Sunday, November 7, 2021
By: David H. May, Rector
Today we are celebrating the great feast of All Saints on this All Saints Sunday. It is the day we remember all those who have gone before us in the faith of the Church. They are people – our mothers and fathers, our husbands and wives, our children and our friends – who were so deeply a part of our lives and made us into who we are today. And they are people we didn’t know, but know about and draw strength from their example. And they are people stretching back generations, millennia even, whom no living soul remembers at all. But God does. Every one of them.
And in Christ, we belong to them, and they belong to us still, in the great Communion of Saints. And the story of each of their lives, and our lives, whether great or small, known or unknown, are a part of the great story of God’s loving purposes to heal the world and make the whole creation new again.
Know this, dear friends, you in your life, we in our lives together – on this great All Saints Sunday – know that we, that you are a part of much greater life. We belong to a family of faith that goes far beyond this day or the circumstances of this day or this year or this decade or this era. Remember, that all of our sisters and brothers, great and small, who have gone before us, crowd in beside us in a great cloud of witnesses to encourage us in our lives, to cheer us on; they are beside us now to strengthen us to bear forward the cause of Christ and his Kingdom in our own day.
And today, through the grace of the coming Holy Spirit, we welcome (At 9am: Isla and Reece and Charlotte and Robin; At 11am: Sybil and William) to receive the sacrament of Baptism through which God establishes for them God’s indissoluble bond of love and affection for each of them. They are being made a part of this great, raucous, rambunctious family of faith and are taking their place beside all the saints of God, ‘who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew’. God’s story will be their story, and their story will have the fingerprints of God all over them. God has work to do in this world that he can only do through (9am: Isla and Reece and Charlotte and Robin; 11am: Sybil and William).
God has his work to do with each of us in this time and in this world; a time our grandchildren and great grandchildren and their great grandchildren will look back upon looking for the signs of grace and the light of the Gospel of Jesus streaming through that will lighten and strengthen and encourage their lives. Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, we belong to something so much larger.
This is the Paschal Candle that bears the light of Christ. We light a new candle each year at the Easter Vigil the night before Easter morning. It is the light of Jesus’ resurrection and burns every Sunday all through the season of Easter and then at every Baptism and at every Burial in this new year.
And this is the Paschal Candle from this past year: 2020. Normally it would’ve been long gone by now. Normally at the Easter Vigil we would’ve kindled the new Paschal Fire by lighting an old Christmas Tree and this candle would’ve been buried in its dead branches and consumed in billowing fire with the scent of evergreen, showing us that the past is past, and making way for the NEW. But honestly, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that this past April 3rd. So here it is still.
I’ve wondered about that over these months. And here’s why I think I just couldn’t do it. I felt I wanted to save it, keep it as an emblem and pledge of faith for those who come after us. Whether that happens or not, who knows?
All through 2020, with all the times things seemed so dark, this candle stood beside the font, in an empty church with no end in sight. And it inspired an image: of God keeping a light in the window at night for us to help us find our way home. And as our world got stranger and we with it, and as our world got angrier and more cantankerous, the saints of God were that light in the window for us. Weren’t they? Weren’t you?
And in the hundred million way the hymn ‘I Sing a Song of the Saints of God’ envisions the saints of God kept a light burning – bearing witness to that greater life to which we belong. Through simple acts of patience and kindness and generosity and perseverance and gentleness and compassion that fed the hungry and healed the sick and overcame despair and brought the comfort of knowing you weren’t alone.
They did all this in the way the light Christ has ever shined in this world, through Peter and Mary and Francis and Gregory and Claire and Theresa and Ignatius and Martin Luther and Queen Emma and the Sisters of Memphis and Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rachel Held Evans; and the cashier at Kroger’s in April in 2020, or saints of God knitting blankets for sweet children as a reminder they are surrounded by the love of God, and an altar guild bundling flowers for love.
(At 9am: Isla and Reece and Charlotte and Robin; at 11am: Sybil and William) you are joining God’s great family today with God’s holy work to do to heal the world. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, your lives will be a part of God’s holy purposes for this world through words and deeds large and small, to keep the light of Christ burning in the window by the love of Jesus for you and for this world, that the darkness cannot overcome. Amen.