November 1, 2020
1 John 3.1-3
+ In case you might have noticed it, today is a very, very special Sunday.
All Sundays, of course, are special.
But today is even a bit more special, if you haven’t noticed.
Out in the Narthex, we do have the All Saints altar.
We have the Book of Remembrance, with the names written in it of all our departed loved ones.
People have been sending in the names of their departed loved ones for us to remember at Wednesday night’s All Souls Annual Requiem Mass.
Here in the Nave, we have the white paraments on the altar, and of course I’m all decked out in white as well (as you can see).
And we are celebrating even a bit more than we usually do.
In just a few moments, we’ll renew our Baptismal vows.
You’ll get sprinkled with water.
We’ll take joy in our baptism.
See, it’s a Sunday to celebrate.
Which, as you all know, I LOVE to do.
I love to celebrate.
I will look for any little opportunity to celebrate.
But, today we have plenty to celebrate.
First, we are celebrating the saints.
We are celebrating all those saints that we know of, like the Blessed Virgin Mary and our own St. Stephen.
We are celebrating the saints we have remembered in our beautiful windows.
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, as those saints would no doubt tell us, 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 God and love others.
It is hard to be, as John says in our first reading for today, the children of God, as Jesus himself is the Child of God.
The saints have shown this fact to us.
They have shown us how to be these very children of God.
We celebrate that today.
We celebrate, by our baptismal vows, that we are loved children of a loving and accepting 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 times in their own lives.
But, before we go any further, we do need to ask ourselves: what is a saint?
Well, this past week I came across this great story on Facebook.
It is about the great Dorothy Day, who is also being considered for canonization in the Roman Catholic Church.
This story is one we can relate to here.
During the 1970s, in those days after Vatican II and the liturgical reform that Churches like the Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church were going though, some priests were becoming rather casual with the liturgy. One afternoon, a priest came into the soup kitchen in which Dorothy Day was working. He wanted to offer a Mass for the homeless. He went into the kitchen and grabbed a coffee mug to use for the chalice.
Dorothy, although frustrated at the irreverent use of houseware for the liturgy, prayed throughout the mass with the priest. After the liturgy ended, she quietly got up and started to cleanse the vessels. Then, she walked outside with the mug and a shovel.
A man followed her and asked her what she was doing. It is said she kissed the mug and then buried it. She told him that it was no longer a mug, but a chalice. It was no longer suited for coffee- it had held the Blood of Christ. She didn’t want anyone to mistake it for a mug again. Once something holds the Body of Christ, it is no longer what it was. When the mug held the Blood of Christ, it changed its vocation forever. It could no longer hold anything less than Christ again.
The story goes on to say this:
“We were common mugs. Simple, functional, practical, and good people. We have a capacity to hold good things. But when Christ entered our lives, we became more. We became Chalices. We started to hold Christ—who is fully divine--within our hearts. Now that we have held the Body of Christ within our bodies, we are no longer common, but rather extraordinary.”
That is what a saint is.
A saint is a common mug that has holds within it the very Presence of Christ, and by doing so is transformed into something different and wonderful.
That is what we celebrate the saints.
That is what we celebrate today.
And when we start pondering who a saint is, we then can start looking at ourselves.
We can find the saints are not only in church, in stained glass, or on ikons, or their relics we put out.
No, rather we find saints looking back at us from our very mirrors.
We are the future saints.
We celebrate ourselves today—we, the future saints gathered here to worship God.
Together, we strive to follow Jesus, to love God and each other and to serve those we encounter.
That is what it means to be future saints.
Often, as we have known, saints are hidden from us.
Saints often are the ones we least expect to be saints.
But we have all known saints in our lives.
This morning, on this All Saints Sunday, and on a fairly regular basis, I think about the saints who have worshipped with us here at St. Stephen’s.
Today, we are reminded that they are still with us.
I occasionally look out and I can see still them with us at times.
I can still see Harriet Blow’s wheelchair.
I can see Betty Spur in that back pew.
I can still see Greg Craychee as an acolyte up front.
I can still see Angel Brekke and Betty De La Garza and her mother Georgia Patneaude, Jim Coffey here with us, smiles on their faces.
And for those who might not know who these people were, it’s just a reminder that ordinary people worshipped in these pews and in this building over the years and are now gone, but are still, in so many ways, with us.
And that, is why we celebrate the saints.
That is why we celebrate the saints with the different commemorations we have of them at our Wednesday night Masses throughout the year.
That is why they are in our windows.
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.
There is something that you hear me preach about regularly, especially at funerals.
I often 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
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 before us who now dwell in the nearer Presence of God.
This morning, we are actually able to see that veil lifted.
Of course, we see it lifted every time when we gather at the altar to celebrate the Eucharist, and God draws close to us.
At the Eucharist, those saints who are now worshipping God in heaven and those who are worship God here on earth—we are, in that one holy moment, together.
The distance between us, in that moment, is brought close.
And we catch a clear glimpse of what awaits.
This is not some isolated act we do, here in St. Stephen’s Church in north Fargo on this morning in November of 2020 in them middle of the worst pandemic any of us have ever known, in a country divided and frustrated and anxious as it awaits the results of a very contentious and all-important Presidential election.
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we do it with every Christian on this earth who also celebrates it.
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.
We are reminded this morning that our true vocation as Christians is to be chalices, to carry within us the very Presence of Christ.
Our inheritance is to be children of our loving God.
We are all called to be saints.
It is a wonderful vocation we are called to.
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 here with us, right now, on this joyful morning.
And let us celebrate ourselves, as we look into our future with God with delight and true joy.
Let us pray.
God of all ages, you are truly glorious in your saints; fill us with the Presence of your Christ, so that we, mere houseware that we are, may be chalices of your Presence to those around us who need your Presence; we ask this in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.