November 6, 2016 – For all the saints

All Saints Sunday   November 6, 2016 Ephesians 1:15-19, 6:10-18; Luke 6:20-31  For all the saints ******************************************************* We actually know very little about what life after this life is like from scripture, as opposed to human speculation… But the bible does let us know – if we are alive in Christ now – life continues without end… In all our memorial committal services we pray, “Gracious God, we thank you for those we love but see no more. Receive into your arms your servant… and grant that increasing in knowledge and love of you (she or he) may go from strength to strength in service to your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Our prayer expresses our faith that we will continue in service to God’s heavenly kingdom… We won’t be just sitting around plucking harps… We will continue to serve God in love… And at the risk of sounding ridiculous – one of the first images that comes to mind when I think of the saints in heaven goes back to a warm day in December when I was in seminary. It had been cold, but on the day finals were done, it was nearly fifty degrees, and the forecast was for a few more days of warm weather. So I called my fishing mentor and friend, Kevin McCarthy, who at the time fished the Swift River in Belchertown three times a week on average, year-round. He said, “Go to the Hatchery pool… The retirees will be there.” He named three or four guys who fish every day when the weather’s decent. “Tell them I sent you.” So next morning I drove to Belchertown, and went to the stretch of river downstream from the state fish hatchery… Sure enough, three or four older gentlemen were there, fishing and catching trout… I introduced myself and told them Kevin told me to check in with them… They were taking turns fishing the most productive fishing spots… They worked me into their rotation, recommending what flies to use… The water was cold, the fish were slow and selective… But soon enough I was catching fish…along with the retirees who knew the water intimately…Thanks to their generously guiding me… This, of course, is a parable. I don’t even know if these guys were believers yet, but – I still imagine the saints in heaven as a bit like these retirees. Like most retirees I know, retirees in heaven are also probably busier than ever… But I’m pretty sure they also make time to go fishing… And guiding those of us who are learning to fish… for fish… And especially for people… For many centuries Christians have been celebrating All Saints Day in many and diverse ways. And of course, there are saints and there are Saints – small s saints and Capital S saints… The Catholic , Orthodox, and some Anglican churches commemorates capital S saints – who must be deceased and officially canonized – recognized as an unusually devout person through whom a certified miracle or two has been done. In many predominantly Catholic countries however, local customs of remembering the dead have also become part of All Saints Day… In Mexico, All Saints Day has merged with indigenous traditions of the Day of the Dead, with families getting together at...

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November 1, 2015 – saints on the road to Zion

All Saints Day (Pentecost 23) November 1, 2015 Psalm 146, Ruth 1:1-18, Mark 12:28-34, Revelation 21:1-6a        saints on the road to Zion ******************************************** Friday morning I drove up to Boston for a grave-side committal service for Jean Gleason, one of the saints of our church. One of the candles we’ve lit today in both of our churches is in memory of Jean. Her memorial service was (here) back in June; her ashes were placed in the family plot in Boston Friday. After the service, several of Jean’s family were talking about their mother’s passing… Her daughter Sally mentioned she had recently broken her wrist, which kept her away from work for six weeks. During this time she said, she felt like she was hearing her mother silently advising her to “take time and re-examine my life… focus on what’s most important.” And after every memorial service I’ve ever done I too find myself pondering… Who are we? What are we here for? Where are we going? These questions keep coming back… Especially on days like today, as we remember saints of our church who have passed over to another shore… Today is All Saints Day, and for clarification, we’re talking about small s saints – saints, meaning ‘holy ones set apart for God’ – saints, meaning also ‘all the people of God.’ Some of St Paul’s letters are addressed “to all the saints” in a particular church or cluster of churches. Other letters are addressed to those “called to be saints.” Today some parts of the church emphasize we’re already saints if we believe in Jesus. Other parts of the church emphasize we’re called to be saints – implying we’re still on the journey to sainthood. Some parts of the church capitalize the apostles and call them capitol S saints – St Paul, St James, St John. Some capitalize others saints also – St Mary, St Margaret, St Jude. We Methodists don’t do that, but our Anglican ancestors still do, as do many sisters and brothers in the church universal. I don’t think any of these differences are huge big deals. I do think it’s a very big deal to remember – all of us, at the very least, are called to be saints. And today we’re marching to Zion with all the saints in all times and places… Zion originally being the name of the East ridge of Jerusalem. Then the name Zion was applied to all Jerusalem. Now Zion’s also a name for the New Jerusalem that descends to this earth made new… And on our way to Zion on high…we’re walking first to the humble village of Bethlehem on the outskirts of Jerusalem… Walking the dusty road with saints Naomi and Ruth… *** In the time of the book of Judges, before there were kings in Israel – an Israelite woman named Naomi and her husband Elimelech (his name means God is my king) left their home in Bethlehem in Judah, and went to the neighboring country of Moab to escape a famine in the land. Bethlehem means “house of bread” – yet, like Old Mother Hubbard, Bethlehem’s cupboards are quite bare… Naomi and Elimelech’s two sons have both married Moabite women. Now first Elimelech passes away; then after about ten years, both sons die...

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November 2, 2014 – For All the saints

Exodus 20:1-17 Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. 1 John 3:1-3 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Matthew 5:1-12 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all...

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November 3, 2013 – All Saints Sunday

Pentecost 24    November 3, 2013   Luke 19:1-10   For all the saints **************************************************** Happy All Saints Sunday, saints of the Lord.  In ancient Christian tradition, all believers in Jesus are called saints. Which can be kind of a strange concept, if we’re used to thinking of saints as Capitol S saints who do certifiable miracles. But all believers regarded as small s saints is actually the older tradition. All Saints Day comes at an intersection of traditions, right after Halloween every year, while we’re still thinking of folks dressing up in strange costumes and masks – a tradition with religious roots – especially the Jewish festival of Purim, where people celebrate Queen Esther’s triumph over an evil empire by dressing in silly costumes and acting like kids. And St Luke’s perhaps envisioning a Purim costume party in the background today, as he tells a story of Jesus and a small man who sure looks to be a sinner, acting surprisingly saintly. (Listen for the word.) Luke 19:1-10 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” **** Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he– he climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree – and he said – Zacchaeus, you come down! For I’m coming to your house today. I really like this story of a wee little guy up a tree for Jesus. Back when I was a little boy I liked to climb trees to get away from it all, and get another view of the world from higher ground. So I can relate. Zacchaeus was a short little guy – short in height and short in stature – way-low-down-on-the-social-totem-pole.  As a chief tax collector, working for Rome, Zack was rich (in a filthy-rich-kind-of-way) from his job of exploiting his neighbors, taxing-‘em-to-the-maximum on behalf of the Roman colonial government that ruled Israel with an iron hand. Like a colonial American tax man working for King George, Zack was way over on the wrong end of the taxation-without-representation-spectrum. Yet here’s small Zacchaeus, a certifiable bad guy– climbing a sycamore tree...

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