21st Sunday after Pentecost, November 3, 2019, 2019
– Luke 6:20-31, Ephesians 1:11-23
– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, said, “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.” (Ephesians 1:17-19)
You are the saints of God. Now don’t get full of yourselves by this designation. In fact, it is applied to you because of the faithful humility of your ministry and service to this church, your family and friends and to the world. While many faith traditions will venerate as saints the public and enormous sacrifices of individuals such as Augustine, Luther, King, and Mother Teresa, as they should, they mainly serve as examples to inspire the often unnoticed and unsung saintliness of everyday people, who count it sufficient to spend as many moments possible of their waking hours offering to others their personal testimony of God’s love for the world. This is why noted individuals, when asked why they do what they do, will point to persons that few other than themselves remember. But God remembers.
God remembers that none of us lives up to the standards we expect of ourselves. God remembers that we will often, as parents and friends and siblings and lovers and coworker and colleagues, say and do things we later regret; who, in the words of our confessional prayer, will sin “by things we have done and left undone.” But it is the awareness of our shortcomings in light of what we strive to be before God and others that makes us saints.
God also knows that giving up a life of self-indulgence to please God takes the discipline of one trying to overcome a drug or alcoholic addiction in which our prayers are more like the prayer of Saint Augustine who said, “Lord, make me holy, but not yet.” We need something like a 12-step recovery program.
You might be interested in knowing that Alcoholics Anonymous, the first and most popular 12-step recovery program, was founded by two native Vermonters, Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, who recognized that the best way to overcome their addiction was through the encouragement of other recovering alcoholics. I like to compare the church to a twelve-step recovery program in that the only way we can overcome our addiction to self-indulgent destruction is through the encouragement of other recovering addicts – Christians who crave the life of Christ over the cravings of the world.
In this season of stewardship and on this All Saints Sunday, we commemorate and celebrate the stewardship of those who showed up with the compassion and power of selfless love and sacrificial forgiveness when we needed them. We celebrate the saints, past and present, who showed up and continue to show up and inspire us to be saints and stewards of God’s all-encompassing care for a world of individuals conditioned to care only for themselves, so that they may ultimately learn to do for others and they would have others do for them.
We are God’s imperfect and clumsy saints constantly stumbling over ourselves and into each other’s arms in the hope that we may be able to uphold each other by the loving arms of Christ, who upholds us all. Amen.