Pastor Michael Frye:
As I believe you are aware, All Saints Day follows on the heels of All Hallow’s Eve, which was a time of confession and preparation to celebrate all the saints
of the Church.
No matter how hard some of the television evangelists try to tie All Hallows Eve to devil worship, history paints a different picture.
On the evening before November 1, All Saints Day, Christians in Europe (who were quite superstitious) went through their homes and throughout their neighborhood beating pots and pans and wearing scary masks in order to frighten away any evil spirits that might be lurking about in order to maintain the purity of the celebration of All Saints.
The next day they would celebrate a mass and sing praises to God in commemoration of all the saints of the church who had been martyred for their faith or who had died and joined their Lord in the Church Triumphant.
In our own Christian tradition, we celebrate and commemorate all of God’s Saints on the Sunday closest to the first of November.
All Saints Sunday is a wonderfully mysterious day, bringing together past, present, and future.
Nancy Winder observes that “On All Saints Sunday we remember those who have died and the hope of our future life with Christ.”
All Saints Sunday is about living in the here and now, in the proclamation that Christ is Risen, and to do so with all the baptized of every time and place.
You are quite familiar with our All Saints Day Gospel today: the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Although many people consider the Beatitudes to be dealing with something to hope for in the future, Brent Driggers points out that they actually speak to our present reality: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
They also assure us that those who are presently mourning will be comforted, and the meek will have the earth as their inheritance.
In the same way, those show mercy shall receive mercy…
These promises are being made on our behalf, as well as having been made on behalf of the saints who heard those words for the first time on the mountain.
We can stand on those promises with the assurance that Christ’s words convey God’s covenant with us throughout the ages.
In Isaac Watts’ hymn, “Come, we that love the Lord”, are these assuring words in the third verse: “The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets before we reach the heavenly fields, before we reach the heavenly fields, or walk the golden streets, or walk the golden streets.”
This promise is our shared reality with all the saints of God in every time and place.
Even as we Twenty-first century Christians are focused on our own narrow universe, we must not lose sight of our being part of a much larger cloud of witnesses, many of whom have been instrumental in shaping our own faith stories and guiding us spiritually through life.
Of course, there is a time for mourning when someone we have loved dearly has gone to be with God in the Church Triumphant, but we can confidently say that the hope of our faith is that resurrection to eternal life fulfills all the promises made in the seventh chapter of the Revelation to John: “there shall be no more hunger or thirst, no scorching heat; only springs of living water and every tear wiped from their eyes.”
In 1 John, chapter 3, we are reminded of that gift from God that we received at our baptisms: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called Children of God… Beloved, we are God’s children now.”
Not we shall be; not on the day of judgement; not in some future time and place – we are God’s children in this time and in this place, and we are inexorably linked with those that you see depicted around our Lord over the altar, as well as with grandparents and parents, husbands and wives, aunts and uncles, cousins and acquaintances.
As Nancy Winder says: “Proclaiming the love of God in the lives of everyone, in all who have been named children of God, is part of the great and wonderful mystery of the festival of All Saints.”
Looking back at the Beatitudes for a moment, they describe a community of the meek that comforts the mournful, longs for and shares in righteousness, extends mercy, makes peace, and endures persecution for the sake of the Lord.
Brent Driggers says that in this brief passage, Jesus brings heaven to earth, carving out a community that further extends God’s love into the world:
“The community of saints proceeds from, and lives into, the blessings of its Lord.”
If I were to ask you face to face whether or not you believe you are one of God’s saints, what would be your response?
I have heard everything from “I certainly hope so” to “maybe” to “Can anyone ever really be good enough to be a saint?”
Not a lot of people have seemed to feel comfortable answering that question in the affirmative.
I believe that has to do with our misconception of what it means to be a saint.
A saint, purely and simply, is one who believes in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
There are no “perfect saints” in this scenario. Luther’s concept that we are at the same time “saint and sinner” reminds us that we may often fall short of our desire to be the perfect Christians.
But God’s infinite grace and mercy is extended to us in spite of our faults and failures.
As ones who have been baptized into the death and life of our Lord, we are reminded daily that God’s blanket of love and forgiveness covers us, as well as linking us with all of God’s saints past, present and future. We are blessed now to be a blessing to one another.
We are blessed now in order to join God’s great cloud of witnesses in praising God’s name and celebrating the new life we are offered through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God!