Sermon by The Reverend Jodi L. Baron, “Feast of All Saints'”, Year C, Luke 6:20-31
Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
In the name of the God who Created us, the God who Redeemed us, and the God who is with us and all of creation till the end. Amen.
How many of you forgot about the end of DayLight Savings Time when you woke up this morning? How many of you had to check the world clock when you woke up to be sure you got it right?
I sure did. I always do.
Every year, in March, when DLS begins, and in November, when it ends, I have a little minor moment of panic when the morning of the change comes and I wonder…what time is it, really????
I was also a little disoriented when I woke this morning because I was no longer in a giant hotel with brothers and sisters from around the Diocese. If you were a delegate from St. Philip’s, or an alternate, will you please stand for a moment so folks can see who you are?
Carol Codden, Barbara J. Kelly, Keri McCumber, Gary Michalek, Deacon Marilou, Fr. Christian, and Myself.
We went to Diocesan Convention last Thursday through yesterday, to tend to the important work of our common life as a diocese, that larger manifestation from which we get our identity as Episcopalians, as Anglicans, making our mark in the communities of Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Manistee Counties (and beyond). We ate together, we laughed together, I think a few of us, a few times, even shed a few tears together (but that can neither be confirmed or denied)…
It is a joy and privilege to represent you folks at these gatherings.
Yes, they are business meetings. Yes, Robert’s Rules of Order are strictly followed, so much so that we have a Chancellor who keeps us all in line. But it is also steeped in a spirit of gratitude, of deep joy, that we are a part of a global church, networked together.
In the coming weeks and months you will hear from your delegates about their experiences. Real quick thought, basically what we are learning to do is how we, as the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement in Western Michigan, can courageously follow our Lord’s mission and ministry in the world. A way of Love that is “other-focused” and is, in the words of our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry says,
We are learning to live into the mystery that is in mutual loving relationships with ourselves, our God, and our neighbors.
It was a good pause. A good deep breath, and a good booster in the arm, to come back and get to work.
We were challenged by our Guest Speaker, the Reverend Eric Law, to always remember our mission as a Diocese first:
“Rooted in the Episcopal tradition [our mission], is to worship God, to follow Jesus Christ, to grow together in the Holy Spirit, and to serve the world.”
Our job as the Episcopal presence in our communities is to, like Reverend Law said, “create Gracious environments where people can speak truth to one another” and be in relationship with one another, God, and all of Creation.
This weekend was a reminder that some of these Rites are not just some stuffy old historical documents that remind us of how we ‘used’ to do things. It was a reminder that we have access to these Rites that are meant to mark time, strengthen our life in Christ with one another, and to commit to being different, strange, incarnational.
That is the environment for which we are commissioned to proclaim. God’s kingdom is already among us and yet not fully. God’s favor is upon us, his beloved, and upon this gift of creation that gives us the gift of beauty, oxygen, food & drink from the woods and waters that surround us. And the gift we give creation. That we are all connected. It takes all of creation to reveal a glimpse of God. All of it.
Even the person sitting next to you and behind you.
Take a moment, please, and look around you.
Notice the image of God that is reflected in your neighbor.
Notice the image of God that is in the falling leaves and crisp air.
Notice the image of God in the silent voices of our families, communities, and world.
Thankfully, being a part of an ancient, liturgical, sacramental Christian church, we have a built in re-orientation to what it is we do when we proclaim this faith.
Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints’. The day we commemorate ALL saints, known and unknown. All Saints’ Day is one of the seven principal feasts of the church year and one of the four days recommended for the administration of baptism. Which means it’s a time that we recognize those followers of Jesus who dared to love their enemies. The Big Saints that we remember on particular days throughout the year, yes, but also the unknown saints, who don’t have an official day, other than today. And a day when we are encouraged, by their witness, to remember that we ALL are SAINTS.
Colossians 1:11-13 says, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
First Corinthians 1:2 says, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”
YOU are a SAINT! I am a SAINT! These people we remember here, ARE SAINTS, those big ones like St. Philip, is a SAINT. The living and the dead are united in Jesus.
The word “saint” comes from the Latin word for “holy” or “consecrated”…both of which we are when we are baptized. We are “marked as Christ’s own forever.” We are set aside to live our life according to a different rule. Not one guided by fear, wealth, or power, but by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
So we also get to remember those saints in OUR lives who’ve revealed God’s love to us through their life and witness. And we re-claim our own sainthood, now, in the present.
We remember those bits of God’s love manifest in the people who have made an impact on the person we are today when we ask God to give us grace to follow their examples.
In a few moments, after we briefly exchange the Peace of the Lord, you will be invited to bring forward that item which makes you think of that saint in your life whom you remember today. If you didn’t bring a photo or item of memorabilia, you are invited to write the person’s name on one of the cards in your pew. Then, as the ushers pass your pew (or general area of your pew), you are invited to process up behind them, place your memory on the tables where these candles are, and then return back to your pews. I know we don’t normally get up and move at this point in the service, but we trust that the Holy Spirit will speak to our hearts through this act of love and knit us, as the collect says, in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of God’s Son, our Lord.
And, even as we remember those big saints and little saints, our scriptures from today remind us that we aren’t done there.
We have even deeper work to dig into, as followers of Christ.
Did you hear that part in the Gospel lesson earlier? Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with that.
Loving my enemies, Jesus? Really?
Do good to those who hate you, Jesus? Really?
Bless those who curse you, Jesus?
Pray for those who abuse you…Jesus?
Love. Your. Enemies…who, by the way, Jodi, happen to also be included in that whole “neighbor” part!
Ugh. Punch in the gut.
Some days I have NO idea how to love that sorry soul who hasn’t a clue, or the rude clerk who rolled their eyes at me, or the “friend” on facebook who insults me because I think differently than he or she. Sometimes I even have a hard time loving the enemy within ME!
But just because I have a hard time remembering to do it all the time, doesn’t mean I get to stop trying, stop striving to give that part over, to offer that as my sacrifice to God on this most Holy Table.
Because I do believe that something mysterious happens when we come together and SEE one another. That something mysterious and VERY holy happens when we pray for the Holy Spirit to make us one through the sacrament of his Body and Blood.
That something even more mysterious happens when we dare to live into this ancient, holy way of patterning our lives, our thoughts, our hearts after him who came to show us what the Truth of the universe will always cry out, that God takes delight in his creation!
In all of it!
And, we have a lot of work to do in learning how to build relationships with each other and our neighbors.
Saints were weird guys and gals. But they knew how to hang out with the voiceless in their communities, they knew how to be in relationship with the folks with the least amount of power in their midst. They knew how to listen and be with.
And, our guest speaker at convention reminded us that, they, by the way, were also *completely* normal to Jesus.
I invite you, friends, to let the words of the liturgy sink into your heart, the prayers, the confession, the peace of Lord, the bread, the wine.
Let it sink in there and remain with you as you listen to the voiceless, the powerless in your circles of influence.
Keep those words, those needs present with you as you pray before you enter the polls on Tuesday, while you are casting your vote, and when you are done.
Keep them present with you as you give thanks for all you have and who you have in your life.
Keep them present with you as you strive to be that agent of reconciliation our Lord calls each of us to be in this world!
Remember, YOU represent Christ and his Church wherever you find yourself. YOU are God’s beloved and, man! Does she take delight in you! Amen.