Benediction Online

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sermon for:     All Saints Day [Nov 2, 2008]

Season:           St. Benedict’s, Los Osos, CA



From the Letter to the Church at Ephesus:


            "Now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He is our Peace..In His flesh He has made (all) into one...reconciling (all) to God, in one Body, through the cross. So then, you are no longer strangers or aliens, but you are citizens with the saints, and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. In Him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in Whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God."


Every year we give ourselves a party, a party that includes us, all who have gone before, and all who will follow us. Our celebration of the Feast of All Saints is a rejoicing that you and I are fellow citizens with all those who have walked the Gospel path before us  -  from Stephen the Deacon to the last who passed on among us. We claim our place in the Communion of Saints  -  not with a bunch of perfect goody, goodies, but with a bunch of fallible human beings who opened their hearts to the transforming power of God’s grace.


            Being disciples of Jesus is not easy! Nor, despite the somewhat sanitized picture we tend to have of the great saints and their great deeds, was it easy for them. They, like us, were human, and we all share propensities both for Good and for evil. Polycarp and Benedict and Thomas Gallaudet and Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King were flawed human beings, capable of great courage and love as well as human weakness. We are no different. In our humanness, we can speak carelessly, act thoughtlessly; we can judge each other harshly or in ignorance; we can disappoint each other. It is all too easy for us to forget why God has brought us together. Yet each one of us, by virtue of our baptism, has been drawn here to come into an intimate relationship with our God. As promised, Christ’s yoke is easy, and His burden light.


We Present-Day "Saints" – the Mormons don’t have a patent on the name -  seek to live according to a vision, because we know that "without vision, the people perish". What is that vision? It is this:


·         that we are deeply, deeply beloved.

·         that the God Who makes us whole and free has made our flesh Her home.  

·         that in listening to Jesus, His teachings, His values, and by letting go of false priorities, we will find joy and fierce energy and freedom for the living of our lives, by loving Self and others as God loves us.

·         that in service to others we will find our true Selves, and true greatness. Jesus said, "those who seek their lives will lose them, but those who give their lives for My sake and the Gospel will find them".

·         that by Truth-seeking and repentance, we will by Grace live our humanity in a Christ-like way.


The Beatitudes are always the Gospel reading for this Feast. They hold the heart of what, in the end, makes any of us a member of the Communion of Saints. On this All Saints Day, let’s take a few moments to meditate on them (the text is from The Message, by Dr. Eugene Peterson’s)


·         "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and God’s rule.

·         "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

·         "You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

·         "You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.

·         "You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.

·         "You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

·         "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

·         "You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. {I had an experience of this on Tuesday


Do you know the song Earthen Vessels? [ Behold a treasure / not made of gold / in earthern vessels, wealth untold / One treasure only / the Lord, the Christ / in earthen vessels ] The Beatitudes are a basic map for finding the treasure “not made of gold” which we hold in earthen vessels. They are the path to wholeness and authentic humanity. We are earthen vessels filled with the compassion, justice, mercy, and peace which defines the Holy One, and defines us as Christ-filled beings. Rightly, the First Letter of John says: “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! … we're called children of God! That's who we really are” …..  What our baptism calls us to become more deeply every day.


The Beatitudes are the path to sainthood that so many have sought to walk. As Ecclesiasticus (44) reminds us, some were great and famous; of some there is no memory. Today we honour them, give thanks for them, especially those living and dead who have inspired us. We count ourselves among them as we stream towards the throne of God, made worthy to stand before God, scrubbed clean by the blood of the Lamb.


Our psalm [34] for today best expresses both our goal and our hope:


I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise. 2 I live and breathe God  4 God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears. 5 Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him.8 Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see— how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him. 9 Worship God if you want the best; worship opens doors to all [God’s] goodness.


As the hymn says (293): For the saints of God are just folk like me / And I mean to be one too.




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