A sermon preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First and Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
All Saints Sunday – November 2, 2003
Text: Revelation 21.5
Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Mother Teresa is on the fast track to sainthood. Or so I was reading in the paper last week. Teresa, the beloved nun from India who served the poor and needy with deep humility and genuine love, is already well on her way to canonization, or being made a saint. Just six short years after her death she has been beatified by Pope John Paul II, meaning that it will only take one more miracle attributed to her before she can be made a full-fledged saint.
Teresa was one of those truly great people whom everyone recognizes as saintly, whatever their religious beliefs. Even when her fame had spread around the world and she had become a mouthpiece for the downtrodden and the destitute, Mother Teresa continued to minister personally to individuals, seeing in each of them a child of God who was worthy of her care. Very few years will pass, I think, before Mother Teresa is formally named a saint by the Catholic Church.
At the risk of letting the wind out of John Paul’s sails, however, I’d like to speak plainly to you today, and the plain truth is that Teresa of Calcutta is already a saint. She has been a saint for many years; in fact, Teresa was one of God’s saints from the very day of her baptism. On that day, Christ said about her, “See, I am making all things new.” And having been made new in Jesus Christ, Teresa was given a new name and a new identity – she was now God’s own child and a saint of his church, always and forever, to the end of her days and beyond.
Although the nearly 500 people named to sainthood by John Paul since he became pope certainly are real saints who are worthy of our honor, I would like to remind you this All Saints Sunday of the countless saints of God who shape your life and mine each and every day. The odds are good that the pope will never write their names into the church history books, nor will crowds call their name with joy. They will probably never perform a miracle in their life, although sometimes they may come close. Most days they live in anonymity, their saintly witness to us unnoticed or taken for granted. Yet they are there, all around us. Let us open our eyes today and see them.
Let us see Saints Bob and Matt, Troy and Heather and Cara, who brought the ministry of friendship and kindness to many of their fellow saints last month. Through cookies and conversation these saints showed a twinkle of the light of Jesus into the longing world.
Let us see Saint [Lennie/Fay/Vicki], whose fingers call forth songs of praise and thanksgiving to God week after week. By letting the light of her baptism shine through her music, she gives us all the courage to raise our voices in prayer to our Lord.
Let us see the many saints who gather in our church basement week in and week out. In their sewing and cooking, praying and sharing, laughing and longing, they are witnesses to us of the things Jesus Christ is up to in this world. Their gatherings, large and small, point us toward him.
Let us see all those saints who faithfully support our churches with their generous gifts of time and wealth. Perhaps they would rather go unseen, but today we remember that from the very first days Jesus’ ministry required this sort of faithful support to reach into the world. By using the money and talents that God has given them so that others may know of his great love, they are proclaimers of the gospel and witnesses to God’s faithfulness in their lives.
Let us see Saints [USE LIST FROM BULLETIN], whose lives we honor today. Though they are no longer with us, we rejoice that they now rest in the same faith in which they lived. In their baptisms, God made them new people, and in all the many ways in which they touched our lives, we felt the hand of God at work among us. Their faith helped us when ours was weak; their hope kept us looking toward Jesus when we would have otherwise despaired; their love bore witness to the even greater love of Jesus Christ, the love that holds them together with us, even in death.
Let us see saints all around us, but let us see them as they are; for wherever you see a saint, there also you see a sinner. On the day of our baptism, we were joined to Christ’s death and resurrection. We were made new creations in him. We were made saints. In this life, sin remains – until the day that John foresaw, when the new heaven and the new earth come, when death and mourning and crying and pain all have come to an end – until that day comes and the new creation is at last complete, we will remain both saint and sinner.
We do not worship saints, because we can see them as they are. But we are right to honor them and to give thanks for the ways in which their faithful lives have touched our own.
This All Saints Sunday, let us praise God for all his faithful sinner/saints. Let us praise him all the more that he has called us, too, into the great company of all the saints. Praise the Lord, who makes all things new! Amen.