St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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All Saints Sunday 2012 Sermon
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Rev. Bonnie Campbell and Jim Campbell collaborated on sermons, given at St. Mark's, Montesano and St. Benedict's, Lacey

Bonnie at St. Mark's
Today is the convergence of multiple events in the Episcopal Church year.  We have the remembrance of those who loved and followed God and Christ before us-- family, friends, and neighbors--in the celebration of All Saints.   And we also have what our own bishop, Greg Rickel, “fondly” calls the annual “Beg-a-Thon” time of year—it’s pledge time for churches everywhere.
 
Protestant churches generally refer to all Christians as saints, and if they observe All Saints Day at all, they use it to remember all Christians both past and present.  In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November, like we’re doing today. It is held, not only to recognize saints everywhere, but also to remember all those who have died who were members of their local church congregation.  In many congregations, a candle is lit as each person's name is called out. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are listed on a memorial plaque.  Here, we bring pictures of loved ones to display along with lighting candles to remember them. 
 
Our first reading from Isaiah 25 today actually describes a possible place and state of being, maybe heaven, for the saints to go after their physical passing.  “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.  And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.”   Our second reading from The Revelation of John also talks about this place for the saints.  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

With all this said about the saints who have passed on and their glorious place in heaven, Jim says he likes the idea of calling living Christians “saints” also, it gives him hope of being a saint for God.  Jim remembers a catchy Episcopal hymn from his youth in Bible School called, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.”  This three-verse hymn talks of saints of the past as everyday people we could have known in glowing terms, but the last verse is about saints of the present, possibly all of us here: 
“They lived not only in ages past,
There are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too.”
 
How can we respond tangibly to these wonderful saints who built up and represented the body of Christ everywhere, and especially in our church, those that we remember today?  One way is to think about our church, its community of saints, and the work for Christ that it does during the year, and ask for a commitment for its future work.  We live together in our Christian communities (we are not isolated believers!)—and through worship, prayer, study, and the support of other saints--we can witness and minister to those who need our message of hope and love.
 
As God’s present saints, we are to be stewards of everything God has created.  From Psalm 24 today: “1The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”  We don’t own this world, but we are stewards of all God has created.  We are to regularly give an account of our lives, in terms of our love for God and our neighbors, and return to God part of the fruits from all God has given us.
 
Stewardship of all that God has provided for us takes many forms: our talents & time, our wealth (or treasure), and caring for the Earth, our families, friends, and communities around us, including our own church community.
 
As The Rt. Reverend Steven Charleston posted the other day as a comment about Hurricane Sandy, “It all begins with small numbers.  A few drops of precipitation, a little more wind, a slight rise in the sea level, a couple of degrees difference in the elevation of the moon.  Great forces are born in small numbers, in the increments of existence, the mathematics of our physical being.  And as with the natural, so the spiritual.  A tiny bit more kindness, a single hope, a small increase in giving, a few more prayers, another moment of patience.  Great souls are not instant in being, but being made up of instants. Life without and life within, lived in the small things that count.”  We sing a song at Camp Victory that includes the line, “many stones can form an arch, singly none, singly none”.  Steven is speaking of building upon small actions and with all our actions together through a lifetime and by our working together, we can accomplish great things, build up great souls.
 
Your shared collective giving is the major support for the mission of St. Mark. Together, giving members can accomplish many things.  The pledging of time, talent, and treasure provides the impetus by which the life of this church community can be planned, and the needs of the church and the members can be met.
 
“How much should you give?”  Only you can answer that.  Only you know how much God means to you.  Only you know of all your commitments in your life.  You are encouraged to give back to God the first, not the last, from all that God has entrusted to you. The Biblical minimum standard for giving is the tithe – or 10%.  Above that is considered offerings to God.  The tithe and special offerings are what Jim and I strive to do each year, since we first arrived in this area 36 years ago and began attending St. John’s in Kirkland.  Sometimes we have even been successful!   I’m not claiming it is easy; it is a real challenge, but it is what we can always strive for. 
 
Maybe consider a system of proportional giving – a percentage of your income or time.  However you want to define income – gross income, net income after taxes, net disposable income – or time – waking hours, non-work hours, and charitable time - is immaterial. The important thing is that you establish a level of giving that is helpful to you and your spiritual health and well-being, and meaningfully supports our church and community.
 
We see God at work all around us, and in our daily lives.  We are reminded again and again of all that God has done for us, and how, out of thankfulness to God, we can respond by giving back to God a portion of what God has given us. Consider how God has blessed you and how you want to return thanks to God for those blessings. Think of what God has entrusted to you. Think of what God means to you. Think of what St. Mark’s means to you.  And then prepare to give back to God through St. Mark’s the first fruits of your blessings by supporting Christ’s mission and ministry in and through this church.
 
We stand on big shoulders here in this building. So many poured their time, talent and treasure into this place. Without them this church building would not be here debt-free. We are blessed over and over by these great souls who passed this way before us. As we give of what we have let’s remember these saints of God.  Amen.



Jim at St. Benedict's, Lacey
Today is the convergence of multiple events in the Episcopal Church year.  We have the remembrance of those who loved and followed God and Christ before us-- family, friends, and neighbors--in the celebration of All Saints.   And we also have what our own Bishop Greg Rickel “fondly” calls the annual “Beg-a-Thon” time of the year—it’s pledge time for churches everywhere.  I’m going to talk about both these events.
 
Many Protestant churches refer to all Christians as saints, and if they observe All Saints Day at all, they use it to remember all Christians both past and present.  In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November, like we’re doing today. It is held, not only to recognize saints everywhere, but also to remember all those who have died who were members of their local church congregation.  In many congregations, a candle is lit as each person's name is called out. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are listed on a memorial plaque.  At my church, St. Mark’s in Montesano, we bring pictures of loved ones to display together along with lighting candles to visually remind us of those we remember. 
 
Our first reading from Isaiah 25 today actually describes a possible place and state of being, maybe heaven, for the saints to go after their physical passing.  “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.  And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.”   Our second reading from the Revelation of John also talks about this place for the saints.  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

With all this said about the saints who have passed on and their glorious place in heaven, I do like the idea of calling living Christians saints also, as it gives me hope of being a saint for God.  I remember a catchy Episcopal hymn from my youth growing up in the church and attending Summer Vacation Bible School called, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.”  This hymn was written in England in the late 1920s, but did not catch on there; instead it became very popular in the United States and first appeared in the 1940 Hymnal.  It is found now in our 1982 Hymnal, number 293.  This three verse hymn talks of saints of the past as everyday people we could have known in glowing terms, but the last verse is about saints of the present, possibly all of us here: 
 
“They lived not only in ages past,
There are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
Who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
For the saints of God are just folk like me,
And I mean to be one too.”
 
How can we respond tangibly to these wonderful saints who built up and represented the body of Christ everywhere, and especially in our church, those that we remember today?  One way is to think about our church, its community of saints, and the work for Christ that it does during the year, and ask for a commitment for its future work.  We live together in our Christian communities (we are not isolated believers!)—and through worship, prayer, study, and the support of other saints--we can witness and administer to those who need our message of hope and love.
 
As God’s present saints, we are to be stewards of everything God has created.  From Psalm 24 today: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”  We don’t own this world, but we are stewards of all God has created.  We are to regularly give an account of our lives, in terms of our love for God and our neighbors, and return to God part of the fruits from all that God has given us.
 
Stewardship of all that God has provided for us takes many forms: our talents & time, our wealth (or treasure), and caring for our families, friends, and communities around us, including our own church community.   And there is also the stewardship of God’s creation around us.
Your campaign this year, "Stories of Creation in a Season of Gratitude”, is represented by the beautiful 7 window stained glass series that is the 7 days of creation, and reminds us of the our responsibility as stewards of all God has given us.  Today we reflect on Day 6: the creation of animals and humans-- AND our responsibility to care for each other and all creation.
Coming up on 10 years at St. Mark’s, we have a Bless Your Pets Sunday service in early October for our local community—anyone can come and bring their pets.  It is our best attended service every year, so we can tell how important pets are to us in our community.  We remember St. Francis and what he did and stood for as a steward of all animals.  We also bless each pet in our worship space with their human companions, celebrate and remember animals for all they do for humans, and pray for compassion for all animals.  And, we collect a special offering which is given to our local PAWS agency and to a program called Freedom Tails (a dogs training ministry for inmates in the local prison). 
 
My wife Bonnie, an Episcopal priest who was ordained on All Saints Day in 2008, recently traveled to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, where the 1st annual blessing of the zoo animals took place.  She said several other priests and many other  zoo visitors took part in this event over 2½ hours, and it gave them a full sense of how these animals are truly our responsibility, to be cared for and treated well for all to see and to learn about.
 
Your shared collective giving is the major support for the mission of St. Benedict’s community.  Together, giving members can accomplish many things.  The pledging of time, talent, and treasure provides the impetus by which the life of this church community can be planned, and the needs of the church and the members can be met.
 
“How much should you give?”  Only you can answer that.  It says in Luke 12: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Only you know how much God means to you.  Only you know how your life and your Godly gifts are being committed.  You are encouraged to give back to God the first, not the last, from all that God has entrusted to you. 
 
The Biblical minimum standard for giving is the tithe – or 10%.  Above that is considered offerings to God.  The tithe and special offerings are what Bonnie and I strive to do each year, since we first arrived in this area 36 years ago and began attending St. John’s in Kirkland.  Sometimes we have even been successful!   I’m not claiming it is easy; it is a real challenge, but it is what we can always strive for.  Maybe consider a system of proportional giving – a percentage of your income or time that increases each year.  However you want to define income – gross income, net income after taxes, net disposable income – or time – waking hours, non-work hours, charitable time - is immaterial. The important thing is that you establish a level of giving that is helpful to you and your spiritual health and well-being, and meaningfully supports your church and community.
 
We see God at work all around us, and in our daily lives.  We are reminded again and again of all that God has done for us, and how, out of thankfulness to God, we can respond by giving back to God a portion of what God has given us. Consider how God has blessed you and how you want to return thanks to God for those blessings. Think of what God has entrusted to you. Think of what God means to you. Think of what St. Benedict’s means to you.  And then prepare to give back to God through St. Benedict’s the first fruits of your blessings by supporting Christ’s mission and ministry in and through this church.
 
You stand on big shoulders here in this building.  So many have poured their time, talent and treasure into this place.  Without them this church building and community of believers would not be here.  You are blessed over and over by these great souls who passed this way before you.   As you give of what you have received let’s remember these saints of God.   Amen.



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