Sermon, Nov. 4, 2018
“The Saints Give Us Security”
As many of our saints that have brought us to the faith are now passed on to their glory; I realize the sorrow at this moment that may be in your heart. Death, of course, is inevitable, and its pain, its loss, its cause for anger is all true and real. And the hard part about death is that we are in the business of tending its consequences; i.e., how our life has changed, without, I suspect, taking enough time for our personal sadness and grief. Death has many small deaths within it; like the loss of a phone call, the loss of a hand to help us; the loss of a shoulder to cry on. The mini deaths go on…
We live in, exist in, this constant state of in-betweenness, don’t we? The certainness of death and the grieving process and how to live the most of life here and now, how to give witness to the promise of the resurrection without it dismissing the reality of death in our midst here and now. Believing that loving our neighbors is never for the sake of eternal life after death, but always because it is a means by which death itself is overcome here and now…
“Love your neighbor as yourself” is a fitting testimony for All Saints Sunday. According to Jesus, a mark of discipleship is this very act — loving your God, your neighbor as yourself. While All Saints Sunday reminds us of and remembers those who have died, it is also a call to present day saintly behavior. I make no claims to be a saint. But I think we come pretty-close when we act out this commandment. So that those who observe how we choose to live and be in the world will catch a glimpse of the sanctity of God’s love, the holiness of God, and that a life of sainthood does not mean perfection or having your own feast day. There can be another way of being in the world besides self-service, self-aggrandizement, autonomy, and narcissism. And yet there is hope when communities come together to help a child dying with cancer or a family burned out of their home.
When loving your neighbor becomes the first way to be in the world, the primary lens through which to view the world, the choice that you consciously make to live your life in your world, that is a radically different way to be than what our world of love self only adheres too on the most part.
Loving your neighbor is a saintly activity. The choice to love the neighbor does indeed set us apart from those who know only what it means to love their own selves and stop there. Others will know what sainthood looks like, not because we are better or holier than thou, but because we have been called to see outside of ourselves for the sake of seeing the world as God does; ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ — means your neighbor is as worthy of love as we are.
This passage from Mark, this Sunday, as we celebrate All Saints Sunday invites us to get outside of ourselves to sense what it feels like, what it means, to love the neighbor. This is our security that our loving saints have given us; this is church…
Naomi and Ruth’s story is especially refreshing because it is a story of love between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law. This love brought Ruth to her new Hebrew religion. Theirs is not a story of struggle and power over another like Hagar and Sarah; Rachel and Leah; Miriam and her sister-in-law. Their story is about loving your neighbour despite differences in age, nationality, and religion. A loving relationship that stands the test of time. It is the persistent love of Ruth for Naomi that helped heal her grieving for her lost husband and sons and the inability to bear another child. Naomi sees new reasons to live because of Ruth’s gleaning the fields for food and other responsibilities of care for her.
What do you remember of the events that first brought you to church and into a family of faith? Take a moment this week and reflect upon your faith journey. My sister Ruth Ann who died last September 20, first took me to Sunday School and taught me that there is a world outside my family of origin. At three, I didn’t understand the impact that our faith would have on me. Throughout my life the yearning of belonging to God and becoming a member of the United Church and being a servant for God has never left me. I would love to hear your story and listen to your faith journey. My sister and I and our relationship is a love story that held us up through many traumas in our life. She was always there for me and I, for her. Grieving is, in itself a journey where we too need the care of someone who will guide us to healing.
To care passionately about the quality of another person’s life, to respect each other’s choices, and to allow for each other’s differences: these are the lessons embedded in the Book of Ruth. These are the gifts that our saints have taught the church from which we have security today.
“Christians who celebrate All Saints’ Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven and the living.”
We know that our neighbour is actively mourning and needs your comfort and a word of hope. Maybe someone needs a call to action to those who are looking for new meaning in the midst of the death-dealing force. “See, I am making all things new,” says the one on the throne in Revelation. This statement contains comfort to those learning to live without a loved one, to those seeking a new job and means of livelihood, to those seeking new relationships after abuse, to those seeking new meaning in the midst of despair and depression. All of us in the faith community are the saints of God. Those saints we have known who are deceased inspire us as we remember them for they too faced the death-dealing forces of culture in their lives. One does not become a saint by being mild-mannered and timid. Through the lives of all saints, living and in heaven, there runs a strong thread of hope in God’s assurance of radical and complete transformation in the love and justice of God.
Let us take a moment and reflect upon the saints in our lives…..