Sermon: November 5, 2017 All Saints Day

Sermon Preached by the Rev. Benjamin Shambaugh

St. Luke’s Portland

November 5, 2017; Sunday after All Saints: Revelation 7:9-17;  1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

The Lord be with you. (people: And also with you.) This is such a familiar phrase that we miss it’s meaning. The Lord be with you is in the subjunctive, “may the Lord be with you,” and comes from an older use of English before “God be with ye” evolved into “Good-bye”[1].  Let’s try it using the indicative or declarative instead. Repeat after me.  The Lord is with you. (The Lord is with you). God is with you. (God is with you.) God is in you. (God is in you.)  You are Holy. (You are Holy.)  That’s pretty cool. (That’s pretty cool.)

The word “Sanctus” from which we get “Saint” means “Holy” and All Saints Day is here to remind us that all of us are saints and yes, all of us are holy. I know it doesn’t feel like it. Being holy doesn’t mean we have to be particularly pious or even saintly.  “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” tells us that it is precisely when we are at our most vulnerable — when our power goes out, and we are left without showers, heat, or the internet that God is with us the most. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit” tells us that it is when all the certainties about who we are have been stripped away, when we are grieving, when we are feeling persecuted, when we are strung out and not completely sure what we believe that that we will finally connect to the God who has been in us and with us all along. When that happens, we will begin not only to discover holiness in ourselves but to start to see it in others. That, I think, is the essence of sainthood. There is a myth in our culture that saints are some sort of spiritual superheroes with magical powers and a direct line to God. The Bible doesn’t describe anything like that. The Bible uses the word “saints” for all the members of the church. Biblical saints are people who make mistakes and are willing to admit that they don’t have everything figured out, who are struggling with their faith, who have questions, who are mourning, sad or depressed, and when they finally step off the dime and try to do what is right are persecuted for it. Saints are not so much about proclaiming their own experience of God, they are about experiencing God in those around them.  Biblical saints are not some sort of “holier than thou” political candidates striving for some open seat. Instead, they are those who can find the Holy in thou. The word “Holy” means “separate” or “different.” Saints are different because they are connected to a source of power, a hope, love and a meaning far greater than themselves. Saints are different. They make a difference by recognizing God’s presence in their lives and the lives of others, and as a result, are blessed and are a blessing to those they meet. All Saints Day is a traditional day of baptisms. In their current study of Celtic spirituality, the Sunday morning Explorer’s group has been reading about theologians who do not see baptism as washing away of sin. I agree. Look for a moment at Isabelle. For me, baptism is connecting Isabelle to the original goodness, the God-ness, the holiness, that has been in her since the beginning. The renewal of our baptismal vows this morning is an opportunity for us to do the same thing for ourselves.

There is a lot going on in this service today, so I will keep this sermon very short. The music, the readings, and our liturgical acts speak for themselves.  I want to end with a song based on the beatitudes we heard a few minutes ago. It is one of the favorites that I used to use when I led school chapels at my former parish, St. John’s in Olney, Maryland which is celebrating its 175th anniversary today.  I sing this in honor of them. Please join in the refrain, which you can find in your program.[2]

Blest are they, the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of God. Blest are they, full of sorrow; they shall be consoled.[3]

Refrain: Rejoice, and be glad! Blessed are you, holy are you! Rejoice and be glad! Yours is the kingdom of God!

Blest are they, the lowly ones: they shall inherit the  earth. Blest are they, who hunger and thirst; they shall have their fill.

Blest are they, who show mercy; mercy shall be theirs. Blest are they, the pure of heart; they shall see God!

Blest are they, who seek peace; they are the children of God. Blest are they who suffer in faith; the glory of God is theirs.

Blest are you, who suffer hate, all because of me. Rejoice and be glad, yours is the kingdom of God; shine for all to see.

[1]           https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/1505/what-is-the-origin-of-the-word-goodbye

[2]           Blest are They by David Haas http://www.lyricsera.com/1113091-lyrics-blest-are-they.html

[3]           Blest are They by David Haas http://www.lyricsera.com/1113091-lyrics-blest-are-they.html