THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS - SERMON AND REFLECTIONS BY FR. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
A Sermon Delivered
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
On The Feast of All Saints Sunday - 2020, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Two spectacular events in the life of our church are taking place today!
One is All Saints Day. Traditionally for Protestants, All Saints’ is when we remember the people we have loved and lost. It’s a time to remember All the Saints
On All Saints’ we proclaim our hope in Christ’s love, and we talk about what is called the “Communion of Saints” transcending time and place, of which we are a part. That’s a confusing phrase, but to simplify it, by Communion of Saints we just mean this: all who have taught us by their lives how to live faithfully, who have given their lives for the sake of the Good News, and now live in God’s nearer presence, encouraging us, and interceding there for us.
The other major event is: today is Stewardship or In-gathering Sunday.
Over the past month you’ve seen and heard videos from various members talking about the difference SAC has had on their life. Because, my friends the point we’ve tried to make is that stewardship is about more than money. Instead, stewardship is about life, and it’s about taking every good thing you have been given, and being a good steward of it, which in 21st century terms just means being a good manager.
Stewardship is about recognizing what God gives us and then deciding to use it well. Our time, our talents, our treasure…no matter what we have, we make the choice.
So, today we are collecting pledge cards for next year, and after worship they will be tallied up, the total announced and the work of building God’s kingdom through this community continues.
Now, these two events had to fall on the same Sunday this year. That made me a little uneasy at first. Money is hard enough to talk about. Money and the memory of people we have loved is even harder. And I didn’t want anyone to think we had done this deliberately to try to emotionally manipulate anyone into giving more.
But as I thought about it, I really came to appreciate the beauty of talking about stewardship and talking about our whole lives. I’ll tell you why.
One of the traditional readings for All Saints’ is the Beatitudes, which you just heard. Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the merciful. In other words, blessed are people who, in reality, are nothing like me. I want to be all those things, but I stumble on a daily basis.
And on All Saints’ my flaws are front and center. Martin Luther said that we are all simultaneously both saint and sinner, but I can testify that my saint is far outweighed by my sinner. And this talk of saints…those are the holy people, the ones who seem to walk around with halos on their heads. That’s not me.
But our faith says something a little different. We are all imperfect. We also teach that when we die, we don’t become angels like Hallmark tells you.
On the day when we will leave this life, we do not have to fear. Because we all belong to a merciful God who has given us extraordinary grace. And on that day, we will find that we have joined the great Communion of Saints. One of the defining features of saints is not that they were these great, perfect, worker of miracles, but that they were people. They were good, honest, hard-working people who didn’t get it right every time, but who taught the value of trying again, of keeping on, people who remind us that God loves us no matter what.
And so, that means that we, you and I, are saints-in-training, whether we believe we are worthy of that title or not. We are not going to get it entirely right this side of the kingdom of God, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take our work of preparing for sainthood seriously.
That’s why if you look closely at the four banners hanging in the nave you will notice the names of the loved ones you wrote down or sent in inner dispersed with names of those Saints who have been honored throughout the ages by the entire church.
But, if you are ever so perceptive and glare just a little more closely and you might notice this year, your name is written on this “roll of champions.”
So, what is the best way to become a “saint” in the twenty-first century? Is it to do what St. Anthony did in the fourth century: turn your back on the pleasures of this world and live apart from society?
Is it to do what St. Francis did in the thirteenth century: turn our backs on material wealth and preach the Gospel wherever we can find a crowd and a soapbox?
Or is it to do something like St. Elizabeth Seaton did in the nineteenth century; raise a family and spend the rest of our lives working with society’s sick and needy?
The answer to theses questions is no. And the reason that’s it’s no is obvious. You don’t become a saint by doing what God made someone else to do. You become a saint by doing what God made you to do at this moment in your life.
God has given you this life. This “one wild and precious life”. All that we are entrusted with, God entrusts to us to manage, care for, use, and steward to live full abundant lives, and to meet our neighbors’ needs near and far as God’s hands and feet in the world.
It’s that simple. And it’s that hard.
What is your plan to do with it? Whatever your answer is, that is stewardship.
Stewardship is nothing less than figuring out what you will choose to do with every moment, and every GIFT you’ve been given, in your “one wild and precious life”.
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.