Friday, November 8, 2013

For All Us Saints

Ephesians 1:11-23

Today we remember all the saints.

Of course, this begs the question, who are all the saints?

Our Church calendar remembers many saints throughout the year.On October 18, for instance, we remember Saint Luke the Evangelist, from whose Gospel we read today.Also in October, on the fourth, we remember another saint, Francis of Assisi.Perhaps you've brought your dog or cat--or maybe even your pot-belly pig or hedgehog--to church for a blessing of the animals in honor of Saint Francis.

Anyway, is this what it means to remember all the saints--to take all of them in our Church calendar, collectively, and thank God for the work they've done and the examples they've left for us?

Yes, in a sense.But it is also more.Much more!

Indulge me for a moment.Take a Prayer Book--one of the red books in the pew rack in front of you--and open it to page 845.Now, what do you see there?Did you know that our Church has a catechism?Yeah!This is a great tool, and can even be a fun way, for getting to know what the Episcopal Church believes about the Bible; about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; about theological ideas like human nature, sin and redemption, and even heaven and hell.

Now turn to page 862, the final page of the catechism.I'm going to read a question to you, and I want you all to read the answer together.I'll even read the answer with you: it's kind of wordy.It's a little more than half way down the page.Ready?

Q.What is the communion of saints?

A.The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.

Just ponder this answer for a bit with me:

* the whole family of God;

* the living and the dead;

* those whom we love and those whom we hurt;

* bound together by sacrament.

So track with me.It's not just dead people who've left us good examples to follow here.If you've been baptized, then you are a part of the whole family of God.And if you are a part of the whole family of God, then you are a member of the communion of saints.Yes!Right now, alive, in this place, you too are a saint!

So on this day we celebrate all the saints.This celebration includes Saint Luke.This celebration includes Saint Francis too.But this celebration also includes you!

The letter to the Ephesians says it like this:

In [Christ] you also . . . were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.

Speaking of Ephesians, let's now turn our attention here.Today's epistle passage is a prayer for Christ's disciples in a city called Ephesus.But by extension, it is also a prayer for all the saints, in all times and places.Thus, it is a prayer for us too.

So, what does this prayer say?What is the writer of this letter praying for?

Simply this: that all the saints--that we--may know three things: 1) the hope to which God has called us; 2) the riches of God's glorious inheritance; and 3) the immeasurable greatness of God's power.

That's it!Yes, I know there are a lot more words here, sure.But if you tear this passage down, right at the heart of it, right in the middle of a long and complex sentence, this is the gist--these three things: the Christian hope; God's glorious riches; and God's great power.

So then, what do these three things bring to mind?

The Christian hope.Doesn't that have something to do with the resurrection?And not just Jesus's resurrection, but the resurrection of every Christian, at the last day?

God's glorious riches.Isn't this another way to talk about heaven, where streets are paved with gold, where the Father is preparing a room for me, and where there will be wedding banquets to rival British royalty?

And God's great power.What's this about?Isn't God already all-powerful?Still, there is evil in the world.Bad things happen to good people.Part of the Lord's Prayer, after all, is that God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Yeah, so that must be it.Heaven!This passage is about heaven, that all the saints, that we, may know heaven more fully.

To which I respond, sort of.

This passage is about heaven, true enough.But there's this word, know.The prayer is that all saints, even those living now in the present reality, may know these things more fully.Know, even in its form here, may know, is in the present tense.It means now.Not in the future, not in the past, but now, in the present.

We can know the Christian hope more fully now; we can tap into God's glorious riches right now; and we can rely on and trust in God's great power now--as we live and move and breathe in this world!

Be confident in the fact that you are a saint.God has made you, called you, sealed you, and bestowed spiritual gifts upon you.Go out and do something with this--something that will make the kingdom of heaven more of a reality in the world around you than it already is.

But don't just do it on your own, relying on yourself, your own talents and gifts.You are a part of the communion of saints.Spread the love of Christ, the kingdom of heaven, now, with other living saints--saints, in fact, who are sitting in pews all around you, right now.

Look around.Go ahead.I give you permission.Stare at someone near you.And see them for the saints they are--how God has loved, called, sealed, and gifted them--how God has called you to love them too.Then remember and celebrate them today.

And if you really take these things seriously and presently--the Christian hope, God's glorious riches, and God's great power--then go out and do something collaboratively, with other saints, maybe even with the saints you just stared at, that will turn the world upside down for Christ's sake!
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