Sermon Notes for Sunday, 11.3.2019

11-3-19              Sermon Notes                    “For All The Saints”                                 All Saints’ Sunday

One of my favorite teachers, Leonard Sweet, used to always greet our class (of preachers) this way:  “Good morning saints!”  (We’d reluctantly say, “Good morning.”)  Then he’d say, “Good morning, sinners!” (A little more enthusiastically this time – we’d say, “Good morning!”)  Does it make you a little uncomfortable being called a “saint?”  It caused our class to squirm a little.  But here’s a truth we need to remember as we celebrate “All Saints’ Sunday” this coming Sunday:  All Christians were called “saints” from early Christianity on.  Just listen to this opening of the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (1 Cor. 1: 2)

Who are called to be saints? “All those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – both their Lord and ours.”  So from the early church, Christians were known as saints.  Everyone who called Jesus, “Lord” was a saint.  Did saints include even those with problems??  A careful reading of the New Testament letters will remind us that the early churches had their problems – just like we do.  So “saints” were not “Super Christians.”

So where did we get that idea?  Over time, there were certain Christians who did live especially holy and special lives – who stood out from the crowd in their dedication and service on God’s behalf.  The Roman Catholic Church began to recognize these special people, and cherish their lives.  The Pope would examine that person’s life (after that person had died) and if certain criteria were met, that person would canonized  as a “saint.” (I’m probably doing a poor job of describing this, since I am not Roman Catholic – so my apologies!)

These special people (in the Roman Catholic tradition) are the ones we are used to hearing about…St. Francis, St. Patrick, St. Christopher…  If you can, take the time to read about the amazing lives of these people.  We can learn a lot from them!  Somewhere along the line, though, we started looking at their extraordinary lives and holding them up to our ordinary lives…and all the sudden…we didn’t feel much like saints and sinners…just like sinners.
The truth remains… we are both saints and sinners.  We are saints by virtue of who God is.  We are sinners by virtue of who we are.  And we walk the line between those two, holding them in tension.  We hold the tension between, “Lord I believe,” and “Help my unbelief.”  (Mark 9: 24) 
On All Saints’ Sunday, we remember all the saints…the ones who are “running the race” alongside us, and the ones who have “finished the race” and are not a part of the “great cloud of witnesses.”  We who are still alive are still struggling on the “field” of life.  The saints who have gone before us have finished the race and are in the stands cheering us on.  This image of the saints is brought to us by Hebrews 12: 1-2…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12: 1-2  NRSV)

This Sunday we will light a candle remembering the members of our church who have died since last All Saints’ Sunday.  We will honor them not only by lighting a candle, but also by doing a “roll call.”  When we call each one’s name and light the candle, we will all say, “Present.”  This is a recognition of the great cloud of witnesses.  Their influence and example is still with us.  Remembering them helps encourage us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us!”

See you Sunday,
Pastor Sam

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