Sermon :: November 6, 2016
20Then [Jesus] looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25“Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
I’ve always kind of thought of All Saints’ Day as a sort of Valentine’s Day for the church. Once a year, every year, we, as the Church, gather to remember. We remember the saints who have gone before, the people who have died and rest in God’s unfailing love, and remain a part of us in our memories and in the cloud of witnesses that make up the Church. But, like Valentine’s Day, this isn’t something we reserve for just one day per year. Imagine telling your family and friends that you love them just one time each year and keeping it to yourself the rest of the year. That would be ridiculous. Now, imagine remembering, honoring, grieving, and celebrating those who have died only once a year. That’s ridiculous, too.
Why? Because, as we live, the relationships we build, the love we exchange, and the experiences we share together become a part of who we are. The memories, the little mannerisms, like little trinkets left behind, are constant reminders of the memories we carry with us. When those whom we have loved and cared for die, we cannot separate ourselves from them. The love we have for them is stronger than death. We will remember them. There are times when we cannot stop remembering them. At first, our remembrance is bitter and sour – the remembrance is grieving. But, eventually, the memories take on a different flavor – the take on a sweetness and a richness that we often didn’t even experience in life. And remembering them reinforces that relationship.
So why celebrate All Saints’ Day when we already are doing so? Because we, as the Church, can get so caught up in what’s coming up next, in what is left to do, that we can easily forget to remember. When we speak of sisters and brothers in Christ, we can forget that the relationship forged in Christ’s death and resurrection isn’t just about those in this room with us. When we experience the water of baptism and the bread and wine of communion, we can forget that the “body of Christ, given for you” and the “blood of Christ, shed for you” is both personal and universal. It is about you, as an individual, and it is about a plural you (“the Y’all” if you’d rather) and that holy, heavenly Y’all is both past, present, and future. You are part of the Y’all that spans time, culture, and language because the love of Christ does.
What unites us with the saints is the fact that you are also saints. That may feel odd to say, because it’s often easier to see that we are sinner, too. But the reality is that you are both, at the same time, sinner and saint. And what makes you a saint is the generous love and grace of God. What makes them saints, the ones we remember today, and us saints is not that we’ve done everything right, is not that we got everything figured out, but the fact that we are made holy through the generous act of Christ’s redeeming, unending love. What unites the heavenly Y’all is generosity.
Now, in the present, we wait for the great gathering at the throne of God. But we don’t wait passively and we don’t wait alone. While we wait, we move, we live, and we show that the generous life of Christ can be experienced in the here-and-now. Out of a heart of love, Christ-centered love, Spirit-driven love, the everyday events of our lives because opportunities to show beautiful acts of generosity. Every relationship, every dollar, every minute, every skill and talent becomes a way to honor the memory of those whom we have received from – our friends, neighbors, family members, and (above all) our Savior.
As people and as the Church, we aren’t always great at recognizing the loss that we’ve all experienced in different ways throughout the years. There are days when the losses we’ve experienced can seem overwhelming and we just want to “get over it.” But I want to tell you, “getting over it” is nearly impossible. The people we remember and celebrate today are such a part of us that I’m not sure we can imagine our lives without them in it, regardless of how long that time was. Instead of “getting over it”, I propose we “get into it.” Let’s get into it. Let’s remember. Let’s tell stories. Let’s laugh and cry and laugh again. Let’s honor them. Let’s be generous in their memory.
In the midst of a stewardship campaign centered upon the idea of a generous life, we can face a few choices on how to move forward. But the choice that seems the most fitting is to use what we have, use our selves, our money, our skills, our possessions, and our memories to live, to give, to be generous to the world around us. Through love, we are faced with the question of, “What can I do with what I have in the time that I have here?” We don’t ask the question out of self-interest or self-congratulations, but of self-giving. We ask the question because, as we remember those who have died, we see the trail of generosity that has lead us here and we so we live lives of generosity. We pick up where they left off and we are united with them forever.
In the midst of living, let us remember that the people we have known and loved are just as much a part of us now as they’ve ever been. We share a common humanity, a common gift, the gift of grace and salvation through Christ. Through God’s love, we’ve been created. Through Christ’s love, we’ve been sustained. Through the Spirit’s love, we’ve been united. You, you yourself, are not alone. You are part of the Y’all and you are a part of each other forever. Amen.