A Sermon for All Saints’ Sunday

By: David H. May, Rector

At Shrine Mont (our diocesan retreat center) in the summertime on the very last day of each session of camps for our kids and young people a special thing happens. On that last day, the kids gather at the Shrine of the Transfiguration an outdoor church of stone and trees and open sky. All the campers and their counselors gather for a closing ceremony where they share singing and laughing and shouting and praying together. And they share something else too. Everyone gathers in a really big circle and connecting that big circle of kids and counselors running all the way around that circle of people is a thin little cord of braided colorful threads. One of the counselors explains that this bright, colorful circle of woven threads shows them that they are all connected to each other as members of the Body of Christ. They are connected just like a toe is to a foot or hair is to your scalp. And then that long braided cord of threads is divided up in to five or six inch pieces which are then tied around the wrist of each camper and each counselor. It’s a friendship bracelet that each person wears home. It’s there, right on their wrist, to remind them when they get back to the real world of how they are still a member of a holy fellowship of love and belonging in the Body of Christ.

I was there one year for this closing service and after it was over, parents gathered up their kids and we all began to troop to our cars for the journey home. Just before we got into our car, I remember seeing two girls saying goodbye to each other. And oh were they ever feeling this goodbye. There were just crying and crying at their parting. They kept falling into each others arms and then stepping back to look at each other one more time, drinking in the sight of each other one last time.

One of their parents finally stepped in to say that they really had to leave now. It was time to get on the road. One of the girls began to walk towards the car while the other stood watching her walk away. Then just before getting into the car the girl turned back one last time, held up her wrist with the friendship bracelet on it and said, “I’ve got you with me!” The other girl had too many tears in her to speak in reply so she only held up her wrist too with her friendship bracelet.

In our car, just a little later, I said apropos to anything that was going on at all: “I want a friendship bracelet too.” My son said, “You can’t. You weren’t there.”

Well, that’s true, I wasn’t. I wasn’t a part of all the drama and the celebration. I wasn’t a part of all the overflowing hearts, all the new things experienced, all the ways they felt lost one afternoon but by dinner – glory halleluiah! – had been found. All the ways that each of their individual lives with their individual stories had become a part of a story so much larger than they’d ever imagined with the staggering weight of holy revelation coming with it just the way it does when you’re thirteen or fourteen.

Those friendship bracelets were a reminder to them of that, a sacrament of belonging to each other and to a larger and greater and holier story they shared.

Which is precisely what we’re here to celebrate today. Today we celebrate the great feast of All Saints where we rejoice to live by faith accompanied by a great cloud of witnesses, all the saints of God who we know by name and all those whose names are lost to us but not to God. We are celebrating our own great sacrament of belonging to the great communion of saints in heaven and on earth. We are celebrating our own baptism and belonging in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

We will gather at this font and pour out the waters of baptism where by the power of the Holy Spirit, Emma and Madeline and Charlie and Ruffin and William and Ava, will be made Christ’s own forever, and their lives and their stories will be gathered up and woven into the great story of God and his redeeming love.

We will stand by this little pool of sacred water; sacred because this is the water upon which God breathed and the Spirit brooded when God began creating us and all creeping things, all races and tribes and families, the whole human family.

This is the water that was pulled up the trunk of the tree whose branches bore the fruit we weren’t supposed to taste but we did.
This water covered the whole earth deeper than the Himalayas when God wanted to start all over again.
This is the water at the River Jabbok where our father Jacob wrestled with God all night long and was changed by the struggle and the blessing that came with it.
This is the water that opened at Moses’ command when God led our people out of captivity in Egypt.
This is the water that sprang from a rock in the wilderness to quench the thirst of God’s murmuring, whining people when they thought they wanted to go back to the way things used to be.
This is the water that Bathsheba bathed in on a rooftop and the water of the salt tears that King David shed when he was caught in his deceit and sin.
These are the water of Babylon by which our ancestors in exile, far from home, sat down and wept, their harps and tongues silent with homesickness.
This is the water that John pulled a stunned Jesus from the River Jordan as God announced from heaven, “You are my Son, my pride and joy, whom I love stronger than death!”
This is the water men heaved their fish nets out of til faith set their feet following Jesus.
This is the water that became wine at a wedding in Cana, where the best was saved for last.
This is the water Peter walked on, then panicked and sank into, and then was rescued, setting a pattern of a disciple’s life.
This is the water of spittle that came from Jesus mouth when he made the deaf hear and the blind see.
This is the water in the tears of Jesus in the last night in the garden.
This is the water Pilate washed his hands with and the water Jesus thirsted for at the hour of his death.
This is the well of life from which the stone has been rolled away and from which the waters of life make all things new.

What event in our lives, what triumphs and what failures, what joys and what sadnesses can’t be plunged into this great story, this fathomless spring and source of this life which claims us as God’s own, who declares when we rise and when we fall, ‘You are mine and I love you.’

The water that will be poured into this font comes from a faucet in the sacristy. But it’s true source and spring is the inexhaustible heart of God from which living waters flow. These same waters that will bear up Emma and Madeline and Charlie and Ruffin and William and Ava, along with you and me and weave us into God’s great story of salvation and into the life eternal.

For this morning God bestows his whole story of salvation on Emma and Madeline and Charlie and Ruffin and William and Ava, who today are crowned as saints of God, as a sister and brother of Jesus, bound to him and to us and all the company of heaven in this great sacrament of belonging by a love stronger than death. Amen.