Happy All Saints Sunday. When I read through the Collect for today, which I’ve heard every year since the 1979 BCP was introduced, we pray that
`we may be given grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys prepared for us’.
Those ineffable joys. Just what are ineffable joys? Are you anything like me? I listen to the Collect and the readings and yet, do I hear, internalize, take them into my heart? I believe that we can listen to God’s word and yet be deaf to what it says. We become so familiar, especially with some of the more common passages, that we think we know what have to say to us and we don’t listen carefully.
Praying the Collect, really praying the words, is something we believe we do. I don’t believe I’ve ever used the word ineffable or heard it at any other time, so I decided to look it up. According to Wikipedia ineffable is something too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words. So, all we need to do is live virtuous and Godly lives so that we will come to those ineffable joys. We must be able to do that as we have hundreds of saints showing us the way, right?
The hymn I Sing A Song Of The Saints Of God tells us they are just folks like us. So, if that’s the case what must we do to live virtuous and holy lives like they did? Saints may be those we hear about in church, and they might also be those saints we know from our own lives. Saints are the teachers we have who show us how to live a more Christian life. Think about the people in your life who have moved you closer to God; those whose lives radiated such joy and love that God had to be working in their lives. Those who helped you change your life’s direction in a positive way. These people are the saints in your life. Give God thanks and praise for them now.
When you think about your ‘favorite’ saint was that person always virtuous and holy? Most likely not. The saints we hold dear are an unlikely lot of people who, at some point in their lives decided to love. And not just love but radically love everyone and everything because they understood that God radically loved them and called them. The early Saints understood that the Gospel message was worth dying for. I can’t begin to imagine what faith, what boldness and incredible courage they had. We’re blessed here that we here in this country we most likely won’t need to worry about dying for our faith. We are all called to do our part.
We all, saints included, grew up doing things that don’t fall in either the virtuous or godly living categories. I know my life is full of non-virtuous and non-holy times. Little by little as we grow into our faith, we learn to grown into our faith and live better lives just as the Saints did. What would the early Facebook posts of the Saints have been? Probably embarrassing. I’m glad Facebook didn’t exist when I was young.
I’d like to read something I found on The Episcopal Church website on All Saints Day. It’s written by Kristen Wheeler so, with her permission:
Happy feast of All Saints dear ones!
May the lives of the Saints and Holy Figures inspire each of us along our journeys; remembering that those venerated are just as unique and flawed as we are. They were human with dark and dirty bits to their stories; some of them screw-ups, some murderers and thieves, and all of them sinners. They cross religious barriers. They stood for justice, freedom, and peace.
They were hard on themselves and still found comfort and need in helping others. They inspired people of their own time, not knowing their stories would inspire people centuries and generations later.
So today, let’s remember how our own stories help others, how we can work for justice, freedom, and peace, and how others will look back centuries and generations from now and learn from our own screw ups, mistakes, and dark and dirty bits. It’s all worth it friends, if someone can learn from your example, then you are a saint too.
Jesus spent the last years of his life teaching those who would listen both then and now what lives must look like to share in the those ineffable joys that Jesus promised when we cross from this life into the next.
We heard this morning in our Gospel reading Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, shorter than Matthew’s and with Luke we have ‘the woes’ added on. The woes especially give us a lot of room for self-reflection. Just as Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
- I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.
Jesus turns the world upside down by those who Jesus called blessed. Everything we are taught by this world is reversed. Blessed are those who are poor, hungry, those who weep, and those who hate you because of your faith. Today, as in Jesus’ day these blessed ones are who we would likely call the other. And yet, these are the ones Jesus calls blessed. Can you imagine what the people listening to Jesus were thinking? Can you hear the murmur of the crowd? Is Jesus crazy? The challenge to change course was clear. We are given a new framework for daily living.
Regardless that the world we live in tells us more money and prestige is better, power is better, as Christians we must live lives differently. We need the courage to say yes to his love as he reaches out to us in our most wounded places. Jesus invites us to really see those who he calls blessed. Jesus invites us to find our vocation and live it out serving those with less, working toward justice, freedom, and peace for all of creation. Jesus calls us to take care of God’s creation, the world. Then we can enjoy those ineffable joys.
Most everyone hearing this is not poor or hungry. We are blessed with power and economic riches. What are the Beatitudes calling us to do with our wealth and our power? What does how we spend our time and our money say to us when we really listen to the Beatitudes with our hearts? Can we spend just a bit more time, energy and our wealth for God’s Kingdom?
As we leave this place each week, having been fed by the body and blood of Christ, we must go forth to love and serve using the last line in our Gospel for the how we do it:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” If we do that, we will change ourselves, our neighbors, our community, and our world. Amen