November 5, 2023. The Feast of All Saints. Sermon preached by Rev. Katie Holicky

1.5.23 The Feast of All Saints Day                 The Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector 

Are there any fans of a morning walk in the house today? Maybe you walk to school or the bus, maybe you walk a trail.  Well, this past Wednesday, when I went for my morning walk (show picture), I spent some time thinking about my ancestors. Those folks in my life who have been really important in helping me grow, love, and be more myself in the world. The folks who have helped me to do all of those things, and who have died. I thought of my grandparents who helped me to grow and foster some of my particular interests, like my love of a high church tradition and finding God outside in nature. 

I also spent time thinking about people who were really important in helping me become who I am today. I wonder… did you ever have someone teach you something that was really special? For me, one of those people was a dear professor, or teacher, from college. Professor Dan Smith was one of my religious studies professors. He also happened to be the person who got me involved in my first activism group as an adult with Richmond Action Dialogues. A community organization who trained college studies and others to be dialogue facilitators to help foster community conversations around topics like race and racism. (show picture) Professor Smith helped to set me on the path that brought me to be part of that same work in this community. I am forever grateful for his ability to see that passion in me, and to be the first one who encouraged me to foster it, and I miss him very much. 

You may be thinking, “Wow, Katie, those are super specific thoughts from your morning walking, great pictures, why are you sharing?” Well, what Holy Day did we celebrate this past week? And I’ll give you a hint: it was the day after the candy day. That’s right, All Saints Day was Wednesday. And the day after that was All Souls Day. So, a day for us to remember the Saints of the church, and then a day for us to remember our ancestors, everyone who came before us. 

The Episcopal Church’s official definition of All Saints Day is: “(it) Commemorates all saints, known and unknown, on Nov. 1. All Saints’ Day is one of the seven principal feasts of the church year, and one of the four days recommended for … baptism. All Saints’ Day may also be celebrated on the Sunday following Nov. 1” (TEC) which is what we are doing today! 

What is a Saint? Well, in our tradition we believe that a Saint/saint is: “A holy person, a faithful Christian, one who shares life in Christ. The term may also (mean) one who has been formally canonized or recognized as a saint by church authority” (TEC). So little “s” saints and big “S” Saints. So, who is a saint then? 

(show pictures of Saints of the church pointing out halos as a symbol marking their sainthood: Saint Paul who traveled around and  wrote and taught the early Christian churches about Jesus and who our church is named after, Saint Hildegard Von Bingen who sometimes gets called the “doctor of the church”, she was a poet, doctor, and moralist who spoke truth to power and had powerful visions)

(show pictures of alternative saints, saint Mister Rogers pg 68 who helped multiple generations to be kinder to one another, feel seen, and worthy of the love of community through his famous TV show, saint Harriet Tubman pg 88 who after becoming free herself, helped free hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad)

Hmmm, I am not sure that’s it. Who else might be a saint? Well, let’s take a look here. I need some volunteers…(get saint halo mirror). Stand here and let’s see. (hold up mirror with a halo on it and have people take turns standing in front of the mirror) Remember, the church says “a holy person, a faithful Christian, one who shares life in Christ”. Thanks, friends. Have a seat for me, and there will be more time to gaze upon God’s reflection in you later on. 

So, I wonder how what Jesus talked about in the Gospel today helps us to understand what it means to live faithful life? Well, Jesus is teaching the people in what we call The Sermon on the Mont. (show picture) “Similar blessings” to the ones that Jesus shares here can be found in Jewish texts as well (JANT, 9). For example, the word “Meek” would be reminding the first hearers of these instructions of the Psalms that tell us of meek “people who do not take advantage of their position” (JANT, 9). 

Jesus’ teachings, “…describes an alternative world, already being realized in the midst of this world, where God’s power and presence define human perceptions and relationships” (TBC, 299). The part that we heard Mary Lee read earlier gets called, The Beatitudes. (show graphic, you can see by these color blocks the different sections) 

One writer who studies the Bible had this to say about the different sections of The Beatitudes; “The poor in spirit, who are not necessarily destitute, recognize dependence on each other and on God. To be meek is to restrain one’s privilege for the sake of others. To seek righteousness, practice mercy, and make peace are the responsibilities of the faithful”, and all of these actions are very important in the Gospel of Matthew (WBC, 469). 

We can see how these things might be about each of us.. AND…“The Beatitudes do not describe individual virtues, but practices nurtured and sustained in the community of Jesus’ disciples” (WBC, 299). What are some practices or things we do together as a church family? 

The things that Jesus is teaching are meant to, “Provide comfort and encourage action” (WBC, 469). Would you say that the things we named that we do as a church family help to ‘provide comfort and encourage action’ and perhaps even peace? Peace, which in itself is a call to action for those who want to be part of bringing God’s kin-dom into the world (TTONL, 91). I wonder… how will you carry this comfort and action of this Body of Christ into your week? May you do so knowing that in living faithfully in these ways we too bring more of God’s kin-dom into the world while honoring the Communion of Saints. 

Resources: Jewish Annotated New Testament, Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints, The Episcopal Church (episcopalchurch.org), Theological Bible Commentary, True to Our Native Land, Women’s Bible Commentary