This sermon, offered on November 2nd, All Saints Sunday, November 2, 2014 at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, by the Very Rev. Andy Jones is based on the readings for All Saints Day in Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts the always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our Redeemer. Amen
What an amazing and powerful day, a day filled with imagery, and symbol, and sign. Every Sunday is like that in this place. We come here together. We kneel at this rail. We receive the symbol and sign of Christ’s ongoing presence among us. This is a place that lifts us into an understanding and a recognition of things that are beyond our normal reach, touch and grasp. But today is a special day, even richer if that is possible. The symbols and the signs are all around us. Here in the center aisle there is a basket filled with our pledges to this place; our giving back to God in joy, and gratitude, and thanksgiving for the gifts that we have been given; and our commitment to the life and work and ministry of this place. That symbol that sign will be carried forward to the altar in just a little while and mother to Dorota will hold them up and ask God’s blessing on the first fruits of our labor; given back to God in joyful thanksgiving, with a sense of abundance. All of this pointing to a truth that lies far beyond that specific moment, a truth which under girds all that we are and all that we do.
There are other symbols and signs. Here is the baptismal font, a pitcher filled with water, oil, and a candle; symbols and signs that we are, by virtue of our baptism, beloved children of God. In his letter James talks about us being children of God and one body together. This symbol and this sign, the water that we will pour, help to point us to that truth and that reality.
Eucharist, our commitment to one another and to this place, our adoption as beloved children of God through the water of baptism, all symbols and signs that point beyond themselves to a deep and fundamental truth.
That deep and fundamental truth is revealed in such a small symbol and sign today that it might go unnoticed if we didn’t point it out. In a few moments, when we baptize Henry, mother Dorota will turn to the congregation, having asked Henry’s parents and godparents to make some promises on his behalf, she will turn to all of us and she’ll ask,
“Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support this person in his life in Christ?” (BCP p. 303)
Everyone here, standing, will say, “We will!”
It’s a small, word two letters, but it says so much. We! We! Not I, not she, not him, but “We!”
At the 8 o’clock service this morning I constructed this same image, I walked us right up to this moment, and you can see everybody in the room their eyes kind of sunk. Well… that’s not happening now. That’s what will happen later. And “we” won’t be there. But I assured them that they would be… Because that word “We” means so much more than the few of us who are gathered here in this space, right now, today. When we say “We” we are talking about all of the people of St. Andrews. And were talking about all of the people in all of the Episcopal churches in Madison this morning; gathered, celebrating our connection with the broader community, all of the Saints past present and yet to come. “We” encompasses all of us! We! “We” extend beyond time and space, beyond the walls of this place, and include the people who have given us this space, this tradition, this building, these lights, this belief that we are beloved children of God initiated into the body of Christ through the water of baptism!
“We” will stand today and “We” will reaffirm our baptismal covenant. “We” will use the apostles Creed and unlike the Nicene Creed which starts out “We believe” today will say “I believe…” “We” will make a commitment as individuals today to God, to our faith, and to our belief and we will make that commitment in the context of “We,” gathered here together.
“We” includes all of the names that mother Dorota will read during the Eucharistic prayer; names of people who have died in the past year: members of this congregation, beloved family members who have not attended here but who are still, and even now, part of that “We.”
“We” includes the theologians, and the churchpeople, and the congregations, and the people who have gone before us. “We….” Is a mighty word indeed!
We have been talking about this day for weeks now as “Commitment Sunday,” All Saints Sunday, an honoring of the Saints: past, present, and yet to come… Commitment Sunday.
And Henry I’m sure you were nervous that all of this commitment business might steal the spotlight from you in this moment. This isn’t Commitment Sunday this is Baptism Sunday… right? But I think there’s something really important about that word “We.”
“We” are making a commitment to support this person in his new life in Christ. “We” are making a commitment, one to another, to walk this path together. “We” are making a commitment to those who have gone before us. And “We” are making a commitment to those who will come after us. “We” say “We!” “We” are talking about something much larger, and broader, and deeper, than the hundred and forty or so of us who are gathered together in this room.
The collect for the Feast of All Saints which we read this morning… and I’m going to paraphrase here because it’s too long for me to remember this morning in this moment, says that we are “knit together in one communion, the mystical body of Christ.” Knit together through our baptism, through our faith, through the things that we have believed, things that have been handed down to us through the generations, things that we have learned about ourselves and know to be true about the people of God and about God. “We” are knit together in one Communion, the mystical Body of Christ!
Henry if that’s not exciting I don’t know what is! So we are here this morning to welcome you in to this body. And we are making a commitment to you, and to one another, to walk hand-in-hand in the light of God’s love and grace, sustaining, stewarding, and treasuring what has been given to us, and freely offering it to those who will follow us and to you here this morning.
I would ask you as you come forward for communion later this morning to reach your hand into the water in the font and to remember your own baptism. And if your memory is better than mine you’ll be able to remember this phrase, “We are knit together in one communion, the mystical Body of Christ…” a beautiful and tremendous truth that under girds and forms all that we say and do. So come forward. Play in the water. Remember your baptism. And say to yourself, and to all the saints; past, present, and yet to come, “Knit together in one communion, the mystical body of Christ.