All Saints/All Souls Homily 2016
All Saints/All Souls offer us an opportunity to remember and give thanks for our ancestors in faith and for loved one departed.
Our remembering brings us back but also more fully into a profound present, as we become aware of being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses and sharing in an invisible but vital community of the Saints in Light.
Last night we celebrated our very own patron saint, St. Martin. A man who lived 1700 years ago but whose practical application of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ catapulted him into a future relevance he could not have imagined in his life time. For 17 centuries his humble but significantly compassionate act of sharing his cloak with a person in need models for all Christians how to put faith into action and in the process meet for oneself the Incarnate God.
All of us are saints. St. Paul referred to Christians at Colossae as saints in Christ. Likewise when writing to Christians in Ephesus.
It is not difficult to be a saint. It is giving a drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, to visit the sick and those in prison. Basically it is to care for others and be helpful and to do so as an expression of being a follower of Christ.
In Matthew’s Gospel we have a scene of the Son of man coming in his glory, and all his angels with him, sitting on his glorious throne to judge the nations. Like a shepherd he separates sheep from goats, saints from non-saints. Saying to the saints, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ Kingdom here is the same as eternal life. Inherit eternal life. Receive immortality! Life everlasting!
Wow, big inheritance!!
‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, i was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
The saints say when did we ever see you thus, Lord?
When you did it to the least you did it to me.
Therefore enter heaven! Enter eternal life!
What is that place like?
It is the new Jerusalem whose radiance is like a most rare Jewel, with a river bright as crystal, a street of pure gold, transparent as glass, where every tear is wiped away, where death is no more, nor mourning or crying or pain. It is God’s dwelling and God shares God’s paradise with ordinary everyday human beings.
Quite the return on giving a glass of water to the thirsty, don’t you think?!
We are saints and like St. Martin we are called to do a simple act of practical kindness to a needy fellow human being. It is the very stuff of heaven.
All souls brings us into the deeper reality of the saints in light. This mortal must put on immortality and this corruptible must put on incorruption.
There is story told by a great mystic who observed people looking at mountains and sunsets. They were awed by the beauty of these wonderful scenes. The mystic commented that they see beautiful external things but do not see that their very being and its wonder exceed all those awesome things they are observing external to themselves.
We are wonderfully made and our truest self more awesome than Everest and more glorious than the most perfect sunrise.
Our loved ones departed now know the glory of their own creation in the image and likeness of God. Their radiance shines and their joy abounds. This is the teaching of our faith. It is our hope so that even at the grave, with all its heartbreak, pain, and sorrow we make our song of victory: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The prophet Habakkuk asks tough questions of God. He is not unlike Job. In the midst of tragedy and suffering and loss, he asked where is God. Surely a good and just God would not allow such devastation. Prophets are not afraid to face reality. As with Job, they look into the whirlwind, into the chaos and turmoil and horror. They are not afraid to face the storm, natural or otherwise. They see life in all it’s joys and sorrows. They don’t let God off the hook.
We heard from our dear friend, Sid Squires, share about his experience of tragedy and loss. He too asked tough questions of God.
Having wrestled deeply and honestly with God, as did Jacob who physically wrestled with the angel all night, genuinely questioning of God can bring us to a profound place. God reveals God’s self in the storm and the wrestling ceases.
Habakkuk said, the righteous live by faith. Sid spoke of God’s sovereignty and his acceptance that all would be known and understood in its own time. Questers and questioners have a sense that all is not lost for all time. There will be restoration. Even at the grave we can sing our song.
We are made this way. Eternity is built into us.
Zacchaeus was very rich man. A short man but a rich man. He was a determined man as his climbing the tree to see Jesus indicates. And also, it points out that Jesus was an appealing figure. A rich man has lots to occupy his time and interests. But he heard of Jesus and wanted to see him.
There are different ways of reading scripture. One way is to place oneself in each of the characters in a story. Similar to Zacchaeus climbing, we may have to metaphorically remove obstacles so that we can see Jesus more clearly.
But if we do, be prepared that Jesus may also be looking to see us.
‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down. I must stay at your house today.’
‘So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.’
It meant salvation for Zacchaeus. The rich man was transformed and became an instant saint – paying four times what he cheated people out of. The community was transformed too. They witnessed Jesus reaching out to the outsider and despised and in the process making him a valued person and a source of blessing to the wider society. Restoration again!!
We are called to be saints – it is not beyond our capacity. Our generosity in giving and sharing let’s us give food to the hungry and shelter to those who otherwise would be out in the cold. In doing so we encounter God and discover all is not loss and vanity. There is purpose and meaning in life even when our hearts are broken by life’s reality. Sorrow is not final and neither is death.
Sorrow lasts for a night but joy cometh in the morning.
Life is not a trick but a treat. It is not being cursed but blessed.
All Saints/All Souls
Life in this world lived in faith transforms us individually and as a community. It brings us into an eternal habitation where every tear is wiped away and access to the Tree of Life is ours forever more!
Zacchaeus hurried down and was happy to welcome him 🙂