A Sermon for the Sunday after All Saints’ Day

The Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest
Abilene, Texas
Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Sunday after All Saint’s Day + Year C
First Lesson: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149
Second Lesson: Ephesians 1:11-23
Gospel: Luke 6:20-31

✠ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

hamiltonFor a little over a year now, the world of musical theater has been shaken up and given new life by what some people are calling one of the greatest musicals ever written. Of course, I’m talking about the Tony Award-winning musical, Hamilton, written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the musical, Hamilton chronicles the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of our country, the first Secretary of the Treasury, and the creator of our banking system. The narrative begins with Hamilton’s arrival in the British colonies only a few years before the start of the Revolutionary War and spans his entire life, culminating in that famous duel between himself and Aaron Burr.

Now, I haven’t seen the show. Relatively speaking, not many people have. It’s very hard to get tickets, and the show has only played so far in New York City and Chicago. But, if you listen to the cast recording of Hamilton, you’ll quickly notice that it’s very unique and unlike any other musical that you might have heard. The story is told not only through dialogue but also through a stylistic combination of hip-hop and rap and various other styles of music, making it accessible and entertaining to a wide variety of people.

But, for me, what makes Hamilton even more compelling than the music is one of its most central themes – a theme that can certainly be found in the Gospels as well: we all live; we all die; and our legacy continues through the people that we know and love, the people who will carry us with them in their hearts long after we’re gone. The final number of the show perfectly captures this idea that we continue to “live on” through those who come after us. You see, the finale of Hamilton isn’t told from the perspective of the main character but through his wife, Eliza, who shares with the audience all of the many things that she’s able to accomplish in her life after the death of her husband. She keeps his memory alive by sharing his story with future generations and by continuing to do important work in her own life. In the final moment of the show, the company sings the refrain, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” provoking the audience to ponder this question as they leave the theater.

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

It seems rather appropriate for us to consider this question on this Sunday after the Feast of All Saints as we commemorate the lives of those who have come before us in every generation of the Church and contemplate how we might pattern our lives to continue their legacy, a legacy built upon the foundation of countless saints who have committed their lives to following Jesus. All Saints’ Day is not an opportunity for us to dwell upon our shortcomings or imperfections; none of us are perfect. But, it is an opportunity for us to remember the lives of those “everyday saints,” average people who have worked hard to lead good and faithful lives worthy of the Gospel. If you look around at the memorial banners hanging on the walls of the church this morning, you’ll see examples of people like this, people like you and me, each one a sinner and a saint. Each one a beloved child of God.

They have important stories to tell us – stories about falling short and struggling to remain faithful, stories about sacrifice and self-giving. As members of the Body of Christ, their stories and the stories of all the saints who have come before continue on through us.

We also have important stories to tell, stories that will surely be told long after our time on earth has come to an end. Our lives are unique to us as individuals because of the stories that we have to tell, and yet, as Christians, we are also part of a single, ongoing narrative, one that began long ago and one that will continue for generations to come. When we commit our selves to Christ through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we add our own, individual stories to that ongoing narrative as if we were to insert our own chapter into a book that was already being written. Even though we all lead different lives, we are joined together by that central story – the story of Jesus, the one who lived and died and rose again, the one who calls us to share in his death and resurrection through the sacrament of new birth.

In our lesson today from the letter to the Ephesians, the author writes, “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” Although this letter was written to some of the first followers of Jesus, it is still relevant for the Church today.

“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance…” Or, to put it another way, in Christ, we have been called upon to take our place among the saints, to enter into the household of God, to receive God’s gifts of grace and mercy, and to share those gifts with the world. I think this is an important point to make because when we consider the word “inheritance,” we tend to think about those types of things that are passed down to us from members of our family, material things that really only benefit us, such as money or property. In other words, it’s easy for us to consider an inheritance as something that we have received because of good fortune.

But, as Christians, we are given a different type of inheritance, an inheritance that isn’t really for our own benefit but for those whom we are called upon to serve. Our inheritance is to work for the building up of God’s Kingdom on earth, to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ, and to work for justice and peace. That is our inheritance. That is the legacy of the saints, a legacy with which all of us have been entrusted.

All Saints’ Day, or the Sunday after All Saints’ Day, is one of four days in the liturgical year that our Church recognizes as especially appropriate for the administration of Holy Baptism, and this morning [at the 10:30 service], we will welcome two new members into the Body of Christ – Elizabeth Musselman and Charlotte Remy. Together, with their parents and godparents, we will renew our own baptismal vows and recommit ourselves to the work of building up God’s Kingdom. We will welcome Elizabeth and Charlotte as the newest members of the household of God and vow to lift them up and support them as they continue to grow in their journeys of faith.

The story of their lives will become part of our story. The inheritance that we have been given will be passed down to them, and through it all, we will have the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit, leading us and guiding us along the way. Amen.

Click here to hear an audio recording of the sermon.

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