St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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All Saints Sermon 2011
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Rev. Joyce Avery

Well, all the goblins, ghosts, fairies, even beautiful “Cleopatra” and all the Trick or Treaters have gone to their homes, and we are free from all the activity of the evening of Halloween.  So many kids and parents; it was great fun.  Whew!!  I’ll bet the parents are glad it’s over too!
 
Today we celebrate All Saints Day.  We remember all of the saints who have followed God’s way before us.  We remember all of the people who share God’s love with us today.
 
All Saints Day begs the question, “What is a saint?”.  My large dictionary say’s that All Saints Day is on November 1st (which we are celebrating today), is a festival commemorative of all saints and martyrs: also called Allhallowmas , or Allhollows.  “All Souls Day”, on November 2nd, is a day of commemoration on which intercession is made for the souls of all the faithful departed.  Candles are lit to light up, in our hearts, the many memories that we have of them, and we often share some of the stories with others.  This is a great way of remembering the good times and also some of the sad times we shared with them. We are also reminded of the precious nature of that time, and the fact that it is irreversible.  We only live it once.
 
There are a number of ways to define a saint—it is found in the New Testament.  Paul begins most of his letters by greeting the saints--the saints at Corinth, at Ephesus, at Galatia, and so on.  In the New Testament, saint means simply any baptized person, any Christian.  The Greek word “hagios” means holy.  The saints are the holy ones, not holy because of their true nature, but holy because of the holy presence of Christ within them. 
 
Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside, and his disciples soon followed him.  When Jesus arrived in a quiet place he sat down and began to teach his companions the following:  THE BEATITUDES (with responses from “The Message”.)
 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of “heaven””.  (“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you--there is more of God and his rule.”)
 
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  (“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you”)
 
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”  (“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are--no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”)
 
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  (“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  His food and drink is the best meal you’ll ever eat.”)
 
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”  (“You’re blessed when you care.  At the moment of being care-full, you find yourselves cared for.”)
 
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  (“You’re blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”)
 
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  (“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”)
 
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  (“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”)
 
“You are blessed when people revile against you, and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”  (“Count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.”)
 
WOW!!  After all that, I don’t know if I could ever be a saint, not that I will ever be, but that’s a lot of work and my stamina is rather low at this point in time.  But God bless anyone who wants to try or is one already.  Jesus really laid it on the line with all these words.  We certainly should try to do some of them or maybe we do and don’t realize it.
 
I have a story of just a plain regular child, such as the boy who went to a scouting contest for homemade racing cars.  It was one of those events where the contestants are supposed to do their own work but most of the fathers help too much.  At one such event, a youngster with no dad showed up with a racer he had obviously made with his own unskilled hands.  The contest put boys in pairs, one against another with the winner advancing to the next round.  
 
In a series of eliminations, somehow this one kid’s funny-looking car won again and again, until, defying all odds, he was in the finals against another scout with a slick looking, well-made racer.  Before the championship race, the boy asked the director to wait a moment so he could pray.  The crowd, now enthralled by the unlikely story unfolding before them, stood in silence, loving the boy and secretly praying with him that he might win; he seemed so deserving.
 
After the boy won and was given a trophy, the director said, “Well, I guess it is a good thing you prayed, so you could win.  “Oh no!” the boy protested, horrified to have been misunderstood.  “I didn’t pray to win.  That would have been wrong.  The other scout had as much right to win as I did.  I couldn’t pray that God would make him lose.  I just prayed that God would help me keep from crying if I lost.”
 
Isn’t this why and how we remember the saints, some of whom are publicly known and recognized in the light of history, and others, like the Boy Scout, whom we come across in the obscurity of ordinary struggles?
 
An American humorist, Ambrose Bierce once wrote a book entitled “The Devil’s Dictionary.” In it he defined saint as “a dead sinner, revised and edited.”  There is much to be said about that definition.
 
At our Bible Study last Wednesday, I heard so many things and places to find out about Saints, that it was mind boggling.  When I mentioned, “All Souls Day” that the Catholics celebrate, Jim responded that we also celebrate that day.  Well, I looked at our calendar and he was right.  On the 2nd of November it says– “Commemoration of all Faithful Departed”.  Thanks Jim!
 
All Saints Day is a time when looking at the good examples of those who have come before us can enable us to think beyond our limitations and to believe that we have the potential to respond to God’s gracious love with active love for others and with commitment and caring and giving.  The saints lead us into the fullness of life that God intends for us all.   AMEN.



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