This sermon was preached on All Saints Day, November 1, 2020. You can watch it on the video below. To find out how you can join us live, click "Events & Gatherings" above to learn how.
Today is All Saints Day.
So, to start us out, I thought I would do my research like any good College Student would and lookup what All Saints Day is on the Holder of All Knowledge in the World, Wikipedia.
Here it is:
“All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, Hallowmas, the Feast of All Saints, or Solemnity of All Saints, is a Christian solemnity celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. Its intent is to celebrate all the saints, including those who do not, or are no longer, celebrated individually, either because the number of saints has become so great or because they were celebrated in groups, after suffering martyrdom collectively. The feast may have started in the Christian community in Antioch. Its date, 1 November, was set by Pope Gregory III and extended to the whole church by Pope Gregory IV.”
So. now we know what it is, right?!
But, what does all of that mean for us?
Growing up, well from the 6th grade on, was this very special day in my church life. See, I grew up at All Saints Episcopal Church...because All Saints Day 1998 was the first Sunday after our previous rector tried to rip our parish out of the Episcopal Church. As such, on All Saints Day 1998, my childhood church ceased being the Episcopal Church of the Advent and became All Saints Episcopal Church. All Saints Day became a day that we remembered gathering together as a community and standing up against a bully and telling him no.
Looking beyond that experience though… To me, All Saints is not as much about remembering all of those saints whom we see in paintings, or have buildings named after (although they do matter!), but rather is about remembering those saints who are in our own lives. Who matter so much to us. For me, All Saints is when I remember my grandparents. All of them, and I had several. All Saints is when I remember the tenacity of my grandmothers, and the sparkle and laughter of my grandfathers. It is when I look back to these amazing humans who helped form me into who I am today and I say thank you. Thank you for being who you were, and for helping to make me who I am.
All Saints is about telling the stories of those whom we love and are no longer on this terrestrial plane with us. I have photos of several of my grandparents (and As I said, I really had a lot of grandparents) in the hallway at my house, and today is when I go out there and pause to look at them, and to remember…
I remember a time when my life felt simpler, and I could go over to my grandparents house and enter into a world of imagination and wonder, and of course always enjoy the cookies that seemed to magically always be ready for me. I look at this amazing painting of my grandfather (he even had hair in it!), and remember that the first sentence I ever spoke was “go play grandad?” I remember when I was in kindergarten and I broke my arm at recess, and my grandmother came and whisked me away to the ER as fast as she could. Or how she would do my family’s laundry in times we really needed the help and would push the laundry down the hallway on a chair to “deliver” it to the various bedrooms, and I would get to ride back to the laundry room in the chair...that was always a treat! I even remember going out to my grandfather’s farm and learning how to commit genocide of grasshoppers on a riding lawnmower. I remember going over to my grandmother’s house in inner-city Houston and simply feeling the power of love upon entering her house. I also remember that time my brother fell through her ceiling.
That said, I also remember other times, times that were not always full of laughter and joy. I remember when I was in college and my grandmother was dying a slow and painful death over the fall semester of my sophomore year, and I called her every single day and talked with her for hours because I didn’t want to miss a moment of being able to be with her. I remember flying to Houston 2 years ago to say goodbye to my grandfather, and crawling into the bed beside him and holding him as he used to hold me. When I was born, he carried me around in the palm of his hand (literally) because I was so tiny. I remember the stories of my grandfather staying alive by the knowledge he had to see his new grandchild, and how going to visit me for the first time was the last time he ever left his house alive.
Sometimes I think we try not to remember things because they are too painful to encounter, Which, sometimes they are. That said, for me these memories, now, are what bring me such great joy, because I know that these moments are what have added together to form me, and that by remembering them, and holding onto them in my heart, I help keep these amazing people alive. Because of this, Robby, Ola Mae, Allie, Sherry, Theresa, Pete, and Harvey stay with me forever. I know that they are currently in the great cloud of witnesses, waiting for me to join them one day. And on that day hopefully I will live on in someone else’s memories too.
This doesn’t have to be people we are related to, either. Sometimes blood does not provide us with those role models and loved ones, but rather we are forced to make our own families. Blood is not what makes family...it is the love shared between humans. And, canonization or a vote by General Convention or Churchwide Assembly is not what makes a saint, a saint. No, it is what they do, it is how they live their lives, it is the reasons we have such love for them.
This brings me to our Gospel Reading today. Today we hear the beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew. Listen to these again:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
When I read the beatitudes, they give me strength when I feel like I have nothing left to do, when I feel hopeless and helpless. They remind me that even those who are poor in spirit, who are persecuted, who was mournful and meek….that they will inherit the earth.
For me, this is one reason why my great-grandmother will always be one of my heroes. In a time when people did not get divorced, and she was still but a kid herself, she took her children and ran from her abusive husband. She risked everything for them. God knows she was terrified, but she did it. And because of that, my grandmother had a great childhood, and had my mom, who had me.
Are there people in your life, either present or in the past, who you feel might fit these descriptors? Are there people who have been saints to you?
Maybe it is someone who you always think of whenever All Saints rolls around...maybe its someone new. I just invite you to sit with this for a bit. See what might come up for you in your mind and your heart.
Who is a saint to you?
Since 2013, Brad Eubanks has served as a chaplain on the campus of Northern Arizona University. To learn more and get in contact with them, visit the Leadership page of this website.