Sermon – November 4, 2018 – All Saints Weekend

All Saints

The Light Shines Through

I have been thinking all week about what we celebrate this Sunday.  Thinking about the saints in my life, wondering about yours.  Humming “For All the Saints.”

It occurs to me that this list is getting longer, as it probably should be. Some of them are my folks, my in-laws, my wife and daughter.   My friend Bill Williams who taught me lessons I am still trying to learn about keeping the Sabbath.  Joyce, a member of my former church in Texas, who despite serious mental and physical challenges never lost sight of the cross. Jeanette Burnett whom we buried today, and Rita Vanier, whom we commended to the afterlife a few weeks ago, who modeled for me and all of us the art of persistent, unconditional love. Dr. Arthur Keller who taught me like no other of the compassionate heart of Jesus. And the list goes on.

We have these folks in our lives that we mark as essential to our journeys of faith.  Some we share, I bet.  Others might surprise us.  But they are ones through whom the gospel shined unfiltered.  I was reminded in our Wednesday night bible study this week of the story we’ve shared before of the little girl sitting in church with her mother, asking, “Mommy who are the saints?”  Her mother looked around at the stained glass windows surrounding the sanctuary and said, “The saints are the ones that the light shines through.” When we talk about those through whom the light shone, in our lives, in our congregations, in our families . . . when we regard them and name them as saints . . . let’s define the quality of this light, shall we?  Because that is vital to our understanding of sainthood.

As we read through our gospel lesson from Revelation, from the prophet Isaiah, all of them spoke of the humbling of death, the time when death shall be no more, where Lazarus is called from the grave, a time when death no longer challenges.  So, when we talk about the ones that the light shines though, aren’t they the folks that bore with their lives and their teaching and their sacrifice, life and light. The reason that I backed up a few verses in our gospel this morning, because of the vital words of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  All other things turn toward that truth.  The hope of heaven is turned loose on the world.  In today’s readings, the fulfillment of the prophet’s audacious claim and the Revelation writer’s prophecy, is the turning back of the bond of death,  This is our story.  “I am the resurrection and the life.”  All the good that we would do, all the prayers we lift up, all the zeal of our new born hearts, all these things are anchored in the heart of our story, that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  We embrace that story today because someone was faithful enough and courageous enough and strong enough in the Spirit of God to pass it on. Isaiah, John, the writer of the Gospel were passing it on. It was shared in the frightened huddle of first century believer who proclaimed this truth on penalty of death.  Told in the lives of martyrs who embraced death even as the words of new life in Christ were uttered as their last.  Faithful monks and priests and reformers and musicians proclaimed it.  It was embraced by the great theologians of our church and the pastors and the parents and the teachers and the partners in ministry.  And now that word, that legacy, that central confession has come to rest in this place.  Here it shared in the pulpit, in the Sunday school, among our Confirmation youth, around the dinner table, at the hospital bedside, in the consolation of friends, on the phone by the saints of this community.

The funnel of who are the saints narrows now to our own fellowship.  We are here today because someone has taken it upon themselves to bear the message of God that in Christ there is life and resurrection.  We are gathered now as the saints of God through whom the light shines.

I want to say thank you to all of you who, on this account, make my life a joy. All of you with whom I share this faith, all of you with whom I have been granted this legacy.  I want to thank you for all the ways your words of grace and wisdom and acts of love train me and enlighten me.  Thank you, you saints, for that is what you are, that is what we are, the community of saints whom the Spirit of God has touched and through whom the light shines, sometimes bouncing and refracting off of our own mistakes and sinfulness, but shining nonetheless, but undeterred even though the vessel is sometimes flawed.

We gather on All Saints to remember those who passed this light on, but also to take up again for our part, this legacy, this work, that turns ever toward life and resurrection.

Someone has given you a hand today, someone here, in your office, in your family, in your life, someone has given you a hand with the work today because the community of saints works like this, as Christ’s body.

So as we render our thanksgiving for the saints who have been taken up to the Church Triumphant, let’s share our hope and our joy and our thanksgiving with those of us left in the Church Militant, with the every day, practical saints through whom the light shines.

I’ve issued this invitation before and I do so again today; sometime this week, thank a member of this fellowship or someone whose life has touched yours to bear the light of Christ into your life, who has taken their place in this current of faith and helped to pull you along, hold you accountable, helped to enlighten you in your own task of shining the light of Christ.  Take a moment to say thanks to these practical saints for sharing the story and keeping the promise.  Share a word today about a saint who has directed and steered your path, one through whom the light of Christ shone on you.

That life and resurrection is the power of hope and can overcome all things. So, let me even say this; if there is someone with whom you need to be reconciled, remember how they otherwise have contributed to your walk of faith and make a gesture of healing.

Someone had to tell us, someone had to show us, that through all things, against all things, above all things, even death, Christ stands, Christ reigns and his light shines.

Even as you’ve heard that story, go tell it, remember this—that you are the only word, the only light from the Lord that some people will ever hear.  Go ahead.  Be God’s light and word in a troubled and confused world.

Speak the word, bear the hope, shine the light, all you saints.