St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Sunday, November 5, 2017
All Saints’ Sunday + Year A
First Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17
Second Lesson: I John 3:1-3
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This past Wednesday evening, we had a beautiful service of Evensong here at St. Catherine’s to celebrate the Feast of All Saints. In case you’re unfamiliar with what Evensong is, it’s basically our liturgy for Evening Prayer set to music. At the end of our service, we said special prayers for all of the saints- for patriarchs, martyrs, and apostles and for men and women in every generation of the Church, both known and unknown to us, who have dedicated their lives to serving God and God’s people. We also spent some time remembering those “everyday saints” in our lives- for friends, family members, and loved ones who have died but continue to inspire us and encourage us through their dedication and commitment to the Gospel. I couldn’t help but think of our dear brother, Charlie Boone, who passed into the nearer presence of God earlier this year.
All Saints’ Day, which can also be celebrated on the following Sunday, provides us with an opportunity to remember and give thanks for those who have come before us, but it also provides us with an opportunity to contemplate how we might pattern our lives to continue their legacy so that we might also be counted among the saints in light.
All Saints’ Day, or All Saints’ Sunday, is one of four days in the liturgical year that our Church recognizes as especially appropriate for the administration of Holy Baptism, the sacrament of new life. Through the waters of Baptism, we accept our Lord’s invitation to share in his death and resurrection, and in just a few moments [this morning at the 10:30 service], we’ll welcome two new members into the Body of Christ – Addison Elizabeth Taylor and her brother, Brodie Alan Taylor. Together, with their parents and godparents, we’ll renew our own baptismal vows and recommit ourselves to the work of building up God’s Kingdom. Together, we’ll welcome Addison and Brodie 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.
One of the ways that we’ll help them grow is by teaching them and forming them as disciples of Jesus, which won’t always be easy. What Addison and Brodie will eventually come to learn, what we all eventually come to learn at one point or another, is that following the way of Jesus is hard. It requires a level of commitment that rarely seems worthwhile and a willingness to give up one’s life in order to gain the abundant life that God has prepared for us. The way of Jesus teaches us that the world is broken and that God’s greatest desire is peace and reconciliation. The way of Jesus compels us to reconsider what we think we know about the kingdom of God and to whom the kingdom of God truly belongs. One of the most profound ways that Jesus illustrates this is in our Gospel lesson for today from the Sermon on the Mount, which begins with several statements, indicating what it means to truly be blessed.
Jesus says to the crowd on the mountaintop:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The Beatitudes of Jesus teach us that our wisdom is foolishness compared with God’s wisdom. To be blessed, according to Jesus, is to not only endure hardship and suffering for the sake of others but to turn away from what the world would have us believe about what it means to be blessed. The world would have us believe that being blessed comes from earthly things like the accumulation of wealth and power, things that might make us happy on the outside for a period of time but leave us dead and empty on the inside. Jesus, on the other hand, teaches us that our true joy can only be found in heaven, and it’s our responsibility, as the the hands and feet of Christ in the world, to help bring about heaven on earth.
My friends, this is a difficult and narrow path to follow, but the life of the Christian has never been one of comfort or complacency. Just look at the lives of all the saints who have come before us. Yes, they committed their lives to proclaiming the Gospel by word and deed, but they did so at a great cost. The same will be true for Addison and Brodie and for future generations who commit their lives to Christ through the sacrament of Baptism. As they grow older, they may be looked at with suspicion or even ridiculed because of their faith. They may face great temptations as they try to find their way through the twists and turns of life. They may also be tempted at times to turn away from God and the Church, but one thing is certain. No matter where they feel called to go or what they feel called to do in his life, nothing will be able separate them from the love of God. No matter how lost the may feel, nothing will be able separate them from the love of God. No matter how many times they fall short of God’s call, nothing will be able separate them from the love of God. On this day, Addison and Brodie will be sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. As we prepare to welcome them as the newest members of the Body of Christ, let us reaffirm our own faith and remember the vows that we once made before God. Let us join with that great cloud of witnesses who have come before and continue the race that has been set before us. Amen.