November 5, 2023 ~ All Saints Sunday
“A Place at the Table” ~ Rev. Beckie Sweet
Are there any saints here today? Contrary to the popular idea that a saint is a very, very good person, the Christian understanding is that a saint is anyone who is baptized and believes in Jesus. So, let me ask again, any saints here today? [show of hands] Good! We need to practice thinking of ourselves as saints, I think, because we get caught up in our understanding of ourselves as sinners, don’t we? And I’m not saying we aren’t sinners. Martin Luther described Christians as —simultaneously saints and sinners—made in God’s image, while not quite able to live fully into God’s goodness and mercy.
All Saints Day is like a family reunion of all the saints and sinners who ever lived ~ the Children of God! The whole Christian community connects through the past, present, and future as we remember and give thanks for all the faithful who have gone before us, and delight in the new siblings in Christ who have joined us through the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
No doubt some of us bring pain with us to this family reunion. People always do. Some of our favorite saints may not be here this year. Some are mourning a friend, a spouse, a child–someone whose inspiration and encouragement meant a lot, helped us become who we are today. Some are not mourning anyone in particular, but rather the great sum of losses piled on top of each other. Please know that it is right to bring to this reunion all those feelings in all their complexity. Know that we honor in particular all who are still very much present in our lives.
Matthew’s Gospel today has Jesus talking to people and about those who are blessed. You know, as I do, that we are blessed to be in each other’s company—those of us who are mourning, those who are working hard to bring about peace, those who are in trouble for walking the talk like Jesus did. We need to be together. We are blessed to be with each other on this journey. And all around us, seen and unseen, are the saints who have been part of the family of faith on earth but have now died. From Mother Theresa to our own mothers or grandmothers, from John Wesley to our sons, brothers, spiritual friends, on this All Saints Day, we delight in our family reunion with all of God’s children from every time and place, blessed saints everyone.
Now let’s look ahead. What do you see in the family’s future, or in the future of the church? By that I mean, the whole Christian church, worldwide. I also mean the United Methodist Church in this country and elsewhere. And, I mean this congregation of the church—St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. I also mean, you, personally, as a unique saint in this place and time. What do you see ahead and how might we steer toward or away from it?
Now look inside yourself. How are you? Really. How are you? What is working, and what is not? What is broken? What is healing beautifully? What is aching for more attention? How can we nurture each other in the process of healing?
And now look around. Whose struggle calls to you? What kinds of news stories break your heart or make you mad? How might that pain be addressed? With whom is God inviting you—or us—to be in relationship, and how are we honoring or ignoring that invitation?
All of these are important questions, and good to consider at any time. But I think it is especially good to explore them at this time of year. Because in the midst of growing darkness, the light of Christ shines ever more brightly. Beginning this afternoon, we will notice the darkness more profoundly. Will those seeking the inspiration of the saints find a beam of light that defies the darkness?
Rejoice in God’s saints! And I pray that God will rejoice in all of God’s children! Amen.