Remembering the Saints—2 Timothy 4: 1-7
(November 1, 2020-22nd Sunday after Pentecost)
On this All Saints Sunday we remember that the church of the 21st century stands on the shoulders of all those who like the writer of second Timothy fought the good fight and have now finished the race. They were people like us—faithful and unfaithful, righteous and sinful, human and divine.
In the wake of Jesus’ death and resurrection they formed communities of caring. They were martyred for their faith. They were seduced by the power of the Roman Empire. They preserved the intellectual heritage of the west in our monasteries during the dark ages. They founded hospitals and schools. They devastated cultures, religions and people. They promoted slavery and abolished it. We abused our power and empowered the poor.
There is no arriving in this Christian journey, there is no completion. We keep going, stumbling in faith, doing the best we can. But we need to remember that we live in God’s world, we are not alone. I read a story this week about an American Pastor, Rick Thyne who shared this: “At my church when I was a kid,” he said, “we had a balcony that wrapped around the building and you could look up and see the people you cared about.” They were the people urging him on, encouraging him when he offered his gifts in worship. “They were my balcony people,” he said, “and when some loved one dies I feel like they become balcony people in my life, cheering me on, wishing me well, commiserating with me when I fail or feel sad.
On this All Saints Sunday we remember the communion of saints, those fallible, loveable people who did their best to surrender to the good news, who bequeathed to us this faith, this treasure in clay jars, who sit in our balconies watching, praying, loving each one of us. The communion of saints that reaches back to the beginning of time. We are gathered with Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, with Moses and Deborah, with Ruth, Naomi and David. We gather with all those grumblers in the desert, who persecuted the prophets and kept the faith in exile.
We are gathered with Mary and Jesus, with Peter and Mary Magdalene. With the women, the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors and all the outsiders who found mercy and acceptance through Jesus. We are here with the founders of the church Paul and Lydia. We are inheritors of the faith from the church fathers Augustine, Tertullian, and the early martyrs Polycarp, Perpetua and Felicity. We gather with the countless who embrace the faith as good news, as liberation from the categories of slave and master, woman and man, Jew and Gentile.
The faith was passed to Anselm, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila. The countless who worked and died building cathedrals, the monks and the nuns who opened monasteries and convents to strangers and the poor. We are children of the Reformation birthed by Martin Luther, Katharina Van Bora, John Calvin, George Fox. The countless who risked their lives for a deeper understanding of the good news of Jesus.
Our Methodist roots were planted in the soil of the Anglican Church lead by Thomas Cranmer and bore fruit in Methodism’s founders, John and Charles Wesley. The many who embraced the call for a deeper spiritual life. We are the inheritors of the UCC from people like George Pidgeon, our first moderator, Lydia Gruchy, our first woman minister, other leaders like Wilbur Howard, Anne Squire, Sang Chul Lee, Alvin Dixon.
We are inheritors of the faith from those who have worked tirelessly to serve God through their congregations, baking pies, teaching the children, housing the poor and the addicted, repairing roofs and boilers, comforting the grieving. Before us came those who through their faith took courageous stands and lead the way in bringing in public universal education and universal health care, making the church a social leader.
Here at Parkminster some of those first saints who have passed on include the Chambers, Merv Nodder, the McCallums, the Dunbars, Allan Duxbury, the Lambs, Marg Heinbuch. All who joined them in that gym at Harold Wagner school in the fifties and eventually at 275 Erb St. East.
We want to give you an opportunity to reflect on and name the saints who have left you a legacy of faith. We each have those we count as our own saints, a cloud of witnesses that walks with us the path of faith, those who fill our balcony. Who are the people who are no longer with us that have inspired you, nurtured you to live a life of loving service in the world? These might be people you know personally or those who have inspired and shaped you from afar.
(At this point people were invited to name the saints in their lives, I invite you to reflect on your own saints and offer a prayer of gratitude.)
Rev. Joe Gaspar