(Lessons based on the 25th Sunday after Pentecost)
Today we celebrate All Saints Sunday. We re-member the beloved communion of saints and learn anew from what they taught clearly in word and example. And how more tangible our re-membrance will be when we conclude our indoor worship by consecrating the new columbarium where saints personally known to us will rest from their labors.
What do we mean when we profess our belief in the communion of saints? First, because God IS forever, all whom God loves belong to God forever. 2) Because God loves us, in Christ God promised us that we belong to God forever. 3) Those who are caught by God’s love in Jesus Christ want to dedicate our daily lives and vocations to enacting God’s vision for the world. 4) In that respect, in God’s eyes we are all saints. But in the world’s eyes, which include still our mortal spiritually cataracted eyes, we are saints in the making; we still belong to time and not fully to eternity. But having “gotten” that they are wrapped and infused by eternity, the readily recognized saints are those who make real God’s strategic plan even now.
Some saints stand out, of course. Mother Theresa stood tall and powerful as a saint, counter to her small stature and squeaky voice. Now her witness is even more powerful since we learned that for most all her adult life she felt abandoned by God, and yet always she insistently trusted God. This was more than fierce obedience. It was a life spent on the endowment of divine love that she knew God had deposited in her at the outset. Rightly, she then spent that whole corpus down. Recognizing her as a saint was and is to recognize that her glimpse of our resurrection future gave her the vision always to guide her daily actions.
Today we intimately re-member other such saints. Most are unknown to us, but they influenced us in ways we will not know in our mortal lives. Many more recently brought God’s eternal realities into our fleeting present. Some saints led long and fruitful lives of service. Others flared up in singular moments that inspire us like icons. Others were more personal but as powerfully compelling: the singular teacher or mentor; the beloved grandmother; the parent who was so self-giving to the end; the unusually faithful friend; the military combatant or the civil servant who loses one’s life because she or he truly was dedicated to the protection and advancement of the common good; even the occasional patient and prudent pastor, even a politician! Who knows?! Time and again we are surprised by saints who grasped and went with what God desired for them.
What should we learn from saints? First, honor their voices now. They still have something to say, perhaps even different from what they had said before! If we believe in the communion of saints, we trust that their love and their commitment to our well-being means they still have wisdom to share. They urge us above all to ensure that every decision we make aligns with God’s coming full rule. As Jesus taught the unbelievers of his day, God’s full rule includes equality and dignity for every person of every kind and age in God’s. Insofar and clearly as Jesus taught of the liberation of women from the definitions of men in the resurrection life, he taught that such is to be so for all God’s people.
For the saints, those who “get” it, that means correlating your skills and actions to God’s kindom-building in the thick of daily life. Our daily choices point to what we think are most important. Saintliness means suffusing our family-lives, our work lives, our recreational lives with the joy of the work of God. Saintliness means bringing one’s salt and light as generously as one can to season those whose taste has been dulled and illumine those whose wicks burn dim. Saints see God in every human-being and commit to growing that vision, particularly after whatever happens on Tuesday. Saints forgive others from their hearts. Saints give up comforts to help those with no comforts. Saints protect and care for our common home, for national and global peace, and for care of the creation. Saints work for the visible unity of the Body of Christ. No vocation is alien to the work of saints. Every place and moment can be a location for the glory of God and invites our standing there. Saintliness means standing with those whose places to stand have been destroyed. And standing happens just as powerfully, if not more, by generous prayer and care from afar.
Finally, saints are you who channel grief into acts of love. You take grief at the loss of loved ones and grief for the spiritual and physical poverty of our neighbors and nation and you turn that grief into exquisite outwardly directed love. You turn grief from inside to out, from love’s stopping up to love’s outpouring, as did Jesus for us. Grief indeed is stopped-up love. When love wells up in our eyes and makes chest feel hollow, it takes the form of grief. Grief is the unspent endowment of love. And today, All Saints Sunday, we are encouraged to let love’s grief outward. Today we remember that the saints caress us; even dine with us. They say to us anew, “Do not grieve. Spend your love. It comes from God. Love is for-giving.”
Align every choice finally with God’s strategic plan of all-abiding love. Thank God for the continuing love and witness of the saints! May we in our gratitude generously pay forward their example. Amen.
Christ the King Lutheran Church Houston, TX November 6, 2016