November 6, 2022, All Saints, Sermon preached by Rev. Katie Holicky

11/6/22 Feast of All Saints Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector 

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints Day! It is one of seven principle, or super important, feast days of our tradition. So, what is a Saint/saint? (show pictures of various Saints) Here is how some might explain who or what a saint is: “a saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness, likeness, or closeness to God”, “someone set apart for God’s special purpose”. If you are thinking, wow… that must be extra special people… you are correct!  Or maybe you are thinking wow… that could be each of us… you are also correct! 

Saints are also our ancestors. (communion of Saints picture) The gift of this Feast is that it is a reminder that our ancestors are with us always, especially when we come to the altar table, call on them in prayer, and remember the ways they helped us to learn and grow. And every time we remember someone we loved that now rests in God’s love with the rest of the ancestors and Saints… we learn and grow again. 

Last week as we were planning for this service, I told Randy and Carolyn a story about the last hymn we will sing. “When the Saints Go Marching In” is an African American Spiritual and was one of my grandfather’s favorite hymns. (picture of my grandad) As the white Colonel of the Montford Marines, the black unit of the Marine Corps, I think he came to love this song more deeply as he spent so much time with black soldiers. 

Some of my favorite memories of my grandfather include this song. This is because when we finally got him a cell phone he chose this song as his ringtone. When the phone would ring, he would hold it up and dance like this… go ahead… I see some of you want to dance too. (sing song and do grandad’s dance) It was great. And as my dad would say, “Dad, stop. Answer the phone, dad!’, my grandad would just keep dancing until he missed the call. And even with a missed call that he would now need to return he was joyful, smiling, looking at me with his crystal blue eyes that I can still see when I picture his face. This memory is one of many memories of one of my favorite “little s” saints, my grandad. 

Everytime I remember this story and tell it, he is right here. Helping me to feel that same joy again. Remembering how he taught us to be kind, loyal, faithful, hard working, joyful people. I remember each of his lessons all over again as I feel the warmth of the Communion of Saints surround my heart. I remember that my grandad had so much to do with forming me into the person that I am today. A person who can and wants to do the hard work of being a follower of Jesus. 

Sometimes Jesus tells us things that are hard to hear, and asks us to do things that are really hard to do. After hearing Mary Lee read our Gospel today, today feels like one of those days. AND I am reminded of a phrase that I have often used with toddlers and if I am honest, a phrase I tell myself on a regular basis (hold up image), “It’s ok. You can do hard things.” Let’s give each other the gift of this reminder as followers of Jesus. Look at someone next to you and tell them with strength and love, “It’s ok. You can do hard things!” 

So here we are in our final weeks with the Gospel of Luke, and Jesus is giving a big speech. A little bible fact for you: in other Gospels we call this big speech from Jesus, “the sermon on the mount”, but here in Luke we call it “the sermon on the plain”. The point is though, that Jesus took the time to pause in this place outside and teach people A LOT of really important things about what it means to follow him. Since we are still in the book of Luke which includes a strong preference for the poor and marginalized, Jesus again puts this truth before his followers. We are to be people you tend to others, give generously, and do our best to love people, especially when we disagree with them. Remember, you can do hard things! 

As one of the commentaires notes: “In the Gospel of Luke, participating in God’s providential purposes and responding to God’s gift of salvation is manifested in a number of ways. Some of these… (are) giving of possessions to the poor, an ethic or orientation toward the marginalized, and being brought into the fullness of community” (TBC, 337). So, keeping that in mind I would like to do a bit of a ‘highlights reel’ of this part of the ‘sermon on the plain’ which we often call the “beatitudes”, instructions on how to live and who will live into God’s kin-dom now and in the life that comes next. 

So here are some topical highlights…

  1. Tending to the poor, those “blessed are” statements: “Jewish tradition regards the poor, the hungry etc. not as cursed or impure but as deserving recipients of divine and earthly care” (JANT, 113). We too believe this! We know for certain we are called to care for those who do not have enough. And we acknowledge that the systems of the world cause many people to suffer. We step into that suffering in the love of God to share what we have. How might you tend to those who do not have enough?
  2. The “Woe to you” statements; “Luke decries the rich who refuse to give alms and encourages extreme generosity” (JANT, 113). These statements are not meant to make us feel bad about what we have per say. They are more to remind us that we must SHARE what we have with those who don’t have enough. These statements are a warning for those we refuse to live in generosity. How can you live with a generous spirit?
  3. Ok, this one for me is the big point around “You can do hard things”. Love your enemies: for the ancient Jewish folks who were gathered with Jesus, they would have known that as Jewish people they were supposed to help their enemies so as to not grow hatred and evil in their own hearts. Jesus is taking it even farther telling them to love their enemies (JANT, 113). How might loving our enemies change our hearts?

If at the end of these highlights you are thinking about the Golden Rule… you are on to something! Yes, the Golden Rule, which is a core tenant of most faith traditions around the world (show diagram of many traditions with this belief), is what Jesus is teaching us. To treat others the way we want to be treated. To live in love with generous spirits. It is part of what connects us in love to one another and to the Communion of Saints. The many folks who came before us to try and do this very thing. We get to live in their legacy when we choose to follow Jesus in these ways. May we trust that we can do hard things! May we learn from the “blessed are(s)” and “woe to yous”. May we love our enemies and have our hearts transformed! May it ALL be so.