November 6, 2022

November 6, 2022: All Saints’ Sunday
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin

Readings: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31

From St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, “We … set our hope on Christ.” I speak to you in the Name
of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Well, good morning, Saints! Today, is All Saints’ Sunday: one of the seven principal feast days
of the Christian Calendar Year. The first six of those feasts include Christmas Day, the Epiphany,
Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday. Now, those days are set
aside as particularly important, particularly holy, because they recall important events in the life of
Christ or as in the feast of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit and, therefore, they are also
important events in the life of the Church as the body of Christ in the world. But All Saints’ Day,
this seventh feast day, while a wonderful reminder that we never walk alone in our faith journeys,
is, nonetheless, rather difficult to embrace, let alone truly live.
See, All Saints’ Day typically brings to mind famous Saints known throughout history who
performed some sort of miracle or, as is more often the case, lived rather heroic or austere lives
and, thereby, fostered faith in the grace and love of God. Ask most people to name a Saint and
they are likely to reply, St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Nicholas, St. Mary Magdalene, the Virgin Mary, and
St. Francis of Assisi. Our Presbyterian friends will, no doubt, include St. Andrew just as Lutherans
will add St. Martin Luther. Many can easily name off some saints because they are well known to
most Christians and many non-Christians alike. Each of them lived their lives in ways that brought
others comfort and redemption, or healing and nurture, or peace and reconciliation with God and
their neighbor. And they are – all of them - exemplary in their faith and witness. Yes, it is easy to
describe historical saints, to recall some aspect of their lives that warms our hearts. Even today,
conversations about saints might bring to mind images of Mother Theresa of Calcutta holding filthy,
disease riddled persons in her arms and offering them the gift of human touch, the gift of godly
compassion at great risk to her own health, and not letting go of them until they let go of life itself.
Her actions give us pause and maybe bring tears to the eyes. If we think long enough about past
saints it is pretty easy to recall something about their way of life that set them apart from the rest
of society.
Our Protestant heritage, however, reminds us, and wisely so, that we, too – all of us - are
saints of God right now simply by our faith in Christ alone. And we love the whole thought of being
described as saints. Who among us didn’t nudge someone or smile and wink as we sang “for the
saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one, too.” Gosh, that makes us feel good and
it affirms the reality that simply by our faith in Christ we are, indeed, saints and blessed by God.
The Prophet Daniel said, “The holy ones of the Most High (that is those redeemed by God – and
that’s us by faith in Christ) shall receive … and possess (God’s) kingdom - for ever and ever!” That
is the promise of God to all the saints. In our reading from Ephesians, St. Paul describes that
promise as our hope, our promised inheritance simply made possible by our faith in Jesus Christ as
Lord. Paul says that saints set, or place, their hope on, or in, Christ and that hope changes how
they choose to live. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul goes even further to describe that choosing
and saintly way of life in more succinct terms. There, Paul says, “For to me, living is Christ …”
(Philippians 1:21a). That is the life of a saint. And therein we start to realize why All Saints’ Day,
while a celebration of that great cloud of witnesses, the commemoration of all those who have
gone before us and those yet to come, poses an incredible challenge to contemporary Christians.
And that challenge begins to unfold with this morning’s gospel lesson.
In our reading from Luke, we hear one of the teachings of Jesus more commonly known as “The
Beatitudes.” From an All Saints’ Day perspective, we need to understand that Jesus is not saying
his followers should be naked, homeless, poor and destitute, nor is he condemning those who are
people of means and who enjoy life. Now, some past saints like Francis and others did take Jesus’
words literally thinking it healthy to go without food for weeks on end, to roam about the
countryside naked, never own a home, and shun money except to purchase the barest of
necessities. But the truth is, what Jesus is saying here is that the poor, the hungry, the broken
hearted and excluded are blessed because they already know and know fully what it is like to truly
depend upon God. They know what it means to be merciful and forgiving to someone who has
really hurt them and continues to hurt them, what it means to love from the heart because they
have nothing else to give, and what it means to receive unconditional grace that can never be
bought or earned. At the same time, those words of woe are not words of condemnation, but
rather, a reminder that so often those who have never known adversity never truly understand
mercy and grace, or the transforming and life changing power of forgiveness. And when adversity
comes – and if there is anything scripture teaches us it is not “if” bad things might happen, but
rather “when” they will happen, those folks are often unprepared because they never learned or
experienced the redemptive and sustaining power of that basic life lesson summed up in Jesus’
words, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
And that brings us back to the challenge of All Saints’ Day. While neighbors might be able to
name countless saints from ages past and even recall some of their magnificent works, do they
know that we are saints, too? What is it about our speech, what we say, what we think and value
and buy, how we treat others especially those different from us – what is it about our thoughts and
actions that demonstrate to our neighbors and the broader community that we have set our hope
on Christ and that hope has, indeed, changed everything in our hearts and minds? How do our
lives proclaim that we are saints just like Mother Theresa, St. Francis and all the others?
See, I think we grasp that the Feast of All Saints’ affirms our unity and common bond with
Christians of every age, gender, ethnicity and race, past, present and future, and that we are
joined with them and one another as one Body in Christ. Nevertheless, the deeper and probably,
more troubling message of All Saints’ Day is its call to action. As my colleague, David Lose, says so
well, “we are joined together as one Body not because of who we are, what we have, or what
we’ve done, but because in Christ God … has set us apart to be witnesses to God’s grace and
goodness (David Lose, 2010 Commentary on Luke 6)”. That’s the challenge we might overlook in
our All Saints’ celebrations. Our faith in Christ, our redemption and sainthood, isn’t just something
to make us feel good, but rather, it lays before us a specific task to be embraced and fostered in
our own lives every moment of every day. As Saints, God has set us, just as God has done in ages
past, God has set us apart to be Christ’s continuing light, Christ’s reconciliation, Christ’s feet and
hands, and especially, Christ’s voice in our communities and in the world right now.
Thus, today’s celebration poses the same questions that our Sunday readings have dared us to ask
ourselves over and again these past few weeks: “What difference does our sainthood, what
difference has setting our hope on Christ, what difference do our prayers and our form of worship
and service, what difference does any of this stuff we do and affirm in this sacred place, make in
who we are, how we choose to live and what we say, in our values, and in our thoughts? Those
questions haunt me every day for I am not sure of my own answer, let alone how you might
Nevertheless, in our wondering whether or not the whole of our lives always demonstrates to the
world the goodness and transforming grace of God’s love, there is still good news and hope found
in observing All Saints’ Sunday. All of those saints of God throughout history were, as we just sang,
folks like you and me. The difference is they set their hope on Christ so fully and completely it
changed everything – changed them to the core of their being. It transformed how they lived in
their communities, and it can and must transform us, too. It is a choice God asks us to make this
morning and every morning.
So, beloved, if it is true that the Saints of God are just folk like you and me,” then with God’s help,
let us choose to be and live like one, too – and not just today, but always. Amen.