November 6, 2016, All Saints YR C
All Saints YR C November 6, 2016 The Rev. Deacon Anne Abdy
In 1982, my father and I toured as many of the great cathedrals as we were able during our one week in England. My reaction was the same no matter whether it was St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. Each time we walked into the towering sacred space in these majestic Gothic stone structures, I was filled with awe and wonder. I could feel the presence of history in the stain-glass rose windows, in the Renaissance carvings, in the embroidery of the tapestries telling the story of Christianity, in the beauty of the bronze crosses on decorated altars, and in the stoic icons emanating piety and wisdom. I could feel the saints in these holy places.
The witness of saints goes back to the earliest of times, with the apostles, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the followers of Christ through the ages. For me, and maybe for you, the saints are larger than life. They are spiritual giants. They have spiritual powers which connect them to God and they help us look at life through different lenses. It is said that saints are the “spiritual fires that kindle our hearts and souls creating new fires.” But saints are not just bygone images on icons with golden halos that helped you find car keys hidden by the cat sitting on them. The saints are also you and I.
Today our parish is celebrating All Saints’ Day. It fell on Tuesday of this past week with a wonderful celebration at St. Thomas. All Saint’s Day, and the next day, All Soul’s Day, are profoundly spiritual for me. This is because the veil that separates heaven and earth is awfully thin and it on All Saint’s day that I connect with those spiritual giants, and on All Soul’s Day, I connect with my deceased family and friends who are raised up through the resurrection of Christ and live with all the saints in heaven.
Each Sunday I am reminded of this when we “join our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven” and sing the Sanctus (you know the bit from the Eucharistic Prayer where we praise God by singing “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory”). The Episcopal Church explains the company of heaven as: “It is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.” So the question to ask is not “What is a saint?” but “What does a saint do?”
We get our first clue from the Book of Daniel. This reading, while most certainly odd and bizarre, turns out to be a vision, or more accurately, a prediction. Daniel receives this word of knowledge in a dream at a time of many false prophets. He predicts the future just like our local weathermen do but with much better odds and accuracy because he has God on his side. This is another dream about a series of wars against the Israelites, but this time those who survive will be holy.
In other words, they are set apart, they are different. Just like the Levites, the priestly tribe of Israel, or the band of twelve apostles who spent three years apart from family, friends, and co-workers to follow Jesus. As Christians, we are set apart from others too.
Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians suggests that we and all the saints inherit the Kingdom of God. In verse 11, we read: “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance” because we are believers of the Truth. “Saints channel divine love.” We also channel Divine love. This strong tie brings us into unity: first, across time when we remember the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Saint Teresa of Avilla, St. Augustine, or the good works of St. Benedict and St. Francis.
But unity is also provided in the present moment because community is built and we do not live in isolation. The apostles became a community. In the Middle Ages, monks and nuns lived in community. Christians pray together. Episcopalians experience community and unity in the present moment during corporate worship.
A current example is the coming together of warring Native American tribes, willing to let bygones be bygones and standing together praying at Standing Rock, North Dakota. The unity between the past and the present crosses the divide. The community of saints observed in ancient times, was as radical back then as it is now, and so needed in a 21st century world of division and isolation.
We see ourselves reflected back at us when we look at the saints, “for one thing, we are more open to the possibility of encountering sainthood around us in everyday life.” The Gospel helps us understand this. The Beatitudes found in the Gospel of Luke is only seven verses. They are instructions on how to live a Christian life thus making our lives an example to others. A Christian way of life is a saintly life because we are set apart: we have inherited the Kingdom of God. As a result, saints by their actions, are a “source of power affecting people and processes of nature.” As saints following the teachings buried within the Beatitudes then there are no wars, no poverty, no shootings, no hatred, no negative political campaigns, and no Standing Rock. Instead living into the Beatitudes creates respect for one another, love for one another, and peace and reconciliation amongst all. Blessed are you, you, you, and you, for you are the saints of God.
To look at this another way, I wish to take a page out of a friend’s Cursillo talk on the Laity. This is a series of Beatitudes.
- Blessed are the greeters, for their joy is welcoming Christ’s loved ones to the church and showing his love to those new in our midst.
- Blessed are the singers, for they have joy in raising their voices in love of Christ.
- Blessed are the teachers, for they find joy in sharing in Christ’s teaching.
- Blessed are those that understand numbers, for they understand how important they are and they find joy in the order and happiness in a balanced budget.
- Blessed are the ride givers, for in bringing together the beloved of Christ, they share and grow community.
- Blessed are those that love the little children and participate in child care and Sunday school, for they find joy is showing God’s love and teaching.
- Blessed are those that work with the young people, for their ability to be with middle and high schoolers, understanding their awkwardness, their curious minds, helping them struggle with their faith and asking hard questions, and their utter delight in gross humor.
- Blessed are the cooks, for their pure joy is in feeding their brothers and sisters in Christ and nurturing souls in the process.
- Blessed are those that have an innate ability to remember what others are struggling with, for they do not have fear to ask “How are you?” and offer a hug.
- Blessed are those that visit and take communion to those who cannot come to the body of Christ, for they are sharing in his spirit and the joining of the body of Christ in community. Let no one be forgotten.
- Blessed are those that serve at the altar with the clergy, for they find joy in the sacraments.
- Blessed are those that ask difficult questions and have no fear that Christ will answer, for they remind us that Christ is enough. They remind us that we will be challenged by the world and Christ will always be enough.
- Blessed are the musicians, for they bring joy to those who hear their music.
- Blessed are those called to the vestry, for their discipline, commitment, and ability to sit through meetings with thoughtfulness to discern how Christ leads in parishes.
- Blessed are those that love their neighbors, are always there with a warm hello, an offer of help, or a listening ear with no thought of repayment, for they bring the love of Christ and his spirit of reconciliation into their neighborhood, their friendships and their place of work.
- Blessed are those that invite strangers in to the fold of Christ, for there is great joy in sharing the wonderful love of Christ with all they meet.
- Blessed are those that pray and pray and pray, for those that ask for prayer and those that they see that are in pain, difficulties, experiencing tragedy or loss, for they hold up their brothers, their sisters, and those that Christ has brought to their hearts for healing and supports in ways that only Christ can answer.
- Blessed are those that take their faith into the world and are called to be with the homeless, to feed the poor, for they give what they have received to those that Christ loves in the world.
- Blessed are those that stand next to their fellow man and show forth Christ to the world without fear, for Christ has asked of us to proclaim The Good News to the world.
 Manuela Dunn-Mascetti, Saints: The Chosen Few (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994), 10.
 “The Eucharistic Prayer,” BCP, 362.
 “The Eucharistic Prayer,” BCP, 362.
 “The Catechism,” BCP, 862.
 All scripture citations are from the NRSV Bible.
 Manuela Dunn-Mascetti, Saints: The Chosen Few (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994), 29.
 Herbert O’Driscoll, For All the Saints: Homilies for Saints’ and Holy Days (Boston: Cowley Publications, 1995), 146.
 Manuela Dunn-Mascetti, Saints: The Chosen Few (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994), 12.
 Adapted from Ann-Marie Bandfield, “Laity Talk”, Co-Ed Cursillo Weekend, 2016.