11/6/2016 All Saints’ Sunday The text is Ephesians 1:11-23.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This past week was one of those weeks that puts everything into perspective. The week before ended with what was a major irritation to me, so Sunday began with me being on edge. It didn’t take long before that edge was worn away as I received a phone call asking me to come to the hospital to give last rites to Dick and Jean’s son, Bob. I didn’t really know Bob, other than seeing him when he would help Dick set up and then take down the fountain in the courtyard that is there as a remembrance of their first son, Skipper, but that didn’t matter. Of course, I would go. That’s the least I could do.
With this call, my major irritation quickly paled as all I could think of was the reality of what was happening. No parent should have to bury a child, and now Dick and Jean were in the position of having to stand by and watch their second son die. Ouch!
If that were all that happened on Sunday, that would have been enough for me to realize that all life is precious, that our time on earth is limited and that the last thing I would want on my mind when life closes is a minor irritation. But, as luck would have it, it was only the beginning of the day. By evening, I received a second call. This call came from a member of the congregation. She was calling to let me know that another member of the congregation had died unexpectedly and that the caller’s husband is the one who found him. Ouch!
By this point, I had a very different perspective on that major irritation with which I began the day. For, that irritation wasn’t major at all…it was nothing. It was foolishness when compared to the news I had received and the pain of grief experienced by others. And as if this were not enough to bring this home, by the end of the week, I had received two more phone calls from funeral directors.
Death has a way of changing our outlook. Feelings of loss can prevent us from moving beyond the present and can trap us in a never-ending cycle of regret, pain, and even guilt. But, this is not what today is all about. Today is All Saints Sunday and as we remember those who have died this past year, we trade in the sack cloth for the robes of celebration. For through Jesus Christ, we know deep down in the depths of our soul that those who have died in faith have new life in God’s kingdom. They have a new life where they are free from pain, free from struggle, free from the challenges of everyday life. They are free to feast at the Lord’s table and experience the fullness of peace.
It’s no wonder that today should be a day of smiles and not tears. It is a day to remember the promises made in our baptism and the joy that will be ours in the life to come. It is a day to remember our Lord’s sacrifice and to rejoice that we are made saints through him, not because we deserve it or desire it, but because God planned it that way.
Yes, death remains part of life here on earth. None of us escapes it. But through Christ Jesus, we are promised an inheritance that goes beyond the grave. We may live in an imperfect world. We may be imperfect people who are irritated by minor things and who make choices that can have severe consequences. But, through the cross of Jesus, God looks past our sin and in the light of the cross sees us as saints…people who are made whole and righteous.
As saints who remain sinners throughout our life time here on earth, we are not perfect people. Lord knows, I make a lot of mistakes and I’m sure you do too. Saints are not people who are perfect, but people who are made perfect through Christ. Saints are big people, small people, tall people, short people, young people, old people, dark-skinned people and people of little pigment. They are people like you and me, people of every generation chosen by God to receive the benefits of his heavenly kingdom. They are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit. They are given promises to sustain them in this world and an inheritance as children of God. They live out this inheritance as they live in faith, serve others, bear witness to Jesus and pray to and give praise to God.
The grandfather who insists that you go to church, the grandmother who brings you to confirmation classes, the aunt who gets you involved in coffee hour, the friend who offers you a ride, the teacher who listens to you, the son who helps you set up and take down a fountain of remembrance, the neighbor who keeps you in his prayers, the parent who bring you to the font to receive the sacrament of holy baptism – these are the saints of this generation. They may not be perfect people, but they are people made perfect in Christ. They share an inheritance with the saints of old and those of every generation who have trusted in the Lord.
There is no risk when it comes to this inheritance. The writer of Ephesians assures us that we have already received it, and it’s worth a billion times more than anything that may be promised to us through others. Through the death of the Son of God salvation comes to us. We are formed into a unified community of God’s people living under the power of the Holy Spirit. We may not always display unity in this community. Sometimes we can be irritated and contentious and argue over little things. And yet, in spite of our failures and imperfections, God has chosen us by his grace and mercy to be part of his kingdom.
My friends, saints are not perfect people. They are people who make mistakes and bear the consequences of their choices. And, yet, they are people who are blessed by God and made perfect through Christ. They are beloved, chosen and gifted.
So, today, in spite of the pain of grief and feeling of loss, we can rejoice in knowing that our loved ones are safe in God’s care. God keeps promises and God invites us to rejoice in the blessings he gives – both now and forever. Amen.
And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.