Sunday after All Saints' Day
November 4, 2001
The Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
Sermon: "Who are the Saints of God?"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Who are the Saints of God?
Sunday after All Saints' Day - November 4, 2001
Today we celebrate and commemorate All Saint's Day. As Christians we remember all of the faithful who have gone before us. We give thanks for those people who were witnesses to us of the Christian faith and life. For a moment I would like us to stop and think about some of the people who helped teach us about our faith. Who were the instrumental people who taught you and I about God, Jesus Christ and the church? How did they teach us our faith? Did they teach us by examination or did they teach us by example? Perhaps they taught us in many ways?
I remember a priest from my teenage years. His name was Sid Holt. Sid was a tall man, well over six feet tall, and very skinny. My mother called him the Sky Pilot. He reminded her of the traveling ministers you used to see in Old Westerns. In the movies they were tall, lanky and always dressed in black. Father Holt came to the church after our church had been in a great deal of turmoil. I don't remember any spectacular things he did. I remember him as being steady. He led worship well. He preached well. He started a youth choir to get the teenagers involved. He started that choir with the help of the organist. He had to because he couldn't sing a note. The man was totally tone deaf. Due to my involvement with the choir and as an acolyte I got to know him very well. I learned about his life as a fighter pilot. I learned about his love of fishing. One of his greatest gifts was the ability to be open. He was approachable and he really listened. Through our friendship he taught me a great deal about God, Jesus, and the church. He really helped me grow as a Christian. Can you remember someone or some people like Father Holt in your lives? They are special people, loving people. They teach us of the love and wonder of God. They help us understand the importance of the community of God and what it means to be connected to that community.
Being connected to the community of God is an important aspect of the Gospel lesson this morning. We are all familiar with this passage. Most often these sayings of Jesus are called the beatitudes. Jesus walks up the mountain and sits down. The people are all around him. At this point in Matthew, Jesus has called only four of the twelve disciples. They come close to him. Then Jesus begins to teach. He teaches not only the disciples. He also teaches the crowd. He teaches them about the community of God. Jesus teaches them the community of God is made up of all sorts of people. There are not nine different communities. There is only one community of God and everyone is a part of it. There are people who are poor in spirit. These people are not poor in the sense of pity. Instead they are the people who have given God control of their lives. They do not wish to be powerful in a worldly sense. They wish to be true servants of God. There are people who mourn. They mourn the fact that God's kingdom has not been fulfilled. They wait for the coming of the kingdom. There are the meek and the righteous. The meek recognize they are the oppressed people of God in the world. The righteous ones recognize that God's kingdom has not come and long for it. They want righteousness for all now and are willing to work for it. The community also contains the merciful and those pure in heart. The merciful act out mercy. They see others in distress and respond. The pure in heart have their heart and mind focused on God and not on the ways of the world. They are devoted to God. Likewise the community has the peacemakers. These people work for reconciliation in the lives of those who are troubled. Finally, there are those who are persecuted because they believe in Jesus Christ. These people stand up for what they believe even though they know others will not understand. They know others will tease them, chastise them, even hurt them because they believe in God. Jesus teaches the crowd that all of these people, the poor in spirit, the merciful, the peacemakers are all part of the community of God.
We are blessed because we are this community today. We all know people in our church, in our community, in our lives, who exhibit these qualities. They are the ones who teach us about the incredible love of God. They know we live in a hard world. Yet, they live their lives as if Jesus' kingdom will come in the next year, the next hour, the next minute, the next instant. They live waiting for the ultimate blessings from God when the kingdom comes. They do not live this way out of fear. They live this way out of love. They live their lives in love and service to God because they are disciples of God. They are saints of God. They are the community of God.
We are a part of that community. We are living examples of our faith and belief in Christ. Our lives are examples to others of the blessedness of this community.
In a few minutes, we will baptize Carson and Coleman. They will be watching us as they grow. They will be learning from us as they grow older and hear us speak and watch us live our lives. They will be living and growing among the saints. How will they remember us? The question gives us pause. We might find ourselves wondering about the example we are setting. We can't be perfect. We don't see ourselves as saints. I have a feeling that the important people to us didn't see themselves as saints either. I know Father Holt did not see himself as a saint. Yet, he is one to me. We all can be saints to someone. We have the opportunity to be saints to Coleman and Carson, to all of our children, and to everyone we meet even though we aren't perfect. Perhaps the best we can do is try? Like the words of the hymn, "They were all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping, to be one too."