too: the Beatitudes – the ways to be. It’s not about clutching what you have, holding it tight in your hands. It’s about holding your hands, palms up, expecting good things. It’s about waiting for the food that really satisfies – and the bottom line lesson? Do unto others what you would want them to do to you.
We don’t very often get a chance to really touch history, do we. We don’t very often get a chance to feel the connectedness that history can provide us – maybe we don’t think about it when it happens but you can tell this gift from David Popham is one of the most profound gifts I’ve ever received – as I’ve been looking at and touching this piece of a jar handle that’s 3,000 years old – this is part of our story today too – that realization that all of us are connected and what’s more, called to be saints of God, regardless of our past.
King David was not always one of the good guys – we remember the stories from our Sunday School classes: David and Goliath, David and Bathsheba, David the musician – the psalms of David – David, the king of Israel – violent but protector of the Ark of the Covenant, designer of the First Temple in Jerusalem – but he never saw the finished Temple – building the temple to hold the sacred Ark of the Covenant fell to his son, Solomon. As an aside, this reminds me a little of the fact that Moses never entered the promised land in spite of bringing the Ten Commandments to his people and leading them through years of harsh exile.
But here’s David, human just like us, not always living into our own best selves – but we hear God’s promise spoken by the prophet Isaiah: there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse – that’s David’s father – and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him - in spite of everything David has done generations before, Jesus comes to us from the House of David. God’s forgiveness and grace abound, then and now. For David and for us.
We yearn, don’t we, to be part of something so much bigger, something eternal: and we are: connected to our ancestors, the present, and the future. For me, holding this piece of a 3,000 year old jar helps me know and savor that.
Today we remember those we have loved and lost this past year 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 through the ages. Those who brought healing to the sick, justice to the oppressed, welcome to the outcast and compassion to the vulnerable. Others courageously sought justice and loved mercy – those who sacrificed their comfort and lives for God’s vision of Shalom.
But they did not do it themselves or on their own. They did it grounded in God’s faithfulness – and we’re called to realize that we too are part of the great company of saints with a responsibility to share the faith with generations to come.
Richard Floyd, one of the group of UCC Still Speaking Writers wrote a meditation entitled From Generation to Generation:
I treasure my faith in God, but faith hasn't always been easy for me and I don't take it for granted. It never stops being something of a mystery to me.
But one thing I do know about faith is that you don't come to it alone. And by faith I don't mean just belief in a set of doctrines, but deep trust that God is real and good and loving. When I say that faith is something you don't come to alone I am referring to the many people who help us along the way of our faith journeys. Faith is a multi-generational project: each generation tells the next generation the great story of God’s vast love. In that regard, our faith is not only something we have, but also something we get from others.
I think back to the many people who helped me to have faith. 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 is the way it worked. So authentic faith is contagious, something you "catch" from others. From generation to generation faithful witnesses live it out and pass it on.”
There’s the challenge for us, isn’t it. We’re part of the movement of our faith – we’re called to tell the next generation that great story of God’s vast love, of God’s forgiveness, of the grace that comes to us all as a free gift.
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: just by how we live! And that message certainly isn’t just for children, is it! Listen to these words:
I sing a song of the saints of God patient and brave and true, Who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew. And one was a doctor and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green; They were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping to be one, too.
Our observance of All Saints’ is about inspiration. God asks ordinary people to do extraordinary things: the hymn continues, “they did what is right for Jesus’ sake…prophets, priests, a martyr slain by a fierce wild beast.” 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. You can do this: you can be a model of holiness – you can be a person of stature, grace, and hospitality. You 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 – you can share this love and compassion throughout the ordinary business of everyday life.
The world is filled with living saints, who choose to do God's will, You can meet them in school, on the road, or at sea; In church, in a train, in a shop, or at tea; for the saints are folk like you and like me, and I mean to be one, too.
Just by listening for God's vision for your life – discerning how your gifts meet the world's needs: and as you move into that vision – you and I become part of the saints among us.
We are called to claim our humble role as saints, healers of the earth, in our time and place. Grateful for the courage in years past by the great saints we remember today – and they are all great - we are called to make a commitment to transform our world, faithfully sacrificing for God's reign on earth as it is in heaven.
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. I ask each of us to take a moment in prayerful reflection to remember: saints among us, around us, and who have gone before us who still influence our lives. Ask yourself and remember: your saints – those who have shaped your life and world? And then, ask yourself – what kind of saint is God calling me to be? What kind of community of saints is God calling us to be right here at this church? 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!
Now as we observe All Saint’s Sunday with churches around the world, it is the time to honor and hear the names of members of our church family who died during the past year. Those who we celebrate on this All Saints Day are people who loved/love their God. On this day of remembrance, let us recall and give thanks for those blessed ones who have gone before us. Please join me in the Litany of Remembrance: