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All Saints Sunday C Sermon
Ephesians 1: 11-23,
Luke 6: 20-31
November
3, 2019

 

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Ephesians 1:11-23

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Luke 6:20-31

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. ‘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; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!! It has been a long time since April 21 when we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord with that proclamation! It has been a long time since the Easter season came to a conclusion seven weeks later at Pentecost. And here we are at the beginning of November with another opportunity to proclaim our faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Now I know, every Sunday when we gather to worship is a celebration of the resurrection, but on this crisp fall day, with an extra hour’s sleep under our belts, we are especially focused on that foundational event for the Christian church. This is All Saints’ Sunday – a day that has sometimes been labeled, “The Second Easter of the Church Year.” But why does it receive such a privileged status in our church life?

The first reason is you – the living saints of this body of Christ we call The Christian Church. In the concluding verses of our second lesson, which are also reprinted on the front of your bulletin, the author of this letter to the Ephesians paints a picture of the church being a body – a living and functioning body – with God’s son, Jesus, as the head of this body. I have said it many times – the title, “Saint” literally means holy one … and holy isn’t perfect, it is to be called to be someone special. As we consider ourselves saints, this calling is to use our particular gifts as hands, eyes, feet, mouths … whatever part you consider yourself in the mission of this particular body of Christ known as Clinton Heights Lutheran Church. Sometimes we call this body, “The Church Militant” because we are continuing to struggle against the forces of sin, death and the devil. Our chief weapon is love, which is both given to us and modeled for us by our head, Jesus Christ.

It is also a chance for us to remember those saints who are no longer with us. Not only those who have days or cities named for them – Peter, Paul, Joseph, Francis, and St. Martin de Porres, to name a few – but those members of our church family, our biological families, and our circles of friends who we grieve and miss dearly. We especially remember those who died within the last year because grief lasts longer than the week or month before the funeral is over. Grief can last years, and that is simply fine. At the recent Trinity Days lecture by Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, she shared two insights about grief that are absolutely crucial for all of us who weep even after time has passed, and wonder if it is okay that we do so. She said, “We don’t need to be healed from our grief – grief is healing!” What a true and profound gift that is! We need not be embarrassed because suddenly our eyes well up with tears when we think about the ones we miss, because those tears are washing away the sorrow that is a natural expression of our feelings.

Dr. Bussie also said, “Grief is the eye-stained, gut wrenching proof that love has the last word.” With our eyes stained in tears and our stomachs churning with emotions, we remember with fondness all of those who are no longer with us in full anticipation that God’s love blesses us every day with joy and peace, and that one day we will be reunited through that same love. So, as we remember Delores, Mary, Marcus, Sue, Ilean, Ryan, Steve (insert others …) and all of those that we miss today, we – the saints who make up the body of Christ on earth – can confidently love others as Jesus first loved us, giving our whole lives since our lives have already been saved by his cross and resurrection.

Finally, I think it is important for us to remember all of the saints who have died without the kind of love that many of us experience through our own families, friends and church family. For 53 year-old Sean Gaskill who died July 31 of this year – an area homeless man who did not have the love or support that we are called to show the least of God’s children. For 60 year-old Lisa Baker, who lived in a small apartment on Duncan Street until her 37 year old boyfriend stabbed her to death in March. These are people that our friends at the CRC engage with every day, who are God’s beloved children – saints like us … who for some reason or another had fallen into hard times.

This, second Easter Sunday of the Church year, is not only a call to remember and celebrate lives that are gone and are grieved, but our own callings as everyday saints. Jesus has promised blessings to those who are poor, who mourn, and who are hungry. His word, “woe” isn’t so much a curse to us who are rich, full and laughing … it is a warning … an attention getter – like proclaiming, “Yikes!!” to someone who thinks they have their whole lives under control. We are still fighting the battle against sin; God still has a preference to see those who are poor, hungry and down-trodden to experience blessings in life. So how can we be the body of Christ for ALL of the saints in our community? By raising up the lives of those who were called to special purposes and ministries, leaving behind an example. Martin of Porres didn’t let poverty or the regular bullying that came his way on account of his mix-race life get him down. He loved all – yes, even mice, with the love of Jesus.

That is our call, Saints of Clinton Heights! To remember, to grieve, to pray and to be filled with the love of the head of our body, Jesus Christ. And not just for those who are close or who we find particularly loveable by our own standards – but for all of the saints who still feebly struggle right alongside of us. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.