The Rev. Peter M. Carey
6 November 2011
All Saints Day Sermon
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
We are one fellowship, we are one body, we are the great multitude, we are blessed, we are the children of God.
The readings today are in the present tense. They describe what is. They describe the deep and abiding mystery and mystical vision of God ever breaking into this very world. God is with us, and God abides with us, and God is present now, in this present time. Christ has lived, and was made known in the person of Jesus in Nazareth, Galilee, and Capernaum, but Christ is alive, alive now among us, within us, enlivening us and empowering us.
It can be easy to overly intellectualize and criticize the words of scripture, and get some emotional distance from them. “Well” we say in our authoritarian voice, the writer of the Psalms was talking about a particular moment during David’s reign. Or, we note that the writer of 1 John was, “speaking metaphorically about the notion of us being the children of God, when surely he was merely offering pastoral care and a fanciful vision of hope to a restless community.” We can fall into the trap of talking so much about God that we forget that God is alive, that God is amidst us God is within us and we are his holy people, a royal priesthood. We are the saints in light.
The readings today are in the present tense in the sense that while they may be talking about times past, or times future, they are also talking about the time in the present. The present moment is here for us, it is the only moment that we truly have. While we hope for joy in the future, lest not our hope for the future cloud the joy amidst us in this moment – this holy moment.
If you are anything like me, you probably find yourself spending a good deal of time in the past – past glory, past hurts, past relationships, revisiting the moments of the past and considering their goodness, and the ways that they were lacking. You may also find yourself thinking about the future, planning, hoping, considering the stresses that may impact us in the future. Do you do this? Does this strike a chord? Our Bible also does this, of course. We look to the past, to the story of creation, to the stories of figures such as David, and Ruth, and Esther, and Abraham, and all the rest. Also, our Bible gives us visions of a future – perhaps the visions of the Psalms, or perhaps also the letters of John and also Revelation offer up visions of a future that we can barely imagine.
However, the Bible also breaks open the present, and while the past and the future are important – knowing where we have been and where we are going are key – however, if we don’t know where we are, we are lost. We must remember that we encounter God in the present moment. Think of Moses, walking through the wilderness, what if he didn’t turn aside in the present moment to see the burning bush, what if he was so wrapped up in the pain of the past? What if he was so longing for the future that he forgot to be observant about God’s presence in the present? Well, Moses had to be present for God’s presence to be seen.
Are you ready to see God in the present? Are we ready to see that we are truly blessed? Are we ready to truly encounter God in this tremendous moment? Are we ready to encounter the mystical and reality of God in our lives?
The psalmist reminds us, “bless the Lord at all times, glory in the Lord, be radiant!” BE RADIANT! BE RADIANT. Are we radiant, or are we borrowing trouble from the future.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good, happy are those who trust in him.” Taste and see! TASTE AND SEE. The psalmist does not say, “fast today so that you might lose a few pounds and God may reveal himself to you tomorrow.” No. “Taste and see!” Are you tasting it, are you seeing it? Perhaps we need to cleanse our spiritual taste buds and clear off our lenses.
Of course, we have been promised much by God, but we also have been made children of God. Christ has thrown open the doors. Where the gates were closed, locked, with a passcode for solely a few, Christ has busted down the doors to the House of God. We have been made children of God, we are ALREADY children of God. “We are God’s children now” says the letter of 1 John. “WE ARE GOD’s CHILDREN NOW.” You see, we don’t need to wait, we don’t need to postpone joy. Of course, more has been promised to us, “What we will be has not been revealed, …[but] we will be like him!”
You see, the blessings have already begun, and are present now. Jesus knew this when he enacted what he commanded. He became the gift that he spoke abouty. He became the Good News that he proclaimed. When Jesus said “Blessed are….” He was not offering a word of hope. When Jesus said, “Blessed are…” he was not offering mere reassurance. Nope, he was creating blessing through his words. Remember when God created all that is, and spoke the words “let there be light” and there was light. Jesus, too, creates through his words. And the blessing that Jesus offers is the blessing that creates a holy people, a communion of saints, the children of God, empowered to breathe life and hope and peace into even this present moment. A people who will not be living merely in the past, and a people that will not be borrowing trouble from the future. In Christ’s blessing, a holy people is created who are able to live and breathe and offer hope in this present moment – and we are they.
We are the children of God. We are the blessed. We are to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” We are the ones who are “happy because we trust in him.”
And so, we are the saints of God, “patient and brave and true,” we are the ones who can and do make a difference in this world. We are the ones who are blessed, who no longer need to worry, who no longer need to fear anything, because we fear only God (we are in awe of God), and God has blessed us, and promised us mercy and love.
We have been given “ineffable joys.” What does this mean? I have no idea, but it must be grand. It must be wonderful. We have been blessed with “ineffable joys” in our lives, do we have eyes to see. Can we take a moment and see and “ineffable joys” granted to us?
God is with us, and God abides with us, and God is present now, in this present time. Christ has lived, and was made known in the person of Jesus in Nazareth, Galilee, and Capernaum, but Christ is alive, alive now among us, within us, enlivening us and empowering us.
So, Be Radiant! Be the Blessed!