|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany||February 4, 2018||The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany||January 28, 2018||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:21-28, Psalm 111|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany||January 21, 2018||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Jonah 3:1-5,10;Psalm 62:6-14;1 Corinthians 7:29-31;Mark 1:14-20|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany||January 14, 2018||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||John 1:43-51|
|The Eve of the Nativity||December 24, 2017||Eve of the Nativity, Year B||Luke 2:1-14(15-20)|
|Second Sunday in Advent, Year B||December 10, 2017||Second Sunday of Advent, Year B||Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8, Psalm 85:1-2,8-13|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year B||December 3, 2017||First Sunday of Advent, Year B||Mark 13:24-37|
|Christ the King, Year A||November 26, 2017||Christ the King Year A||Matthew 25:31-46|
|Thanksgiving, Year A||November 22, 2017||Thanksgiving, Year A||Psalm 65|
|Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||November 19, 2017||Proper 24, Year A||Matthew 25:36-37|
|Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||November 12, 2017||Proper 27, Year A||Matthew 25:1-13|
|➤All Saints, Year A||November 5, 2017||All Saints’ Day, Year A||Matthew 5:1-12|
|Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||October 29, 2017||Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Matthew 22:34-46|
|Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||October 22, 2017||Proper 24, Year A||Isaiah 45:1-7, Psalm 96, I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22|
|Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||October 15, 2017||Proper 23, Year A||Isaiah 25:1-9, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14|
All Saints, Year A
Sermon Date:November 5, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12
Liturgy Calendar: All Saints’ Day, Year A
Saints are ordinary people, like you and like me.
And what makes us saints is our faith and hope in God.
We saints try not to give up hope in God, no matter what happens.
Faith allows us to keep on hoping in what is yet to be.
So we come to this table each week hungering and thirsting for a deeper faith, for a better life, and for a fairer world.
At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes this fairer world, the kingdom of heaven come to earth, when he lays out the job description for us –his disciples,
we who are to live in hope in these dark days when the kingdom of God on earth seems like nothing but some hallucination that could never, ever become reality—when our faith seems fragile and threatened, or old and brittle, ready to crack into thousands of tiny shards,
when a better life seems unattainable, and when all of history points to the seeming impossibility of a fairer world.
So many of our leaders, past and present, have chosen to misuse power, to give into greed, and at their worst, to stir up a poisonous brew of hatred, and to turn to violence to promote their own agendas, to the detriment of the poor and the economically vulnerable around us, and at the expense of the earth itself.
Jesus tells us, imperfect as we are, we the fragile faithful, we the brittle, we who often feel hopeless that life on this earth could ever get better, we who are so disillusioned that we have stopped caring, that we CAN be people of hope.
Jesus opens the Sermon on the Mount by describing what he himself is hoping for–
Nothing short of the reordering of the world!
The beautitudes,” the “blesseds”, are interconnected, and they collectively, are our job description for living as saints in this world. That’s why we hear this passage every year on All Saints’ Day.
Today, I’d like to focus on just two of these beatitudes, beginning with
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
We mourn when we have lost someone or something we have loved deeply and richly and fully. We mourn when people we love die, and we can’t see them or hear them or touch them any longer, even though we know that their love for us and our love for them is indestructible, throughout eternity. We mourn, because things pass away and life goes on, and what was can never again be as it was.
But we saints also mourn, passionately, for those things in this world that are not yet as they would be in God’s kingdom of heaven.
We mourn in solidarity with those people and things that suffer. We the saints mourn when our brothers and sisters anywhere in the world are suffering—for the people of Puerto Rico, who 46 days after Hurricane Marie, 72% of the population still has no electricity. We mourn when people are hungry.
But this kind of mourning does not stop with a few tears of sympathy.
Mourning, in the kingdom of heaven, leads to action!
As we have mourned for those who have suffered from these devastating storms, we opened our hearts and our wallets and gave generously in this church to the Episcopal Relief Fund. And every month, our mourning over the fact that one in six people in this country don’t have enough to eat leads to our work to make the food distribution happen.
Susan Tilt and I attended the 223rd Convention of the Diocese of Virginia yesterday at Christ Church in Glen Allen.
Those of you who have been to a convention know that part of the business of the church takes place in the form of resolutions that the convention debates and then either passes or defeats.
I was struck yesterday over the fact that the resolutions which came before us grew out of this very sense of mourning that Jesus talks about when he says, Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
You can read more about these ten resolutions in the next few newsletters, but I’ll share a few with you now to illustrate this idea that the mourning of the saints leads to action.
The first resolution we considered had to do with wage theft.
One of the people who spoke in favor of the resolution leads a mostly Latino congregation. Imagine this. You are barely making enough money to feed your family. You get hired for a day, and you go work hard. And then, at the end of the day, the person who hired you says to you, “Well, I’m not going to pay you for the work you just did.” And if you complain, I’ll report you to immigration.”
No matter what you think about the issue of immigration, you can see the injustice in this situation.
This is only one example of what wage theft is, but the mourning over the fact that wage theft exists on the part of those who put the resolution together led to the action of writing a resolution which lays out some actions that individuals and congregations around the diocese to combat wage theft.
Another interesting resolution came out of mourning over the lack of public transportation in suburban Richmond. Decisions made in the 1960’s and 1970’s perpetuated patterns of segregation, by limiting access of the mostly poor, mostly African American population to entry level jobs, shopping, and to educational opportunities at community colleges by limiting public transportation to suburban Richmond. These transportation limits are still in place.
And so the people who are mourning over this problem put forth a resolution and it passed unanimously. The resolution passed and now the Bishop will convene a meeting of representatives of various religious bodies in the Richmond area to seek common cause in the establishment of public transportation for all God’s people in Richmond and the Central Virginia area.
One resolution called for energy efficient improvements in our churches as part of creation care. People who mourn for the degraded condition of our earth then take want to act by doing their part to improve worldwide global conditions by acting locally to improve their own.
Another resolution addressed the drug crisis in America. Here the mourning was so evident. One of the youth delegates spoke passionately about how the drug crisis affects his friends. The night before convention, he had been on the phone with a friend for hours, trying to talk him out of taking a hydrocodone pill and passing out for the night. This young man said that young people are scared and feel that they have no place to turn for help in giving up these drugs. Another woman spoke about her own journey back from addiction. And so, out of this deep mourning, action was taken, and the resolution passed, asking churches to support several things that help in the prevention of drug abuse and to help with the healing of those who suffer.
What things in our world send you into mourning? Bring you to tears? Pay attention to these things, because in your mourning is a call to action as one of God’s saints!
Jesus saves the toughest beatitude for last.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.
Anyone who wants to live in this kingdom, which is not yet a reality on this earth, will end up being persecuted, and yet, instead of mourning, they rejoice!
Jesus is the prime example of this truth—Jesus went to the cross because he was a person of hope, a person who would not give up hope in God’s kingdom come to earth, a kingdom so threatening to the world order that those in power tried to destroy hope in it by crucifying and killing Jesus, who held in his very being this Kingdom of Heaven.
But despite their best efforts—the cross, the guard at the sealed tomb, the persecution of his followers who have refused to give up hope through the centuries that have passed, the Kingdom of God CANNOT be destroyed!
We know this, because we mournful, proactive, hopeful saints already know what it is to live in God’s kingdom.
That small piece of bread that is placed in our hands each week here at the altar takes us back to a night of mourning and goodbyes, the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples, the mourning to come over a broken body, and yet rejoicing over the sacrificial and hopeful action that Jesus the Son of God took for us—to live and die as one of us, so that we can rejoice even in our deepest sorrows, even in the face of death—because we know and can see that we hold in our hands, and take into our bodies in that little piece of bread, nothing less than the Kingdom of Heaven—God’s kingdom of heaven that we work for and wait for in hope!
So saints, be dependent on God!
Saints, mourn with passion and with holy hope that leads to action!
Saints, be humble and vulnerable, gentle and healing in your dealings with others and with our mother earth!
Saints, be hungry and thirsty for right relationships with God and with one another!
Saints, choose to be people of mercy!
Saints, be pure in heart!
Saints, be peacemakers!
Saints, rejoice! Because we are not alone! We are God’s good witnesses to the world along with the multitude of saints that has gone before us. Their hope, like ours is now, was in the Word made flesh. We are one with them in Jesus. And now the saints, along with God, hope in us!
Jesus has faith and hope in us.
Jesus loves us and is counting on us to live as people of the kingdom even though God’s kingdom is not yet fully here.
God has appointed us as saints at our baptisms.
So God, give us the will to live as your faithful saints now, in this world, as we hope in the world to come.