Feast of All Saints
2 November, 2014
Friends, today we celebrate the feast day of All Saints. This feast day dates back to the earliest days of the the fledgling church – thought it was not always celebrated on the first of November (or observed on the closest Sunday after the first). In the early days of the church, many remember the deaths of the martyrs on the days they were killed. These memorials would occur at the places of the deaths of the Martyrs, but during the purge of Christians by Roman Emperor Diocletian from 284-305, so many were slain that it would become impossible to commemorate every saint. It was decided that a common day to remember the martyrs should be established. It became that the first Sunday after Pentecost would become the feast day – and in the Eastern Church that is still the day.
In the west it moved to May 13 when Pope Boniface in 609 or 610 consecrated the Pantheon (the house of the gods of the empire) – he turned it into a church in memory of St. Mary and all the martyrs. It remained on May 13 until Pope Gregory III moved it to November 1 when he moved many of the relics of the vatican into a single place and dedicated it to the memory “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.” It has been on this date for the last 1,300 years.
There are probably some of you here today asking why we are bothering to celebrate this day. Why are we celebrating a Feast Day? Asking the question, “Isn’t that Catholic, or Lutheran, or Episcopalian?” After all, Baptists don’t believe in saints…do they?
For some this may be a new thing, and for others of us, it is something that has grown in significance as our lives go on. The importance of this day is that it joins us to the lives of each other and to the lives of those in God’s church around the world and through time. The celebration of the Feast of All Saints is a time when we encounter the Big Picture of God’s story for God’s people.
We remember the saints because the saints are us.
We remember St. Thomas, the doubter. When coming face to face with the risen Jesus, Thomas still asked to see his hands and his feet. His doubts and questions echo through space and time into this place. There are some who have come here today asking, begging to encounter the risen Christ. Longing to know that in the middle of questions, that Jesus is fully and really present. There are some here, like Thomas, who need to see that Jesus is present. And for them we celebrate the Feast of All Saints.
We remember St. Francis of Assisi, whom many know of as the saint that loved the animals. But St. Francis lived his life in constant pain. Various ailments afflicted his frail body. His eyes were in agony. There were many days where he just lay on his mat too ill and frail to stand. And yet, in his pain – in his discomfort – in his frailty, we sought to praise God with his whole being. He, through his pain, still held to the steadfast love of a God who would not let him go. There are some here today, suffering in silence pain many will never know. There are some today who fear that their frail bodies are beginning to turn against them. We celebrated the Feast of Alls Saints because the saints are us. They tell our stories, and reveal God.
We remember St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, the poor unwed mother of the Lord. We remember her and we see a little girl afraid, rejected by everyone but God and the man who would be her husband. We meet a little girl who is told that her son will the be savior of the world, and we watch that woman grow. We see here watch as her baby boy is mocked and ridiculed. How her little boy, her baby, is arrested, tried and killed because he dared say that God is love. In St. Mary, we see the mother who lost the one thing that mattered most in her life, her son. We see in her the grief we carry when we loose ones we love. We see in her the pain of watching the innocent be assaulted. In St. Mary’s story, we see our story.
We are here today and there are things in our lives that are pulling us away from God. Some of us are here like Thomas and in doubt, some like Francis and in pain, some like Mary and in grief. There are some here with the albatross of addiction wrapped around their necks -slowly choking life. There are some here today anxious – anxious and uncertain because we don’t know if that person we love is the person we are supposed to spend our lives with. Anxious and uncertain because a loved one is caught in a justice system that rewards color of skin rather than seeks to deal blindly.
We are here today because God has called us here. God had called us to this house of frailty and brokenness, so that we can be in the company of the saints. So we can hear the stories of the saints long gone, and those saints in the pew next to us.
Right now we may feel small and insignificant. Right now we our view is myopic, short sighted, a survival sensibility, but God has called us here. God has called us here to this house to show us God’s view of the world. God has called us here so that we can name all of those things that separate us from experiencing the love of God…those things we carry that put up a barrier between us and God. God has called us here because God loves us and is trying to break through those barriers. God ain’t done with us.
We are here celebrating the Feast of All Saints, because when we remember the saints – living and dead – we begin to see God’s bigger picture.
We see that in our doubt, God is showing us God’s hands and feet when we gather around the table of thanksgiving…the table of remembrance. We see the bigger picture and see God is present with us in our pain through the gifts of friends and family who come to help – in caregivers skilled and loving. We see God is with us in our grief and our agony because Mary’s blues wail wast turned into a resurrection shout in the cemetery on Sunday.
When we see the lives of the saints we wee that even though this congregation might be small, our influence is huge. We begin to see that over the years the lives in this church have touched millions of other lives. We see how the vision of one man planting a Sunday School at New York and Emerson changed lives then and is changing lives now.
As we begin to see God’s big picture we begin to grow in hope. We began to plant sees of anticipation. We begin to recognized that even here on earth we are part of that great cloud of witnesses gathered at the throne of God. And we begin to see not only what was and what is, but what will be! We begin to see that God ain’t done. It ain’t over!
The lives of the saints give us eyes to see God’s bigger picture. And we begin to see the saints that will walk through these doors. We begin to see this place as a place of hope for the hopeless; a home for the homeless; a house of light in the stormy seas; a place of grace for the disgraces; a place for the displaced. We begin to see that this is God’s church. This is what it looks like to be in the very presence of God.
Right now that myopic view; that survival sensibility traps us in what is or what was. We see and rejoice for the good things that happened by because of the pain we can’t find joy in the now, but we are told that there at the throne of God will be an uncountable number. Among them are the saints who are yet to come through the doors of this church…and friends…that is the good news. God ain’t done. It ain’t over!
When the Hebrew people were trapped under the hand of pharaoh, and crying out to God the voice from the burning bush told Moses – It ain’t over. I have heard my people’s cry. It ain’t over. Go to pharaoh and say, “let my people go.” It ain’t over.
When they came to the waters of the sea with an army in pursuit, God said to Moses, “put your stick in the sand…It ain’t over.”
When the walls of Jericho looked to prevent the people from entering the promised land, God told Joshua, “Have a parade around this city, blow those horns because, It ain’t over.”
When the army of Saul came face to face with the Philistines and ran into a giant, God said to a little shepherd boy, “Pick up those five smooth stones, because it ain’t over.”
When Bathsheba was raped by a king and her husband murdered, God said to her, “It ain’t over – your boy is gonna be king.”
When the king said to slay the people of God, God took Esther and said, “It ain’t over – you were made of a time such as this.”
When that scared mother saw her sone die on the cross of calvary, As the tears poured down her cheeks and the bile rose in her guy, the breath of God came over her whispered, “It ain’t over.”
When the stone was rolled away and the son of Glory came out of the cave, he shouted, “Sorrow may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning because It ain’t over.”
Sisters and brothers, on this the Feast of All Saints we remember with God It ain’t over. We remember through the stories of sisters and brothers that have gone in front of us that with God it ain’t never over. That with God, the poor are blessed, the hungry are fed, the outcast embrace. That with God the sick are healed, the broken hearted are made whole. With God it ain’t over.
The story of the lives of the saints of this church testify to a God who ain’t done with us yet. Who is always creating something new. From the beginnings as a Sunday school plant, to a place of after school meals and cares, to a new art school – Lux Nova – the New Light – God is always working. God ain’t done. There are mores saints stories to tell. There are more saints to walk through these doors because God ain’t done.
Thanks be to God.