St Luke's Anglican Church in Enmore a lively, inclusive welcoming liturgical community

All Saints DAY

Ser­mon preached by Fr Jeff Park­er at St. Luke’s Enmore, 3rd Novem­ber 2019

Daniel 7:1–3, 15–18; Psalm 149; Eph­esians 1:1:11–23; and Luke 6:20–31

Today, even though we haven’t been through a long and ser­i­ous invest­ig­a­tion into our past, our char­ac­ter and mir­acles we have per­formed, we cel­eb­rate our saint­hood.  I like to remem­ber this by greet­ing oth­ers at the peace with the title “Saint” – so there will be Saint John and St Christine, Saint Amrit, Saint Stu­art, Saint Alfredo etc… you get the pic­ture.

For today we cel­eb­rate all saints, and a bib­lic­al read­ing of the word leads us to under­stand that all of those who are bap­tised and live the life of a Chris­ti­an per­son, espe­cially in a non-Chris­ti­an set­ting, which is basic­ally the situ­ation for our world today, are saints.  

Paul writes to the saints in vari­ous places and the book of Rev­el­a­tion is full of ref­er­ences to the saints, mean­ing the people of God who endure and remain faith­ful.  So, to all of you saints here today, Happy All Saints Day.

The ques­tion to all today is “Do you feel very saintly?”  and the answer is known only to your­self of course, but it may just engage you in a bit of self-reflec­tion.  Our typ­ic­al Anglic­an self-deprec­a­tion would prob­ably lead us to say in reply, “No, of course not” – but the fact that you are here today does place you among the faith­ful at least – so that’s a point­er in the right dir­ec­tion.

The Gos­pel read­ing for today comes from St Luke’s ver­sion of the Ser­mon on the Mount – we refer to it as the Ser­mon on the Plain.   It’s quite sim­il­ar to Matthew’s beatitudes but it has some import­ant addi­tions.  Not only do we have beatitudes, when Jesus pro­nounces bless­ings on vari­ous people who struggle, but also, we have these phrases begin­ning with ‘woe’.

4 ‘But woe to you who are rich, … 25 ‘Woe to you who are full now, … ‘Woe to you who are laugh­ing now, … 26 ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you,

One of the theo­lo­gians I read on these mat­ters has an inter­est­ing way of look­ing at Luke’s bless­ings and woes.

“Blessed” has become a very churchy word with little mean­ing for most people. “Happy” is anoth­er com­mon trans­la­tion of the Gk word makari­os, but he recom­mends that we should think of makari­os as “unburdened” or “sat­is­fied.”

Jesus also addresses people who are the oppos­ite of the first groups: the wealthy, the sat­is­fied, the laugh­ing, and the acclaimed. To all of these he cries out, “Woe!”

In this con­text, “woe” func­tions as a sharp con­trast to “blessed,” yet the Greek word ouai does not mean “cursed” or “unhappy.” Cer­tainly not “damned.”   So once again, even though Luke is teach­ing in his gos­pel about the dangers of wealth, he is not say­ing that a rich per­son is in ter­rible trouble with God for being rich.

Like the Eng­lish word yikes, it is more of an atten­tion-get­ter and emo­tion-set­ter than a clear pro­nounce­ment of con­dem­na­tion.

Jesus prom­ises relief to some groups, to those people who travel rough roads through life. To oth­ers, to people who find exist­ence rather enjoy­able or at least a lot easi­er than many, he says, “Look out!”

What makes a Saint a saint then?  We shouldn’t breathe too eas­ily even if we are not so wor­ried about those ‘woes’ any longer because Jesus still has some rather tough things to say.

If we are to live in a world where there is peace and shared prosper­ity, human beings can grow and thrive and the cre­ation is cared for as it should be„ a world inhab­ited by God’s people, the saints, then we are giv­en some pretty tough assign­ments as indi­vidu­als and com­munit­ies. 

Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.  In every organ­isa­tion I have ever been a part of, there are people who simply can not work togeth­er.   I could speak forever on this with a thou­sand examples.  But I don’t need to do that as you all have your own examples.  I remem­ber when I was involved in loc­al gov­ern­ment in New­castle, a report­er who had a mis­sion to attack my side of the Coun­cil wrote the most hor­rendous lies about me on the front page or on page 3 of the New­castle Her­ald.  Lies always hurt, and some­times more deeply than oth­ers.  How could I love him?  You would have your own sim­il­ar instances.  If you don’t then you should thank God every day for that.  Now I can pray for him.  I couldn’t then. 

Let’s take up our Saint­hood, and in a brief moment now, identi­fy someone that has hurt us in the past, even the recent past, and pray just a short pray­er for them.  (pause) Thank you saints.

The oth­er actions Jesus describes there are also dif­fi­cult and counter cul­tur­al.   But we can work on mak­ing them a part of our per­son­al make up over time.   It’s not nice to be stolen from, but how many of us have a book on our shelves that someone lent us years ago?   In my own case I have striv­en to become gen­er­ous of spir­it and I try to live in that way.  I truly believe now some­thing that I always thought was Chris­ti­an pro­pa­ganda used at the time when people made their giv­ing pledges and that is that when we are gen­er­ous, the bless­ings we receive in return are much great­er.  That has abso­lutely been my exper­i­ence.   So, Jesus’ words about the vir­tue of gen­er­os­ity have become a sign of my saint­hood in that gos­pel sense and I thor­oughly recom­mend it.

When I look at the read­ing from Eph­esians, the word that most con­nects with the idea of the Saints is that of inher­it­ance.    I believe from my research that in New Test­a­ment times, not many people had money or pos­ses­sions enough to leave their fam­ily a sub­stan­tial inher­it­ance as we would define it.  They were more inter­ested in look­ing after their imme­di­ate needs in terms of food and shel­ter and look­ing after their anim­als and gar­dens and prop­erty if they had any.

So, when we are read­ing about inher­it­ance here, rather than think­ing of a pot of gold at the end of a loved one’s life, which was nev­er going to hap­pen for many of the author’s read­ers, rather we can think of the oth­er things we inher­it.

What did you inher­it from your par­ents?  Your blue eyes, maybe your love of read­ing, maybe the abil­ity to argue a case, or your love of sport or per­haps your skill in garden­ing, your green thumb?  Think, what did you inher­it from your fore­bears that has been so import­ant in your life?

That’s the kind of inher­it­ance we read about in Eph­esians.  Only we inher­it these won­der­ful things from God and from Jesus because of our Saint­hood. 

At our bap­tism we receive the sign of the cross onto our per­son and the priest prays these words:

Pour out your Holy Spir­it in bless­ing and sanc­ti­fy this water so that those who are bap­tised in it may be made one with Christ in his death and resur­rec­tion. May they die to sin, rise to new­ness of life, and con­tin­ue for ever in Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we give you praise and hon­our in the unity of the Spir­it, now and for ever. Amen.

This is the inher­it­ance of the Saints, our inher­it­ance in God, to rise to new­ness of life, and con­tin­ue for ever in Jesus Christ our Lord.  What more could we hope to inher­it?   We and all people will leave our earthly wealth and pos­ses­sions behind when we move from this life to the next, but the Saints, the faith­ful who endure, will inher­it the glor­i­ous new exist­ence far removed from the troubles of this world. 

It is indeed a day to cel­eb­rate that we with all the saints, both cel­eb­rated and unknown, and espe­cially those who struggle in this life, are called to saint­hood and are accep­ted by God as such.  I have met so many saints in my time, nearly all of them lay people.  It has been one of the great bless­ings I have received in my 25 years of min­istry.    We, the saints, are called to live extraordin­ary lives for God and so many do; the rest of us are work­ing towards that.   Lives of amaz­ing gen­er­os­ity, extra­vag­ant for­give­ness, and won­der­ful heart­felt ser­vice freely offered. 

We remem­ber and give thanks for all those who are no longer with us in this life and we pray that all the saints may con­tin­ue to pray for us, the Saints of St Luke’s Enmore.