This Sunday we are celebrating “All Saints” day. Each year, “All Saints” Day falls on November 1st per the Catholic and several Protestant church calendars, including ours. We celebrate it on the Sunday closest to that date.
What is the purpose of this day, and why do we celebrate it each year?
When we hear the term “Saints,” who do we think of?
What do you think about that comment? Do you agree or disagree?
Bolz-Weber says that what makes us the saints of God, is not our ability to be saintly, but rather God’s ability to work through sinners.
As we think about the “saints and sinners” in our lives, let’s look at the “saint” side first…..
Who are some of the people who helped to shape your curiosity and faith in Jesus when you were young?
What do you remember most about that person(s)?
Did they attend church regularly?
Did you attend church regularly when you were young?
Do those early memories of church and your “church family” play into why you are here today?
I’d like you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine those individuals who have influenced your faith around you right now.
Some of you, were born into and raised in this very church family. But the rest of us, come from different places, some of us even different faith traditions. Every time we enter this sanctuary, we bring our history, our cultures, and our faith traditions with us. We also bring the presence of all those individuals who have influenced our faith. They join us as we gather to worship God, as we delve into the bible stories, and explore the messages that God has for us today – here and now, in this place we call home – our Hayshire neighborhood and our wider York, PA community.
And we can’t forget the “sinner” side of things, either. Some believe that the lives they have lived make them a bad influence, a “black sheep” of the family, it keeps them on the outside looking in. That if they were to dare attempt to enter the doors of a church, God would strike them down – or at least one of the people would see them for what they are and turn them away.
These individuals want to believe that they too can be loved by God, but feel that the bad decisions and mistakes they have made, make them exempt. What do you think – are they beyond God’s reach?
Reality is, the gospel is a story of a God who came to us through Jesus – who loved without bounds, forgave without reservation, and said that we (each of us) have the power to do the same. This gospel, this good news, cannot be destroyed by all the stupid mistakes (and bad decisions) that we have and will make. Bolz-Weber reminds us that “while we are in perpetual need of God’s grace, we are assured that Jesus died for our sins – every last one of them. So there is nothing – nothing – we have done (or will do) that God cannot redeem (Accidental Saints, p10, 18).
Our Ephesians text this morning echoes this. It reminds us that “the church” as Paul knew it “is made up of those who chose to hope in Christ, who chose to hear the word of truth, and who chose to believe” (Schertz, p232).
Paul reminds us that we are all interconnected in this life of faith. He proposes a way in which God, through Christ, brings all who believe into unity: unity in the present moment, and unity across time. For some, this may be a broader concept of church than we have originally talked about (Drummond, p230, 232), but our lives of faith did not come to be in the bubble of this very time. In fact, they transcend time.
A few minutes ago, we remembered those people who have helped shape our faith into what it is today. They are gathered around us today as we worship God and remember those who have now joined their ranks within God’s “great cloud of witnesses.” Those individuals will continue to be a part of our faith, just as we hopefully will be a continual influence and part of the faith of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and the generations to come.
Today, as we lift-up the names of our beloved ones who have joined the “gathering of spirits” on the other side of the veil, we remember that we are all one in Christ. Our time, too, will come to become a part of the great cloud of witnesses that will spiritually surround those who remain behind. Until then…..
May our faith be a beacon of hope,
leading others into a closer relationship with God.
Bolz-Weber, Nadia (Rev), Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Convergent Books/New York, 2015.
Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 4. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Westminster John Knox Press/Louisville, KY, 2013, p230-235.