Sunday, November 6, 2011
All Saints Sunday
1 John 3.1-3
+ In case you might have noticed it, today is a special Sunday. All Sundays are special. But today is even a bit more special, if you haven’t noticed. Out in the Narthex, we have the All Saints altar. We have the photos and mementoes and the Book of Remembrance, with the names written in it of all our departed loved ones. In here, we have the white paraments on the altar, and of course I’m all decked out in white as well. And we are celebrating even a bit more than we usually do. Which, as you all know, I LOVE to do. I love to celebrate. I will look for any little opportunity to celebrate.
Well, today we have plenty to celebrate.
First, we are celebrating the saints. We are celebrating all those saints that we know of, like the Virgin Mary and our own St. Stephen. We celebrate those saints because they are held up to us as examples of how to live this sometimes difficult life we live as Christians. And it is hard to be a Christian sometimes. It is hard, as we all know, to follow Jesus, and to do what Jesus tells us to do—to love. It is hard to be, as John says in our first reading for today, the children of God, as Jesus himself is a Child of God. The saints have showed this fact to us. They have showed us how to be these very children of God. We are also celebrating the saints we have personally known.
We are celebrating the saints we have known who have come into our own lives—those people who have taught us about God and shown us that love does win out, again and again. The saints in our own lives are those who have done it, who have shown us that we can be successful in following Jesus, even if they weren’t always successful at time sin their own lives. My favorite saints—both those celebrated by the larger church and those I have known in my own personal life—are the ones who were not, by any means, perfect, who failed, who messed up occasionally. I like them because I’m like them. I too have messed up. I too have failed. I too have failed in following Jesus and loving others. But what those saints show us is that it’s all right. When we fail, we just get up again, brush ourselves off and keep going. And what they show us more than anything else is that when we fail to love, we need to live even more and somehow, it is made right.
The other part of this morning that we are celebrating is the future saints in our midst. The future saints? Who could those possibly be? We are the future saints. Today, we are welcoming four new members into our midst. Together, with them, we will strive to follow Jesus, to love God and each other and to serve those we encounter. And these four will be future saints. That’s how we should look at them. And ourselves.
And we are celebrating another future saint, Braxton Haugen, who is being baptized today. As we gather in a few moments around the font and celebrate the Sacrament of New Birth, we realize that what we are celebrating at that moment is the birth of yet another future saint in our midst. I’m sure there will be moments in his life when these words will haunt Whitney and Barney. There will no doubt be moments when Braxton might not seem like much a saint. But, again, that’s the ways saints sometimes work. Saints often are hidden from us. Saints often are the ones we least expect to be saints.
And that, is truly, why we celebrate the saints. That is why we celebrate the saints with the different commemorations we have of them at our Wednesday night Eucharists throughout the year. And that is why we celebrate them especially on Sundays like today.
We celebrate the saints because they lead the way for us. They show us how to live this sometimes difficult life as Christians. They show us in their successes and they show us in their failures. And we celebrate the saints as well because we too are the saints. We are the future saints, who will one day be gathered around the altar of the Lamb, where we will partake of that glory without end.
This past Wednesday, at our All Souls Requiem Mass here at St. Stephen’s, I mentioned sometimes I mention in many of the sermons I preach at funerals. I mention that “veil” that separates us from those who have gone on before us. I mentioned that that veil is actually a very thin one, even though it often seems like a very thick curtain at times. But there are moments when that veil is sort of lifted and we can see that very little actually separates us from those saints who have gone on.
This morning, we are actually able to see that veil lifted. We will see it lifted in a few short moments when we baptize Braxton into the fellowship of all the saints. And we will see it again lifted when we gather at the altar to celebrate the Eucharist.
Both of these acts are not isolated acts we do, here in St. Stephen’s Church in north Fargo on a cold, wet morning in November of 2011. Every time we do them, we do them with every Christian on this earth who also celebrate them. And when we celebrate the Eucharist, all we are doing is joining, for this limited time, the worship that is going on in heaven for all eternity.
So, let us—the future saints of God—truly celebrate today. Let us celebrate the saints who have gone on and who are still with us in various ways. Let us celebrate the saints who are joining us here at St. Stephen’s as fellow members and fellow ministers and fellow followers of Jesus. And let us celebrate our newest saint-to-be, Braxton Haugen, as he is washed in the waters of life, as he is sealed by the Holy Spirit and he is marked as Christ’s own…forever.
And, so, I will now asked the parents and godparents of Braxton to bring him forward…