All Saints Sunday  /  November 4, 2007  /  Resurrection Lutheran Church

Text:  Luke 6: 20 – 31  /  Message by: Rev. Carol Kniseley

Blessed to Be a Saint

In today’s Children’s message, I asked a very enlightening question:  ‘What do you see that‘s different today in the Sanctuary?’     The obvious visual clues are ‘candles…more candles than normal…many of them being placed into pools of water by loved ones who want to remember someone who has died.      I love candles.   Pastor Jim shudders anytime I go near a Yankee Candle store. 

The neat thing about candles though (beyond the really cool scents) is the fact that they are really very useful when it comes to shedding some light.      A candle is just a ball of wax…until it is transformed by the light.    The same can be said of each one of us.   We are all just a bunch of candles in a box…waiting to be lit…until Jesus comes along and (pardon the pun)…lights our fire.

How does he do it?   Simple.    As every saint this side of heaven and beyond can attest, he set our hearts on fire…with his love.    A really good definition of a saint…is someone who loves God beyond all measure.    They are ordinary people…like you and like me…who said a total “Yes” to God’s love.     

As I looked at today’s lessons for the very first time, I began to wonder why they were chosen to be our readings for today…knowing that today was also All Saints Sunday.     What I discovered was that all three of our lessons remind us…”where we have come from” AND “where we are going”.     For one who is considered to be directionally challenged…that’s important to know!

All three of today’s lessons remind us that like the saints before us, we are all on a journey.     In today’s first lesson, Daniel writes during an especially dark time and reminds his people, that God’s “holy ones” (saints) will enter into God’s kingdom.     In the book of Ephesians (chapter 1, verses 13, 14) the Apostle Paul “assures us”…that this is so, being ‘marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit’ so that we may obtain our inheritance.     

But it isn’t until we get to the Gospel, that the rubber begins to meet the road.   For it is Jesus who helps us to apply the values and standards of that “coming kingdom”…to our lives today!

What we will undoubtedly recognize as the Sermon of the Plain, was spoken by Jesus not only to his disciples but to a large assortment of folks from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and according to Luke…even from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon.      People came for two reasons:  to hear him preach…and to be healed of their diseases.   Somewhere along the way…Jesus apparently looked right at his disciples and began to speak.

        Blessed are you who are poor…

for yours is the kingdom of God.

        Blessed are you who are hungry now…for you will be filled.

        Blessed are you who weep now…for you will laugh.

Whereas many translations tend to substitute the word “blessed” with “happy”…we need to remind ourselves that “happiness” depends on happenstance, and it can come and it can go depending on our health, our finances, and our relationships.   BUT…and this is a big BUT…”blessedness” refers to the life of God in the New Testament, and especially to the “peace” and “serenity” that characterize the life of God and more importantly, those who have come to be called “saints” (both living and deceased).

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is offering his followers (yesterday and today) a secure resting place, a place of wellbeing and comfort “with him” in the midst of sorrow, suffering, and pain.    That place…is right next to his heart.       It calls to mind his invitation in Matthew 11:28:

        “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying

 heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Today, of all the days of the year, we can certainly be reminded that along this journey that we call “life”, there is bound to be room for sorrow…and pain…and even moments of doubt.    The good news is that Jesus knows exactly where we are coming from, and in our sorrow, it is Jesus who offers us “blessedness” by coming alongside us and wrapping his tender and loving arms around us.    

If anyone knows about being held in the palm of God’s hand…it is the blessed saints for whom we light today’s candles.    Those ordinary folks with feet of clay who one day discovered the immeasurable love of God reaching out to them in the person of Jesus the Christ.    And it is because of his love…I believe…that they were blessed to be saints among us.      

As Helmut Thielicke (German theologian and preacher) offers:   “Whoever has fellowship with the Father in Christ Jesus knows that this part of his/her life cannot be touched by anything or anybody.    As Pascal declared; ‘It is a joy…to be in a ship during the perfect storm and to know that the ship…will not sink!”    Which reminds me…the saints for whom these candles have been lit today…all…have been set afloat for not only our eyes to see…but our hearts and souls as well.     

Which is why we profess to believe in the communion of saints…both the living and the dead.    Those who have gone before us in this past year:   Louise Ernst, Marie Pearson, Luciana Leonard, and this week…Satch Bridenbaugh.    All Saints…blessed by the love of God to help us continue on our way.    To which we reply:  Thanks be to God!    Amen