On this All Saints Day I am posting a sermon I preached in 2014 at St. James Hendersonville, NC
All Saints Day
Who are the people who saved your life? When you think of the turns your life has taken,the times when you could have gone one way or another, Who helped you find your way?
Let me ask this in another way. When you think of situations that you don’t think you can handl; When you need to ask for help, what faces come to your mind? When you think about men and women you admire--Who is that?
Because whoever these people are—they are your saints. Too often we are too smart for our good. We think of Saints as kind of mythic figures. Men and women who lived a long time ago.---And lived legendary lives.
We think Saints are people in stained glass windows who lived a long time ago. We think they are saints because of miraculous deeds in their lives That make them so different from us.
Part of us buys into the Roman Catholic requirement that to be a saint You have to document that two miracles are attributed to you. Because that requirement keeps sainthood away from us.
Let us remember that our common calling is to be saints. Sainthood is not about stigmatas---or visions---or levitating- or making the sun stand still---Or miraculous healings---It’s about being so connected to the love of God in Jesus Christhat this love radiates out from you in your life---as the poet says—“like shook foil”
Saints are God lovers. St. Ireaneus said “The glory of God is the human being fully alive” And that’s who saints are----men and women fully alive because they are connected to the source of life.
The great Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel said: "Eternity is not perpetual future but perpetual presence. God has planted in us the seed of eternal life. The world to come is not only a hereafter but also a herenow."
You see, there are two states of being----non life and eternal life.
Every experience-every act-every moment fits into one of these two states-
Non life is the life we live apart from God and God's will for us--
Non life is false life---the life of distraction--the life of anxiety---the life of sin
When we are immersed in non life, we forget who we are as a result, we feel alone---we hunger for communion.
The non life is the life apart from grace----a life in a world where nothing comes easily or freely but we must earn everything we receive and prove moment after moment that we have some worth. In that non life place, we feel cut off from all the living---we feel unconnected
In that non life place, we'll do anything to jolt us into feeling something--anything
Music---films---videos---shopping---alcohol---anything-and that’s where so much of our society lives---
But---there is another place----a place called eternal life. And it’s where we are connected---to the source and therefore to all that has come before us. All the way to heaven is heaven.
The saints are a roadway to heaven for us---this is why. Once when I was a young priest, I was greeting people after Church A young boy yanked on my alb and said in a loud voice: Why do we pray for the dead?---
I couldn’t remember anything from seminary—so I said the first thing I thought of “Because they are not dead—they are alive.” And they are---we celebrate All Saints’ Day because the dead aren’t dead. They live us and beckon us to live for the glory of God by being fully alive.
And they comfort us when we are downcast—or in despair. They intercede for us—and beckon us to be fully alive. This is true on many levels We have their lives as a road map for us to modify for our times but still to follow. So much of my sense of principle and trying to do what is right comes from my Father. His commitment to being honest and fair beckons me to do the same. When I have a hard decision to make, I sense him urging me to do what is right instead of easy. I hear his voice in my head asking “What’s the right thing to do?”
The truth is all love is eternal. The people who love you and have gone onto greater glory still love you. And that love makes them saints for you. The miracles we celebrate are not about levitating or stigmatas or visions
The miracle is that love never dies---we remember the saints in our life and are remembered to them.
We are not Christians as merely as historians. We are here to be commissioned. We don’t copy the saints---we let them inspire us to offer our lives for God.We honor them by living our lives for God’s glory. By making a difference where we are.
Thomas Jefferson said: The way we are going to change the world is by our example To be inspired by our saints to make a difference here. So that sometime in the future---on some All Saints Day someone will remember us.
As the hymn reminds us:
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.