Happy All Saints Day! I am totally in denial that November is here, but … preach on. Here is my sermon from this morning!
p.s. Please say a prayer for my grandmother. She has really been struggling lately and she ended up back in the hospital last night. Thanks, friends. xoxo
Rehoboth Congregational Church
November 1, 2015
The Saints For The Next Generation
Happy November, everyone!
Where did October go? My goodness – time seems to be moving so quickly these days. And while in many ways I still feel like I am acclimating to the end of summer, today is November 1st, which, in the Christian Church, is All Saints Day.
All Saints Day is a great feast of the Church celebrating its saints. Oftentimes when we think about saints in the church, we think about the saints of the Catholic Church; saints who are honored and lifted up for specific purposes and at different times throughout someone’s life.
(I, for example, found Saint Anthony to be quite helpful in finding my church keys a few months ago, when they had gone missing for several days.)
Here on the Protestant side of things, however, we take a different approach when we think about saints and about the saints of the church. We talk about the saints of the church as the people – ordinary people, just like us – whose patience, prayers and determination built this church. We celebrate the people whose strong faith cleared the path that we are still journeying on today. We commend to God with great thanksgiving the lives of those who changed our lives for the better. We remember with joy those who brought light to our darkness, strength to our weakness and promise to our hopelessness. We give thanks to the people who came before us whose lives and legacies still live on in our hearts and whose stories are influencing the narratives that we are writing today.
Who are your saints?
The cool part about the way that we understand saints is that this answer is unique to each one of us. We all have stories to tell about the people who are no longer in our earthly lives, but who – most certainly – still live on in our hearts. We all have memories of our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, children, friends and acquaintances who have impacted our lives and shaped the people that we are today. We believe in our saints; we thank God for our saints; we know that we are better people because of our saints.
This morning’s first scripture reading was from the book of Revelation, a vision of a man named John that was recorded and preserved as the very last book of the bible. It is appropriate to read on All Saints Day, because it is a passage of scripture that is often read at funerals. It reminds us when we are grieving a loss that God connects us in our earthly lives to our saints who have died. It reassures us of the sweet promise that God prepares a place for us, both in life and in death; and that God’s love will always conquer death.
I think sometimes people are scared of the book of Revelation, because – for all intents and purposes – it is a vision of the end of time. Let’s face it: It is fairly easy to read the Gospels about Jesus’ life or the letters in the New Testament that were written to churches and apply them to our lives. But it is not as easy to apply the Second Coming to our lives without raising a few eyebrows in our circle of family and friends.
That being said, I think this vision was about more than just death, the Second Coming and the end of time. I think this vision was also about resurrection, renewal and new life. I think this vision was not just about what would happen after life, but also about what could happen here on earth. I think this vision reminds us that our God is not a distant God. Our God is always with us; our God lives and dwells among us. The Holy City in John’s vision is not necessarily something that we have to wait to see; this is something that we can build in our earthly lives.
The saints in our lives are the people that worked hard to build this vision. In the midst of the crazy world that we live in – in the midst of the tragedy, heartache and frustration that we all inevitably experience at some point – these were the people that gave us hope that things would get better. These were the people that built the holy city that we are living in today. These were the people that gave us living and tangible proof of God’s love in those moments when we needed it most.
John wrote in Revelation:
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
As Christians, we live out this scripture every day. We believe that God can make all things new.
And we are active participants in building the holy city that God so badly wants us to live in.
This morning we also heard the story of Lazarus; a man who died, but was brought back to life after four days by Jesus.
I have to laugh now when I read this story: Three weeks ago, my grandmother got very sick and we all rushed to Pennsylvania and began conversations about hospice and end-of-life care. At the point when we were not sure if she was going to pull through, one of my mom’s sisters reminded us about the time when her mother – my great-grandmother – died. Her Hungarian blood was so stubborn that she was actually admitted to hospice three times – each time with a big, tearful goodbye from the whole family – before she finally died. Apparently the doctors started calling her Lazarus.
Needless to say – my grandmother rallied.
Now – like I am sure most of you do – I struggle with this story because I have a hard time believing in a literal bodily resurrection after four days.
But I am going to put that aside for right now and tell you what I do believe: I believe that God’s love is powerful. I believe that God’s love is stronger than death. I believe that God’s love is resilient against the bad things that happen to us.
I believe that grace pops up in the most unexpected ways and places. And I believe that, even in the midst of loss and devastation, God can always build something new.
We are people of the resurrection – and I believe that means something.
There are no lost causes – not in our lives and not in this world.
As we celebrate our saints today and commend to God with great thanksgiving their lives, let us also remember those who will come after us and remember what our responsibility is to them. We are the saints for the next generation. We are Disciples of Christ, living out God’s call and building that holy city John saw in his vision. Our lives mean something. With our prayers, patience and determination, we are building a world that we want our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren to live in. We can show real and tangible proof of the resurrection in our lives and that will change someone’s life.
Like I said at the beginning of this sermon, time seems to be moving very quickly lately. So let us make the most of the time that we have. Our lives can be chaotic at times, but – even in the midst of that chaos – we do have control over the narratives that we are writing.
And those narratives can make a difference in someone’s life.
This sermon is a call to each and every one of us. As we remember those people who made a difference in our lives, let us prayerfully discern the ways that we can make a difference in the lives of others.
So friends, fellow Disciples and saints of the next generation, I appeal to you today: Build that holy city. Live your lives worthy of the call of discipleship. Know that God is always with you.
We may not know what is going to happen tomorrow, but we can make a difference today.
So let us go forth into the world and be saints for the next generation.
Thanks be to God!