All Saints Sunday
Isaiah 25:6-9, Psalm 24, Hebrews 11:1-16; 12:1-3, Mark 6:1-5
6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the covering that is spread over all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “See, this is our God; we have waited for him so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Hebrews 11:1-16; 12:1-3
11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
The Examples of Abel, Enoch, and Noah
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable[e] sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death, and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would approach God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this, he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.
The Faith of Abraham
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith, with Sarah’s involvement, he received the power of procreation, even though he was too old because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance, they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had the opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better homeland, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls or lose heart.
6 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown and among their own kin and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.
Singing With the Saints of Glory
As we consider the saints who have gone before us, those who are among us, and those yet to be, let us take a moment to thank God.
24 And let us consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds. 25 Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.
For all the saints! And so the Epistle to the Hebrews urges us: “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).”
Let’s start at the very beginning! We are not expected to take on the task of living in faith on our own. The Bible provides us with the opportunity to see and remember the amazing stories of faith and persistence: Abraham, Noah, and Abel. In the story in Deuteronomy 26:5 when a “wandering Aramean (Jacob) was my ancestor”, God reached out to redeem us and call us each by name.
So many stories become our own: David, Danial, Deborah, and Jonah in the Old Testament. Mary and Martha, the disciples, and the countless others who were healed bring us hope as we face our struggles.
Our stories are as unique as ourselves. Today we are considering those who have helped our stories come to life. Take another moment to consider those who have been part of your journey.
Our Gospel lesson, where we read that even Jesus was challenged when he returned home: 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” Sometimes those who should know us the best, know us the least. Who are the Saints among us?
Fr Billy Swan: Our communion and friendship with the saints mean even more than their past and our present for it has the power to shape the future. When we meditate on their lives from the past and enjoy their company in the present, we are also inspired by them to imagine a Christianity of tomorrow whose fertile soil will produce new saints for a new age. This sense of connectedness between past, present, and future is all the more important and yet difficult in modern times with such diversity in culture and the rapid rate at which that culture changes.
Everything today moves at a record pace which makes it so hard for us to keep up. The connections between the past, present, and future allow us to learn how to live a holy life. The saints of the past teach us about our roots and the need to maintain those roots as we move into the future. Only those with strong roots can survive the trial and tribulations of modern life. Our beliefs, liturgy, sacraments, and traditions are rooted in the generations of our past.
This morning we learn how we who are set apart by God are saints. Perhaps this notion makes you laugh: We think this couldn’t be me: I’m a mess! I’m not worthy! Or maybe it scares us: What is God asking us to do? What do I have to give up to follow Jesus? Or perhaps it makes us cry because we know our failures, our lack of faith, our lack of trust. Who is looking to you to be their saint to show them the way?
The whole purpose of our lives is to be united with God in love and to correspond entirely to God’s wishes. Holiness is about allowing God to live his life within us. This is what it means to be holy. To be a saint is to be holy. Can we accept this?
The saints among us help us discover God within our hearts. I pray that your heart is warmed when you consider those who have shared their lives and the love of Christ with you. Saints are people of great love. We have beautiful examples of unconditional love so that we may learn and long to love one another as Christ has loved us.
The saints, past and present, inspire us to see the possibilities as we boldly share the Word. In good times and bad, saints have led the charge for God’s renewal in this world. We are called to remember their commitment and their undying fervor to uplift those in need. We look back and we look within for the saints through whom God is magnified.
The Good News: We are one body, now and forever. We are people saturated in the love and communion of the Trinity; we are a people whose faith speaks to human hearts. The saints within us are a people on fire with love for God and their neighbor; we are a people whose love moves us to imagine a future that has already begun in the past and is being nurtured in the present. In this way, the communion of saints will continue to enrich the one Church where all share in the love of Christ in a wonderful mystery that spans the past, present, and future.
In our Sunday Book Club, we are reading Frederick Buechner’s Secrets in the Dark. When I was reading to prepare for last Sunday’s study, I stopped and reread this powerful paragraph. “Children that we are, even you and I, who have given up so little, know in our hearts not only that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but that it is also more fun–the kind of holy fun that wells up like tears in the eyes of saints, the kind of blessed fun in which we lose ourselves and at the same time begin to find ourselves, to grow up into the selves we were created to become.”
Through the saints of the past, we first learn of the love of God and discover the light of Christ. Transcending the time and space of God’s world, we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, “the selves we were created to become”. Rejoice! God calls us by name! Remember when Mary was crying because Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb? Jesus called, “Mary!” In that instant, time stopped: all her fears were gone, and her tears stopped.
Who are we? How did we get here? Who will we become?
God’s mysterious ways surround us, permeate us, and connect us – Jesus is calling:
A Prayer Meditation for All Saints Day
We give you thanks, O God, for all the saints who ever worshiped you
Whether in brush arbors or cathedrals,
Weathered wooden churches or crumbling cement meeting houses
Where your name was lifted and adored.
We give you thanks, O God, for hands lifted in praise:
Manicured hands and hands stained with grease or soil,
Strong hands and those gnarled with age
Used as wave offerings across the land.
We thank you, God, for hardworking saints;
Whether hard-hatted or steel-booted,
Head ragged or aproned,
Blue-collared or three-piece-suited
They left their mark on the earth for you, for us, and for our children to come.
Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices made by those who have gone before us.
Bless the memories of your saints, God.
May we learn how to walk wisely from their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love.