Sister De Sales Flanagan
These people, who have died, along with many others that I have known in my life, make up the great company of saints that we remember on this All Saints Sunday.
These five who I have just named are not well-known saints such as Saint Dominic, Saint Francis, Saint Julian, Saint Romero, or Saint Clare.
But even still they too are saints through Christ.
These five – Jim Ehrler, Charles Davis, Ben Larson, Sister De Sa Flanagan, and Gwen Sayler have all impacted me greatly in the faith.
Their lives and their witness to the Gospel continues to inspire me and to give me hope.
Who are the saints in your life?
Maybe you might name one or two of the well-known saints, yes but if you are like me you will be able to name many more saints that you have known personally.
Maybe your list of saints includes a Sunday School teacher, an uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, a close friend – people in your life, who have died, but saints who have directly shared the Gospel with you and who have helped you to become the believer that you are today.
These people who have since died and who are now with Christ we remember on this holy day.
How grateful we are for their faith and for their witness to the Lord.
In the Book of Concord, the book contains our Lutheran confessions and beliefs, we hear how we are to remember the saints.
The Book of Concord is that big book that I spoke about in my children’s sermon last Sunday.
In that very book we read that it is important to remember the saints in three specific ways.
- First, we are to give God thanks for the lives of the saints. God works in and through the lives of the saints. Through the testimony of common, ordinary people we learn about God and about God’s desire to show us mercy and love.
- Secondly, by remembering the saints we grow in faith. We see how faith carried and sustained the saints and how faith can help us in our day to day lives. Each and every day we are to live out our faith and we have the saints who provide inspiration for how we are to live lives of faith.
- Lastly, the saints are examples to us of how we might live faithfully as children of God. How is God calling you to use your gifts? How might you be a light shinning for Christ? Look at the saints as examples for how you might use your gifts to give glory to God.
On this Sunday, this All Saints Sunday which happens only once a year, we pause, we take time to remember the saints.
Who are the saints?
Saints are all those people who have died in Christ.
Sainthood is given as a gift, a gift of grace.
We are heirs of this gift.
It is a gift – meaning that it is not earned and we certainly do not deserve it.
It is a great inheritance that we receive simply because God loves us.
In baptism into Christ our sins are washed away and we are gifted with the title, “saints.”
With that gift comes a calling – you might even call it a responsibility to fulfill.
It is a calling which comes by the way of the Holy Spirit to live a life of faith.
An important point to stress on this day is that we do not have to wait until we die before we can receive that gift of sainthood.
Even now God forgives us and makes us new in Christ.
The Scriptures say that we are a new creation in Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 5: 17-18 we hear that if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation everything old has passed away; see everything has become new. And all this is from God.
Martin Luther was fond of preaching this statement of faith.
In Christ we are at the same time saints and sinners.
I think that simple faith statement is one of the best theological teachings we have.
We are sinners.
We have all fallen short.
As we say in the confession, we are all captive to sin but through grace -God’s grace -we are saints.
Again, sainthood relies upon God’s work and God’s action in our lives.
Let me say that again because this is the key takeaway from me sermon today: sainthood relies upon God’s work and God’s action in our lives. It is what God does for us.
In Christ we are joined to the whole company of saints – of God’s people.
We are God’s people – forgiven, loved, and claimed as God’s own.
On this day we name only a few of that large company of saints.
But by doing so we remember that we are always a part of a much larger community of people that surrounds us.
This community surrounds us here on earth and in heaven.
Let me share with you a short story to illustrate this point.
There was once a priest who served a very small church.
One day he was questioned by someone who wanted to test him.
“Priest, how many people were in worship last Sunday?”
The man who was questioning the priest knew that only a handful of people were in worship and he was trying to make the priest look foolish.
At this point a crowd had gathered around the priest and the man who was questioning the priest.
The priest looked at the man and then at the crowd.
With a humble and sincere expression on his face the priest began to speak.
“Last Sunday we had three people in worship, along with the organist, several thousand archangels, a large number of seraphim, and several billion members of the saints of God in heaven.”
The man who questioned the priest had nothing further to say.
As it says in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
I love this little story because it speaks to the fact that we are always apart of the communion of saints both living and dead.
In fact, our theology of the table states this truth.
At the table of our Lord when we receive the bread and the wine, we do so knowing that we eat and drink with all of God’s people.
Several years ago, I got to hear the reflections of a pastor who had just retired from fifty years of ministry.
I would like to share with you this morning one thing that he said that I will never forget.
He said that in his many years as a parish pastor he served many congregations in many different communities.
But he went on to say, that one thing always stayed the same no matter where he went.
Every church he served in every single community he was a part of he knew that he was with God’s people.
Each and every church he was with God’s people.
God’s people are spread out as people of the Lord in many different times and places but we all have one thing in common.
In Christ we are saints, forgiven and loved people, called with a purpose to live the Gospel and to live lives of faith.
Here again from our second reading from 1 John: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”