Sermon for All Saints’ Day
Offered to the San Jacinto Convocation of the Daughters of the King
November 1, 2013
I want to thank the Daughters of the King for hosting this All Saints’ Day convocational communion here at Holy Comforter. And I want to thank them for inviting me to preach and celebrate on this holy day in the life of the Church.
Now, you should know, that I couldn’t really say no to this invitation. The Daughters of the King is a bit of a family affair. My mother is in the Daughters of the King at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Rosenberg, Texas. And she would have been furious had I said no to you. But more importantly, my mother-in-law is in the Daughters of the King at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Farmers Branch. And we all know that it’s really our mothers-in-law who run the show.
I begin tonight with a question: what are you doing here? It’s 7:00 PM on a Friday night. Many of you had a long week of work. And to make it worse, the rain this week transformed the commute from aggravating to demonic. And I’m sure the comfort and peace of you own sofa is beckoning you home.
But you are here. In a church. At 7:00 PM on a Friday night. Celebrating a holiday that most Christians have forgotten, not to mention the rest of the world. So what are you doing here?
But it gets better. It’s 7:00 PM on a Friday night after a long week of work celebrating some strange religious festival. And all you want from Jesus is a little peace and comfort. Maybe a pat on the back for dashing over straight from work to get here. And this is what Jesus has to say to us:
“Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.” Oh come on Jesus, give me a break! Because last time I checked, we are some of the richest people in the world. We’ve got a whole Parish Hall full of food. And by this time you’ve already laughed twice during my sermon. Woe to you. Woe to us, says Jesus.
And it’s like Jesus has found a sore spot, and he digs in even more. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. If somebody tries to rob you, let them.”
It’s 7:00 PM on a Friday night after a long week of work celebrating a strange religious festival and you’re here listening to Jesus rant about wealthy, well-fed, joyful people who lock their doors at night. So I have to ask – are you all gluttons for punishment? Is this why my mother-in-law is in the DOK?
So, what are you doing here? I will tell you what I think you’re doing here. I think that you are doing the most important thing in the world. I truly believe that. I believe that your presence here runs against all odds. Your presence is counter-cultural to the nth degree. Your presence here, at church, for a long-forgotten festival day, testifies to one thing: the power of the living God. The power of the living God to transform lives into a life that looks like the life of Jesus Christ.
And it is this power that we recognize tonight, All Saints’ Day. This is the power that stirred up the lives of all the saints who have gone before us, who are living now, and who will follow us. The power of the living God emboldened Mary Magdalene to be the first witness to the resurrection. The power of the living God inspired Julian of Norwich to write those ecstatic prayers of hope and love. The power of the living God emboldened eleven women in Philadelphia in 1974, against all odds, to become the first women ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church. That is why we are here. Against all odds.
And there is something beautiful, something intangible that we know about the lives of the saints. These great saints of the past, women and men, heard these words of Jesus, and lived them. Saint Clare heard, “blessed are you who are poor,” so she committed herself to austere prayer and life. Teresa of Avila heard, “blessed are you who are hungry now,” so she prayed and fasted and contemplated upon the mysteries of the Lord. Florence Nightingale heard, “blessed are you who weep now,” so she wept for the men despoiled by the folly of war and gave her life to healing them.
The saints of God, against all odds, heard the words of Jesus and rejoiced. They did not despair. The saints of God are not gluttons for punishment; the saints of God are those who do the words of Jesus; not by themselves, but with the power of the living God.
So, you Daughters of the King. With my family background, and with a little research, I know something about your order. You have taken solemn vows to pray for the clergy, and to aid the clergy in the spiritual upbuilding of the Church of Christ. And now you’ve asked me into the pulpit, so I am going to be bold enough to tell you what you can do to aid me, and to aid the Church.
First, you are to pray. Pray that the power of the living God emboldens you, emboldens the Episcopal Church, to proclaim the gospel as did our foremothers: Mary, Julian, Teresa, Florence, Clare. Pray for courage.
Then, rejoice. If there is one thing I cannot abide, it is a sour Christian. I’ve never understood that. Perpetua, one of the early women martyrs of the church, went singing and rejoicing to her execution in a Roman circus. If she can muster joy in that situation, there is no reason for us to be gloomy.
Finally, there is one last thing you can do to enliven the spirit of the church, to fulfill your vows as a Daughter of the King; proclaim. Tell your friends where you were on Friday night at 7:00 PM. Tell them that you know about something that is better than your sofa and a movie. Tell them that you sang a hilariously cute and weirdly somber song about meeting the saints of God in ships, and in lanes, and at tea. Invite them to church. Because you never know, the power of the living God might just make them into a saint. Your hairdresser might be the next Teresa. The woman who delivers your mail could be the Julian of our age. Your doctor could have the potential to be the next Florence. The person you invite might just become a saint of God.