Sunday, November 4, 2007

We the Saints – A Sermon

The other day on the radio I heard a story about how the Roman Catholic Church is fast-tracking the late Pope John Paul II for sainthood. The story was all about how much it costs to make a saint these days. What with tracking down witnesses of miracles, double checking them, then doing extensive background checks – it's in the millions.

With all due respect to our Roman brothers and sisters, I think they missed the boat on this one. He's already a saint.

A saint is, after all, NOT merely a dead Christian whose life was exemplary and whose death is filled with miracles. A saint is US. WE are the saints. Living and giving to the glory of God right now.

The apostle Paul got this right. He talks of the saints as the people of God who have accepted God's invitation to participate in the Kingdom. That's US. He says the saints live for the praise of God's glory. That's us. He says the saints are marked by the seal of the Holy Spirit. That's us. He says the saints inherit the greatness of God's power. That is us if we want it. WE are the saints of God right here and right now – and no multi-million dollar canonization process will change that.

What DOES change is us. To be a saint, in fact, is to be a changed person. After all, God's power residing in us? It HAS to change a person. And it does.

On All Saints Day which we observe today, we renew our baptismal vows – vows that we have made many times but which remind us – our old lives and homeless individuals is dead. We are born anew into the Kingdom of God. We are now members of the Body of Christ. Our lives matter. We are accepted for the people we are. We are home.

Jesus talked with his disciples about what it meant to be a saint – a changed person. He helped them understand that being part of the kingdom doesn't take away the pains of the world. The poor – quite often remain poor. The hungry still long for food. Those who weep or are abused – still suffer. But the poverty is changed – real as it is, there is a sense of a greater poverty – an awareness that without God's power, all else is meaningless. Our hunger is real, but now the greater hunger is for every Word God speaks to us. Our weeping may continue, but it is no longer hopeless – it is filled with hope.

Jesus told his disciples that we the saints can embrace his power and learn to love enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who abuse us, give to those who beg from us. WE are the saints, and we have that power. We are changed.

Yes, on All Saints Day we honor those who have gone before us, those whose lives were good examples of witness, loving and giving self-sacrifice.

But we also remember that All the Saints includes US. Because the Holy Spirit is at work in this place – at work in you and you and you and me.

That's what this whole Stewardship time has been about. It is all about inviting you to be part of this Body of Christ, this Kingdom of Heaven on earth – it is all about inviting you to pick up your mantel of sainthood and run with it. Stewardship is nothing if it is not a chance for each of us to recommit ourselves to being active participants in this wonderful mystery God invites us to.

In that spirit of invitation, I now invite you to take a few minutes and fill out your commitment cards if you haven't done so already. We have plenty of extras in case you forgot yours (people always do). When everyone's done, I will ask you to come forward and place your card in one of these baskets at the altar rail. We will then offer them up to God as pledges of our commitment to live lives in praise of His glory.

A quick word for those of you who have had a crazy week and who in all honesty have not been able to give your stewardship commitment proper thought and prayer. It is better for you to fill out a card now anyway, even if all you write down is “We WILL pledge – working on amount” – than to fill out nothing at all.

But first let us pray over these cards and our own lives of witness.

The Lord be with you. Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you bless us this day with your presence. Fill us now with your Holy Spirit so that we may see you at work in all we do. Bless these commitment cards and bless us who fill them out. Grant us the grace to commit our lives anew to the new lives you offer us as your saints. Amen.


My brothers and sisters, we register our commitment to Christ each Sunday when we come forward to receive Communion. His Body and Blood are signs to us that we are active members of his Body. I am asking everyone here to come forward and place their commitment card in the baskets at the front of the church. Your commitment card will be a sign of your choice to accept Christ's invitation. When you are ready, please come forward now.