All Saints Sunday, year C, preached 11/6/16
first reading: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
second reading: Ephesians 1:11-23
gospel reading: Luke 6:20-31
There’s been so much negative going on in the world right now that I hate to turn on the tv or check my computer. But the one thing I think most people DIDN’T mind paying attention to was the World Series.
I watched, and not having a real “fan” stake in who won, I rooted for the Cubs since they had gone over 100 years without a win. I rejoiced with their true fans when they won.
Ever since they won I’ve heard interviews with fans, many wishing that deceased relatives could be here now to celebrate. Then I read an article, purely satire, about the ruckus being caused in heaven by all the Cub fans there that were partying over their victory. And of course the pastor in me, when hearing and reading these things thought, “Communion of Saints!”
These sports fans were experiencing a smidgen of our belief in the communion of saints in heaven and on earth. For the sports fan it’s the sport that connects them to one another. It can be profound. There are people who STILL grieve over the Brooklyn Dodgers leaving New York.
But here’s where the communion of saints is different. Because it isn’t some sport, or other “human” thing that connects us to each other as Christians – it’s GOD.
We don’t have to worry about our team moving and leaving us, or folding, or us dying before winning a championship. Jesus NEVER leaves us no matter where WE go. Though churches come and go, THE Church is forever. And it is precisely IN dying that we receive our crown and final victory.
In our second reading this morning St. Paul tells us “In Christ we have… obtained an inheritance…” and that we are “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit…” He tells us about the “immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power for us who believe” – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That power is in us, to “enlighten” us so that we may know “the hope to which he has called [us].”
Jesus names, claims us, and connects us forever to himself and to one another. We are connected to those saints “above” who have gone before us, and to the saints “below” among whom we live and breathe in the here and now.
THIS is the Communion of Saints we confess every time we say the Creed. And this “blest communion, fellowship divine”* is formed by God through the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
On this All Saints Sunday we take special care to remember those saints who have gone before us, especially those who have died in the past year. But the communion of saints also refers to US as we live and breathe.
The communion of saints of which we are a part through Holy Baptism connects us intimately to one another. Through Holy Baptism we become sisters and brothers in Christ, and this is a tremendous gift but also a tremendous responsibility. We are called to rejoice with one another, but also called to carry one another’s burdens.
When a church is leveled by an earthquake like the Basilica of San Benedetto in Italy, and when a church is burned by hate in Mississippi this week, we grieve and ask what we can do to help our brothers and sisters. Because through Holy Baptism we have brothers and sisters here in _____, all over New Jersey, our country, and the world.
And in Christ our calling to love and care actually goes BEYOND our brothers and sisters. Christ’s command to love goes beyond the inner circle of our immediate Christian neighbors. It even goes beyond our outer most circle of the communion of saints. Our call to love goes out to ALL.
And this is all the more poignant and good for us to remember this week, as our divided country goes to the polls. The rhetoric has been nasty. But Jesus calls us to a different path. His words challenge us to be as HE was, to follow his example.
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also… Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
So as we remember the communion of saints on All Saints Sunday, we will name our beloved dead, but we will also pray for one another who are here right now.
We will pray for those in our congregation, in our community, in our nation and in the world who are struggling in body, mind or spirit. And we will pray for ALL of those seeking elected office this week – those we wish to win, and those we hope will lose (and not JUST that they’ll lose!) – because that’s what Jesus calls us to do.
We will pray for those who we have hard feelings against, and for those we know have hard feelings against us. And we will pray for ourselves, that we grow ever more in our ability to love as Jesus commands us to love. Because this love is NOT easy. The communion of saints to which we belong can be a frustrating and infuriating thing.
This is why in his preaching, teaching, living, dying and rising Jesus constantly brings us back to LOVE. Reminding us of the commandment to love, but primarily of HIS love for US, despite our failure to love. Back to the seal of the Holy Spirit given at Holy Baptism. Back to the hope to which he has called us – the hope of forgiveness, reconciliation and eternal life.
* From the hymn, “For All The Saints” written by Earl Nelson, 1864.