ďWitness of the SaintsĒ
November 3, 2002
As I told the children earlier, today we are celebrating All Saints Day, and although All Saints Day was actually Friday, we have waited until today to celebrate it, so that we might rejoice together as the community of faith.† Therefore, we have come here today, not to worship the saints, but to worship God, to give praise and thanksgiving to God for the saints, for those who have gone before us in the faith, who have fought the good fight, who have finished the race, and who have now found everlasting peace and comfort in the eternal kingdom promised to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
††††††††† In many respects, when we hear the word "saint," the first people we think about are those who have been officially canonized by the church, those people who have lived lives of great charity and heroic virtues, those who have performed several miracles, or those who have been put to death for their faith.† We all know that the Saints are extra-ordinary people, special people, people who seem to be much closer to God than we are.†
Those who are official saints are certainly notable people.† People like the Apostles, men and women like St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Catherine of Siena.† But the people who we remember today, you will not find on any official list of the Saints of the church, they have no miracles accounted to their names, and they were probably not put to death for their faith, but they are saints nonetheless, they are still extra-ordinary people, special people.†
We all know people who are saints, and even though they may not be known as saints by everyone, they are saints to us.† Do you remember those people?† Do you remember those who showed you a bit of what God is like?† Do you remember those who sought to love as God loves, who loved you as God loves you, who made a difference in your life, a positive and loving difference?†
Do you remember those people?† People like Peggy Beard, who taught us what it means to tithe, to give to God what is first rather than what is left, who served as an Elder in this church, who taught Sunday school, who taught accountability for oneís life.† I was blessed to have known Peggy.† During her final days, I sat by her bed as she told me about her life.† Even in her weakness, she would smile and laugh at the jokes she told me.† In the end, she ministered to me more than I ministered to her.†
There are other people that I didnít have a chance to know, but you do.† People like Garland Irvine, who loved the church, who set out to teach others in the church how to be good stewards of the building, who wanted to pass on the knowledge that he knew, who served faithfully as an Elder.† There are many others that you know from this church and from your own families, people who were good and faithful Christians and loving servants, people who dedicated their lives to God, and served our Lord Jesus Christ.
The saints we remember today, in some way or the other, helped direct our own lives toward God, they revealed to us through their lives that God made a difference to them, and because of their faith, they in turn made a difference to all of us.† They were not perfect people.† Even the most famous saints were not perfect either.† St. Peter denied knowing Jesus, St. Paul was rather arrogant, and St. John and St. James wanted honor and glory.† Saints are people with feet of clay, with faults and errors, but for all that, they had something worth imitating, something worth remembering.
They may not have been declared as saints by bishops and popes, but they are saints, saints because of the love they had for God and for their neighbor as themselves, saints because of the faith they had in Jesus Christ, saints because they made a difference in the lives of all of us, saints because of the hope they had in one day joining the great multitude in heaven who sings praises to the One who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb.
These are the ones John sees in his vision in our scripture reading from the book of Revelation.† There are those who dismiss the visions of John as being simply fanciful feats of the imagination, but we know better.† We need not be afraid of the heavenly vision that John sees, for we know that only those who posses this same vision are able to live with the courage and the power and the faith in this present world, just as all those who have gone before us.† No, Johnís visions are not the product of an overworked mind, but of the hope of which we all bear witness.
It is this hope in which the saints we know witnessed to in their lives of faith, the same hope we witness to in our lives of faith for others.† Each one of us, my friends, is called to be a saint.†
We know at times it can be difficult to live up to this calling.† At times it can be hard to love, at times it can be hard to do things that shows Godís care, at times it is hard to remain faithful, at times it can be hard to even have faith.† But in our own weaknesses we can take strength from the saints who are gathered around Godís throne.† We can take strength from the fact that even now they are with God, clothed in white, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, worshiping and serving God day and night, we can take strength from the fact that they no longer hunger nor thirst, that they are with the Shepherd who has lead them to the springs of the water of life, we can take strength in the fact that their hope and our hope as been revealed to them finally and fully, that the God who sits on the throne, who is the Creator and Sustainer of life, who is the Ruler of the Cosmos, is also the One, who is tender and gentle, who will shelter us from all pain and suffering, who will, in the end, wipe away every tear from our own eyes.
Rejoice my friends in the glorious hope witnessed to us by the saints.†
Rejoice my friends in the glorious good news that we too will join with the saints before the throne and before our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.†
Rejoice my friends that we too have been called to be saints to this broken world,
that we too have been called to be Godís witnesses to the world, to make a difference in the lives of the people we know, to be Godís messengers of peace and reconciliation, to show Godís love for the world and for all of creation.
Rejoice my friends and give thanks to God for the hope that we have, for the hope that we know, for the hope that we witness to, the hope that one day we too will join the multitude from every nation, from every tribe and peoples and languages, that we too will stand before the thrown robed in white, having been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, that we too will join the heavenly chorus in singing,
ďSalvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.† Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!† Amen and Amen!Ē
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may all glory and honor be given to the God of our salvation.† Amen and Amen.