All Saints November 3, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

ALL SAINTS’ SUNDAY  Year C

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

On the day we were baptized,

we joined the largest support group ever,

 

the fellowship of love and prayer

we celebrate today,

 

the communion of all the Saints . . .

 

faithful Christ-followers

of every generation,

from every tribe and language

​​and people and nation.

 

Their lives shine

like beacons of hope

in the darkest of times and circumstances,

 

reflecting

the one true Light

that has come into the world . . .

 

Jesus,

the Light that the darkness has not,

cannot,

​​ overcome.

Jesus,

the hope

of the poor

and hungry,

the hated,

excluded,

​​and reviled,

 

the hope

of those who weep,

and are full of grief,

the lonely and afraid,

those who have stumbled and fallen,

and think they may never

​​rise again.  

 

 

And who are these saints,

these lights in their generations,

like stars appearing

in the firmament of heaven?

 

Abraham and Sarah,

Moses and Miriam,

Isaiah and all the prophets,

Mary the mother of Christ,

and Joseph,

John the Baptist,

Mary Magdalene,

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,

Peter and Paul,

Polycarp,

Ambrose of Milan,

Perpetua and her Companions,

Francis and Clare,

Sergius of Radonezh,

Martin Luther,

Kateri Tekakwitha,

Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman,

The Martyrs of Japan,

Enmegahbowh,

Julia Chester Emery,

Bernard Mizecki,

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

Evelyn Underhill,

Dorothy Day,

Oscar Romero,

Martin Luther King, Jr.,

Jonathan Myrick Daniels . . .

 

And all those others

whose names and deeds we know,

 

and all those countless faithful followers

whose names and deeds

lie buried in the past,

but who lived every bit

as courageously and faithfully

as they did.  

 

Their imaginations captured

by God’s vision for the world,

they spent themselves in self-offering,

for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

 

Just as those

who continue the fight

in humble obscurity now . . .

 

whenever, where-ever God calls,

seeking and doing what seems right.

All of us together,

knit into the mystical Body of Christ

by our passage

through the waters of baptism.

 

We may think of sainthood

as ethereal and otherworldly . . .

 

but all those saints whose names we know

and those whose names we don’t

were boots-on-the-ground

engaged with

God’s world

in prayer and in action.

 

And,

in their support and prayer for us

whose boots

(or sandals, since this is the Pacific Northwest)

are now on the ground,

they are still deeply concerned

​​with God’s world today.

 

 

All those saints

started out ordinary,

just as ordinary as we are . . .

 

until we are taken by God

in baptism,

to be made a holy people,

the living body of Christ in the world.

 

 

We all start out

as ordinary as the bread

we offer at the altar

for the Eucharist . . .

 

ordinary wheat nourished

by sun, rain and the earth itself

until it is golden and ripe,

harvested and milled into flour,

shaped into loaves and finished by fire . . .

bread to sustain life,

ordinary bread,

that

God takes

and makes holy

to be broken and shared

for the life

of God’s world,

 

as we who partake of this bread

are made holy to be broken and shared,

bread ourselves

for the life of God’s world.

We all start out

as ordinary as the wine

we offer at the altar

for the Eucharist,

 

ordinary grapes of the vine

nourished

by sun, rain and the earth

until they are full of plump goodness,

gathered and crushed into juice,

fermented into

wine to gladden the heart,

 

wine that

God takes

and makes holy

to be poured out

to gladden God’s world

with hope,

 

as we who drink this wine

are meant to be poured out,

wine ourselves,

to gladden God’s world

with hope.

 

In the All Saints’ Day prayer

we prayed at the beginning

of today’s liturgy

in our wonderful and

somewhat antique Anglican style,

 

we asked for

grace so to follow [God’s] blessed saints

in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys

that [God] has prepared for all who love [God] . . .”

​​​​​(The Book of Common Prayer p. 245)

 

Yes, we hope one day

after our death,

to share the indescribable joys

of all the saints

worshipping before the throne of God . . .

 

But let us pray, too,

for the grace to follow the saints

in all virtuous and godly living

not for some looked-for reward in heaven,

 

but

 

that our lives in this world

may be blessing

for the poor

and the hungry,

the hurting, lonely and afraid,

the neglected, excluded and reviled,

the disenfranchised,

those who weep, and are full of grief.

Let us pray, too,

that our lives in this world

may be blessing

in the help we extend

to meet their needs,

and in the witness we make

to change the inequities and injustices

that create those needs.

 

Let us pray, too,

that we might

spend our lives in this world

striving for justice

against the powers of this world

that divide, oppress, belittle, and kill.

 

This is the hard and demanding

and risky work of the saints.

 

This,

and loving our enemies,

doing good to those who hate us,

blessing those who curse us,

praying for those who abuse us . . .

 

loving, doing good to,

blessing and praying for them

even as we do not accept

and will always stand over against

they way they are with us

and in the world,

for enmity, hatred, cursing, abuse,

have no place

in God’s desire for God’s children.

Our baptism

is about so much more

than the hope of heaven

after death.

 

It is about

continually dying, in this life, to self,

and the self-centered urgings

​​of our culture,

and rising, rising in this life, to Christ,

rising to a life of self-offering

for the sake of others . . .

 

Our baptism

is about

so much more

than one ritual moment in time;

 

it is about God’s call

to a way of life

across time.

 

We, the baptized,

are saints in process,

growing,

day by day,

into the pattern of Christ,

strengthened and supported

by all who

have lived this life before us,

and all who share this life now.

 

 

 

On All Saints’ Sunday,

I always think of

the Litany of Penitence

that we pray on Ash Wednesday.

 

Do you remember

how it begins . . .

 

“Most holy and merciful [God]:

we say,

We confess to you and to one another,

and to the whole communion of saints

in heaven and on earth . . .”

 

followed by that long list of every sin

you could ever think of

to commit or confess.

 

One Ash Wednesday

years and years ago,

when I was a fairly new

and still very confused Christian . . .

I knelt with others in the assembly

to pray that litany.

 

And as we said those words,

“We confess to you and to one another,

and to the whole communion of saints . . .”

 

I felt as though the roof of the church

had opened up

and the whole communion of saints in heaven

were looking down at me

kneeling there with my bucket-load of sins

on full display . . .

. . . and I cringed before their gaze.

 

But suddenly I realized . . .

 

they were looking not with judgment,

but with the kind eyes of compassion

and love.

 

They had been there,

every one of them,

 

they once were saints in process, too,

on the way, but not yet there . . .

 

and they would be

with me, with us,

and for me, for us,

as we grew day by day into

the hope of our baptism,

​​into lives given over to Christ.

 

 

It is this wondrous Mystery

we celebrate today . . .

this baptismal fellowship of love and prayer,

companionship and compassion,

that knows no boundaries

of space or time . . .

this communion

of all the saints

into which we,

our very own ordinary selves,

​​have been incorporated.

For this reason,

All Saints’ Sunday is a baptismal occasion,

one of the four days when the Church

gives birth to brand-new saints

through the waters of the font.

Whether or not

there are baptisms to be celebrated,

All Saints’ Sunday is a day

when we remember

our own baptism

and renew our baptismal covenant –

those promises,

this way of life,

this following of Christ we share

 

with all the members

of the world’s largest

and most powerful support group . . .

 

the holy and loving fellowship

of all the saints.

​​​

 

 

 

 

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