Pastor Marni Nancekivell led us in worship as we remembered those members who have died in the past year. Members also lighted candles in memory of loved ones who have died.
Pastor Marni says:
“The point of that story for this All Saints Sunday is clear to me. We are saints, yes, but we are also, like Lazarus, bound – [by our humanity, by our limitations, and yes, by our sin]. We are constrained. We are bound by sin. But clearly, that isn’t how God sees us. God sees us not only as imprisoned by sin, but as full of live giving potential. Just think, in this story, Jesus calls for Lazarus to come forth, in his totality….and he does.”
All Saints B – Grace Lutheran –
These days, I usually see Elton John on commercials for the delivery of food…on Door Dash commercials.
But a few years ago, he was in the news for something quite different. Several years ago, it was Elton John, of all people who called for canonization – the act being made a saint – and he was a most unusual person to suggest it. In the Roman Catholic tradition, it is the Pope who determines who is to be made a saint. However that day several years back, it was Elton John who called for new Pope, Francis to be made a saint.
“The new Pope has excited me so much by his humanity,” John said. “He’s stripped it down to the bare bones and said it’s all basically about love and taking everybody in, inclusiveness. And that has to be encouraged by the Church.”
Today at Grace, we mark All Saints Day…
Normally, when we think of the word saint, we think of the superstars of the faith. Frequently, they are people long past – like Saint Paul, or Saint Mary Magdalene, St. Francis of Assisi or St. Theresa of Lisieux… but we sometimes think of people more contemporary as Saints, such as Dr. Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa.
I would suggest to you that it is not only these stellar names in the faith who are saints. I would suggest that there are many who are saints. In fact, right here at Grace Church, I know a few: Saint Grant, Saint Ilse, Saint Ray, Saint Elaine…and not them alone. You get the idea…we are ALL called to be saints.
In the Bible, the word “saint” means “the believers”. In preparation for this sermon, I read a reflection Bragging Rights, by Barbara Bundick, and she observes that “When St. Paul writes: “to all the saints’, which he does fairly frequently, he’s writing to “everybody”. It’s a mass mailing: “Dear Saint, Dear Occupant, Dear Pew Person” – there’s no difference.
So, either sainthood isn’t all that big a deal in St. Paul’s eyes, or there’s something more to this believing business than we understand. I’d like to suggest that it is the latter.
Today, in the Gospel we read of the story of Jesus friend Lazarus who has died. Mary and Martha (his sisters) – and I suspect Jesus himself, are in deep despair at the death of Lazarus. Mary and Martha are accusing Jesus of not loving Lazarus enough to bother to be there in time to prevent his death. Never the less, Jesus calls for Lazarus to come out of the grave. Now as one who has died, Lazarus is wrapped in bandages and has been buried according to Jewish burial custom. It has been four days, and it is not lost on Martha that decay will have set in. Lazarus’ body will smell…
And yet, what greets them is not decomposition, but rather Lazarus himself emerges from the tomb.
I don’t pretend to know HOW that happened, only that scripture tells us that it did happen.
The point of that story for this All Saints Sunday is clear to me. We are saints, yes, but we are also, like Lazarus, bound – [by our humanity, by our limitations, and yes, by our sin]. We are constrained. We are bound by sin. But clearly, that isn’t how God sees us. God sees us not only as imprisoned by sin, but as full of live giving potential. Just think, in this story, Jesus calls for Lazarus to come forth, in his totality….and he does.
You see, I believe that when God sees us, God doesn’t see only our weakness, our flaws and our hypocrisies. God sees our totality, including our teeniest grains of potential… And because God has declared us to be saints, we are free then, to become the saints that God sees we can become.
All Saints, all those who follow the way of Jesus have one thing in common. We follow the way of life that we encounter in today’s Gospel.
There is a word – or phrase – to describe the thought patterns of Jesus that we witness this day in the Gospel: that word is “counter intuitive”. Jesus’ thinking runs contrary to the accepted way of seeing things. Jesus wisdom is not the common folk wisdom. In fact, Jesus’ sense is not “common sense”.
Elsewhere in scripture Jesus says: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. But woe to the rich”… And he says: “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” That certainly doesn’t sound like the way many people think, does it? This is not the way of thinking that is seen on those bumper stickers that reaad: “The one with the most toys when he dies, wins”. But as followers of Jesus, we are called upon not only to perceive the difference between the common way of thought, and the way of Jesus – we are called upon to live it. Living the difference is the behaviour of the company of saints.
The saints, saints past and saints present bear witness to the power of God active in the everyday routine of life, in a job well done, in the fidelity of a loving relationship, in the warmth of a smile or embrace, in a well-timed word of encouragement. Those ordinary saints of the church – people like you – people who ARE you and me – bear witness that the power of God dwells in the most ordinary people in the most ordinary situations of life…
My first parish was one named: “All Saints”. The permanent bulletin cover that I designed shortly after my arrival -[and way before the days computer graphics, but in the actual days of clip art where one would cut and paste, like we did in Grade 2], proclaimed: “We are All Saints!” That cover was both face (we were All Saints parish) and call. We were called, all to be saints.
And we are All Saints. From the Pope to the Elton John, from Saints Mary and Martha to the person who taught us Sunday School. We are classic saints and saints ordinary, called forth from death, unbound and let loose in the world, to LIVE out our lives as the Saints of God.