a sermon for All Saints Day
All of us are here because of the saints who have gone before us. Perhaps that’s why the lessons we read today have such a familiar ring to them; they are lessons we normally hear at funeral services, and yet they are readings of hope and joy. Those who came before us, the ones who have died, rest in the eternal presence of God. Today we remember the eternal communion of all the saints.
But what, exactly, is a saint?
Those of you who have known me for a little while know that I love All Saints Day. It’s the time when we remember all the saints who have gone before us; famous saints, like St. John, St. Luke, St. Simon and St. Jude, and not so famous saints, like my grandfather, St. Tannous. St. Tannous was born in the old country and came to the United States under somewhat questionable circumstances. He and his brother traveled by ship to South America, and they worked as migrant workers, coming up through what you might call “the southern route.” He started a family in Detroit, Michigan, and watched his sons and daughters grow to up as American citizens. He loved his family, loved this country, and loved God. And he passed along his love of God through my dad to me. I stand here today because of what he did many years ago.
I know all of you have similar stories. All of us are here because of the saints who have gone before us. Perhaps that’s why the lessons we read today have such a familiar ring to them; they are lessons we normally hear at funeral services, and yet they are readings of hope and joy. Those who came before us, the ones who have died, rest in the eternal presence of God. Today we remember the eternal communion of all the saints.
But what, exactly, is a saint? Are they only these special, goody two-shoes characters that we read about in Sunday School? What is it that makes a saint?
This week I heard this perfect definition of a saint: a saint is one through whom God shines. Think about that for a moment. Look at these beautiful stained glass windows, see the light that comes through – varied colors and images. They cannot make light by themselves. They need the light of the sun to shine through them. So it is with us. We are like that glass; God shines through us. As the gathered saints of God, God continues to act in and through us.
Yesterday, I was talking to four saints: St. Jim, and St. Jill, and St. Judy, and St. Rindy. They had chosen to sit in the pumpkin patch until the last pumpkin was sold. Around 3:00, St. Jim, who was clearly ready to go home, said, “I tell you what – I’ll by the last pumpkin.”
What a saint!
But all of the sudden, a red pickup truck came racing into the parking lot. Out jumped a young girl and her father. “Do you have any more pumpkins?” St. Jim looked at his pumpkin, and then looked at the girl. “Here, you take it.”
Sometimes we forget that all of us are saints. Maybe it’s because we’re too busy. Maybe it’s because we’re too modest. Maybe it’s because there are so many people who are so ready to tear us down. I don’t know what it is, but the fact of the matter is that too often we live and act in ways that are not loving and do not reflect God’s love in our lives. Too often, we live and act in ways that seem to say that doesn’t let the light of God shine through us.
In today’s lesson from Revelation we read about how God is making all things new, a new heaven and a new earth, and that God is making a home among us mortals.
Did you hear that? It doesn’t say, God WILL MAKE all things new. It says God IS MAKING all things new – here and now, today and every day. The saints of God are each and every one of use here today. We are God’s holy ones, we are the Saints. We already live the new heaven and new earth, or what Jesus might call the kingdom of God. We are the saints, not because of what we have done, but because of what God does through us.
In a few minutes, we will baptize two new saints: St. Sadie Elizabeth and St. Ransom Andre. They will take their place with us with the great cloud of witnesses, the ones who have gone before us, changing the world in big ways and small, and those who are sitting right here in this room. They will join those countless witnesses who came before and who even now stand here beside us as part of the great Communion of Saints.
They may do some amazingly great things in their lives. They may discover a cure for cancer, or become president of the United States, or save the life of another human being. But that won’t be what makes them saints. What will make them saints, and makes us saints is simply making life a little be better for the people around them. What will make them saints, and all of us saints, when they let others see light of God shining through them.
Thanks be to God.