On this past Sunday, November 2, our community observed the Feast of All Saints’. In place of a conventional sermon, the following “preached litany” was offered as a way of helping us to engage the fact that whoever and whatever we are as Christians is due to our connection to a long line of “saints,” both living and dead.
I n the name of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Paul MathesonKerry CraigAlison HalsteadGreat Grandma Brown
These are among the names submitted by the people of this community over the past week;
Cliff EdwardsJohn WimburSister Alice GreerTheresa Tocheri Massaro
These are among the many who people in this place identified as their “saints.” Among them are some who have received official designation by the church;
St Therese of LisieuxSt BenedictSt Francis of Assisi
Others are recognized as saints in simpler ways; without any acclamation or designation;
GeorgeStanAnnie and MurielCecilJames
Among them are those who have died;
G.K. ChesteronKen SkundbergJim Setter
And those still alive;
Lois LamontCameron MacKenzieRobert Farrar Capon
Our saints. Our great cloud of witnesses. The ones who have shaped us, challenged us, formed us, loved us.
David BazanTerry James BergDr Lois Edmund
They are not listed because they are so great, so pure, so perfect, so deserving of a stained glass status as upper-case “S” saints of some religious institution. They are listed because, in spite of all that they struggled with and all of their very human flaws and imperfections, they managed to put one foot in front of the other on the long road of being a disciple of Jesus.
Biblically, a saint – a hagios or “holy one” – is nothing more and nothing less than a member of the body of Christ. When Paul writes of sending support to the “saints in Jerusalem” or of “all the saints” sending greetings to the Christians in Corinth, he means the church members, the folks who gather to worship and pray and sort out their life in God together.
They are not called “holy ones” because they are so inherently holy, or because they’ve worked so hard at some imagined purity that they can now wear that badge. They’re “holy ones” in spite of all of the messes of their lives and all of the conflicted struggles they’ve faced. They’re named “holy ones” because, by grace, God has declared them so; holy in spite of the unholiness, and justified in spite of the unjustifiable character of their hearts.
Each week in the Eucharistic prayer, I pray,
In fulfilment of your will
he stretched out his hands in suffering,
to bring release to those who place their hope in you;
and so he won for you this holy people.
“This holy people,” not by righteousness or our own efforts; but because in those outstretched hands of suffering, we have been declared as God’s holy ones; God’s saints.
And maybe the ones we have come to recognize as saints for us would be shocked to hear that is how we feel; how we have experienced their presence in our lives. Maybe as our litany of our saints continues, you’ll hear a name of someone you know, maybe even someone sitting here in our midst. And maybe you’ll be hit by a little tremour of surprise: really?
But why should we be surprised? Who better to form me and challenge me and love me than those who, week by week, break bread with me?
Dr Henry BrandtShelly LubbenWalterBlake ShimbyDave CloreyMartha ConstantineJane and Lionel MartensAlan and Nancy HowisonDon SchwartzPhil Apol
The peacemakers, the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the persecuted; the ones who dare, even for a moment, to believe that the Kingdom is among us and that we have to live into the reality of that kingdom.
Sidney SmithGordon SmithSteve KoryWeymond SearsMahatma GhandiW. H. AudenRobert Francis KennedyFr John SianchukKen Mair
Writers and musicians and grandparents and Sunday School teachers and friends and mentors:
Tim PerryMarie WalkGrandmaAll of the kids I worked with at campGlenn MillerGilbert and Adeline BergFrederick BuechnerGord JohnsonLarry Campbell
Throughout the ages, women and men have gone out on the road and followed Jesus on the Way. We pray that we may always have the courage to do the same.
Gail TiessenHenry WinterMother TeresaHarold MerrickPastor Saint-HilaireThat all who give leadership in your church, O Lord, may show forth the spirit of the apostles, so that their message will convey the transformative character of Your Holy Spirit; Lord in your mercy,Hear our prayer.
That this tired world will have its spirit lifted and its eyes opened to the new beginnings promised in the proclamation of your good news, which is like leaven hidden in unbaked bread, silently and steadily doing its work; Lord in your mercy.Hear our prayer.
Giving thanks for those who have touched our own lives, make each of us open to the call to mentor and love and shape others in their lives; Lord in your mercy.Hear our prayer.
Jack and Joyce Patten
Remembering with thanksgiving those who have died and now rest in you; and those, too, who in life continue to be companions on the Way; Lord in your mercy,Hear our prayer.
Paul and Helen Lapalla
Matthew Lawson Smith
May all of us follow with joy and simplicity the great throng of women and men who have gone before us with steady strides, or stumbling and wandering but finding their way back to him who is the Way; Lord in your mercy,Hear our prayer.
Lord, we give you thanks for this festival of all of your friends, and we ask that we too may be deepened in our friendship with you and with them at that table which you have promised to your people. Lord in your mercy,Hear our prayer
David and Lynn Pate
Dr Bob Stephens
Dr William Hodges
Fr Kilian McDonnell
And all of us here, who God will insist on calling “holy ones,” even amidst our brokenness. Amen.