The communion of saints

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unday October 31st found our community marking the Eve of the Feast of All Saints, or “All Hallows’ Eve.” We actually offered an extra gathering at  4:00pm, so that families with children who wanted to be going out for Halloween – along with others who wanted to be at home for the evening – had an alternative to the 7:00pm gathering.  As we’ve sometimes done in the past, we invited people to submit the names of those who had been “saints” for them, and we incorporated those names in the sermon and “prayers of the people,” the text of which follows below.

Our music leader for the evening, Alana Levandoski, also gave us the opportunity to sing a great arrangement of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The arrangement is by Bruce Springsteen, and it originally appeared on his Live in Dublin album. You can hear a version of the song on YouTube. And while you’re taking a look at YouTube, you might want to have a listen to one of the great – albeit more traditional – versions of the song, as offered by the great Louis Armstrong. It is worth the listen, just to hear that trumpet soar.

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Valerie Cormier
Lillian Roberts
Dennis Hiebert

These are among the names submitted by the people of this community over the past two weeks;

Rod and Cheri Downey
Elsie Buhler
Paul Swanson

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 Benedict
St Ignatius
St Theresa of Avila

Others are recognized as saints in simpler ways; without any acclamation or designation;

Louise
Ruby
Magnus

Among them are those who have died;

Jim Setter
Lawrence Whytehead
Sidney Smith

And those still alive

Jane and Lionel
Robert Capon
Corinne and Tim

Some, who in the written word or through the creation art and music, have shaped us and challenged us.

Frederick Buechner
Bono
George Fredrick Handel
Richard Rohr
Kathleen Norris

Our saints.  Our great cloud of witnesses.

Verda
Frank
Scott

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 would be shocked to hear that this 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?

The poor, the persecuted and reviled, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; 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.

Gilbert Berg
Gordon Smith
Valerie

Writers and musicians and grandparents and Sunday School teachers and friends and mentors:

Jennifer
Christine
Bobby

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.

Emilia Silva
Taylor Tofflemire
Roseanna Friesen

Let us pray

That 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.

Pastor Saint-Hilaire
Alan and Nancy Howison
Fr. John English

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.

Jim Klaas
Jamie
Helen Manfield

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 own lives; Lord in your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

Nellie Dahl
Martha Constantine
Vicki Enns

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.

Jim Fuller
Stephanie
Lola Eidse

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.

Kathleen Gallivan
Rowan Williams
Sr Mary Rose

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

Bruxey Cavey
Steve Bell
Larry Campbell

And all of us here, who God will insist on calling “holy ones,” even amidst our brokenness.

Gillian Bresch
Catherine Pate
Michael Spencer
Chris Rice
Veroniek Marshall
Nellie Dahl
And you… and you… and you…
Amen.

One Response to The communion of saints

  1. Byron says:

    This is a fine thing Jamie, and thank you for including my long distance selections.

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