Year C; All Saints Sunday; 11.3.2019
Good morning, saints!
Good morning, saints!
Yes! We can be called “saints” – not because we are perfect or are unique examples of the faith of Christ or served the poor or are martyrs or wrote a gospel or spread the faith throughout the world. No, we are called ‘saints’ because, as in the words in the Letter to the Hebrews, we have been made “…holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. For by one offering [Christ] has perfected for all time those who are made holy.”
WE are “those who are made holy” through no action or merit of our own. We are made holy through the grace of the cross of Jesus and his resurrection.
That’s why when we offer the Sacraments of the Bread and Wine sometimes we say, “Holy food for holy people.” Christ gave us his gifts out of his endless love to forgive us, renew us, comfort us and strengthen us.
We are made holy, we are called “saints” not because we are perfect. We are called “saints” because God is the One who makes us holy. God called some of the most ordinary people and some of the most notorious sinners to a transformed life. Isn’t it wonderful how God calls the most UN-likely people to a redeemed life for God’s sake, for the sake of faith, for the sake of the suffering, for the sake of injustice, for the sake of love, pure love?
I am wearing the placard for a saint that the Episcopal Church recognizes for her faith, courage and advocacy. An American called Sojourner Truth. Her Feast Day in our Church is July 20. She was born into slavery probably in the year 1797 not too far from Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1826 she escaped from slavery with her infant daughter.
Sojourner Truth is an example of a saint for me because she was strong, outspoken, supported women’s rights, worked hard against slavery and even recruited freed black men to serve in the Union army. In an unusual move for a black woman, she brought a lawsuit against a slave owner in Alabama who illegally captured her free son and made him his slave. She went to court and won the court case.
She couldn’t read or write, but she was smart and full of faith. She knew her Scriptures and when to invoke them for the sake of women’s rights. She is quoted as saying, “That little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men ‘cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”
Preach it, Sojourner, I say!
I love Sojourner Truth because she fled to freedom and yet reached back to bring others to freedom. I also love her because some of her photos show knitting needles and yarn in her lap. So, I love her because she was a knitter!
In a few minutes we will stand and renew our Baptismal Promises. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is the once-in-a-lifetime practice that uses holy water to connect us with Christ, all the Saints and the entire Church. Holy Baptism adopts us into the fellowship of all those who come to Christ in faith. And when we say, “I believe in the communion of saints”, that means we are connected with saints like Sojourner Truth, Saint Paul, Saint Margaret of Scotland, Saint Luke the evangelist, St. Francis and others whose names our children are wearing on their placards today.
But the connection doesn’t stop there. We are connected with all those loved ones who have died. When we say, “I believe in the communion of saints…” we are saying that we are a faith community connected to a larger family of people “…who have loved us, loved God and followed Jesus in all times and all places.”
Take a moment right now to name some of your loved ones you will be thinking of today. Share with your neighbor.
I will think of my mother Carol and her mother, my grandmother we called “Mammy.” From this year and our St. Paul’s community, I will think of Bob Judd, Beth Barnes, Carol Freeman, Whit Blair, Anne Del Borgo, Chuck Mull. I will think of my husband John, his sister Agnes and my dad, Bob.
On All Saints Sunday it is our tradition to share names out loud as we bless the elements for Holy Eucharist. There is no other prayer in worship that demonstrates our connection to Jesus, to the Saints, to our loved ones and to each other. We are, “One in the Spirit. We are one in the Lord.”
This year, I’m asking our young people to come forward to the Altar where the Sanctus bell is. They will ring it after I say each memorial name.
Come on up, volunteers because right now we are going to practice ringing it.
The bell not only makes a beautiful sound. In many traditions, the sound of the bell is the voice of God. The bell will ring today as if God is saying, “my dear, holy people, ‘life is changed for your loved ones, not ended…they are with me, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven…”
“There are two miracles of All Saints Day: one is that God’s holy reign is still at work in the lives of the likes of us.”
The second miracle is our transformation. We are forgiven sinners, ordinary people who are called on by God and sent into the world to be Christ’s loving hands to the broken.
What if we “sing of the saints of God as if we are one too?!”