The Big View of All Saints
All Saints' Sunday
November 2, 2014
All Saints Episcopal Church, Hampton
I John 3:1-3
Various themes and images come to mind as we commemorate All Saints’ Day, which we appropriately celebrate on this Sunday. Indeed, this is a commemoration rich with meaning. For instance, on this occasion, we remember that great “cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us and showed us the way … the way of faith on the journey of life. Also, we recall those who have died in recent times and whose memories are especially vivid. In addition, we remember that St. Paul referred to the church people of his day – people to whom he wrote his letters – as “saints.” Thus, his greeting in the book of Ephesians includes this language: “To the saints who are in Ephesus” (1:1); and to the Philippians he writes, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi” (1:1). Therefore, we need to realize that St. Paul would include us among the saints as well. As the familiar hymn puts it, “The saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too” (#293). Thus, there are a variety of themes and images to consider as we commemorate the feast day of All Saints.
In addition to other themes of All Saints, though, what occurs to me in today’s readings involves an image which is widely inclusive – indeed, included is all of creation. Especially in the reading from Revelation, we have before us nothing less than a vision of the completion of creation and the fulfillment of God’s intention for the whole created order. The author writes of those who will appear before God in these terms: “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (7:16-17). The completion and fulfillment of all creation are envisioned in that marvelous image.
Then, in the reading from First John, the vision seems similar. Indeed, the author writes of the hope we have in God … hope not yet fully realized. Nevertheless, faithful people have the conviction that such hope will be fulfilled in God’s time. And the basis for that hope lies in our relationship with God. The author writes, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (3:1). Thus, our relationship with God provides us with hope. And our hope comes to full flower in the vision of creation’s completion and fulfillment.
Finally, today’s Gospel reading in St. Matthew comes from the Sermon on the Mount and, specifically, from what is called “The Beatitudes.” Descriptions are provided there which indicate a life of blessedness. In those descriptions, what we discover are clear distinctions from the values of this present world. Of course, preachers through the years have agonized over particular statements in the Beatitudes…and you have probably heard a few of those attempts. What I want us to realize today is that the author’s vision relates to a fulness, a completeness, for all creation. That vision of creation’s fulness differs from our everyday view of the world and, indeed, our everyday values in this world. We are challenged, then, to find a greater hope in this larger vision.
Therefore, All Saints’ Sunday gives us a new perspective on our everyday lives. This important feast day of the Church encourages us to see the big picture – a view beyond the focus only on our everyday lives and their challenges. We are part of God’s plan for the fulfillment of creation – God’s creation. Our hope comes from far beyond any local predictions of hardship and limitation. Rather, our hope lies in the conviction that we are God’s children. God only wills the best for His sons and daughters. The values of God’s fulfilled creation – God’s blessedness – will turn on their heads the values of this world.
You see, what we do as individuals in our everyday lives is part of something much bigger, according to this understanding of the festival of All Saints. Therefore, it is important for us, my friends, to claim the big picture which All Saints Sunday holds before our eyes. What we do – as All Saints Church in Hampton and as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina – may seem small and insignificant at times. We may sometimes become discouraged and downhearted. Indeed, our efforts in the vineyard may seem not to yield very much fruit.
However, we are part of something far bigger than ourselves alone. This feast day – and, indeed, the name of this church – reminds us of that big picture. In that big picture – God’s vision of creation – what is blessed is very different from the values of this world. In that big picture – God’s vision – we are God’s children, and in that relationship we find good reason for ultimate hope. That big picture – God’s vision – finds fulfillment in the wonderful and hope-filled words of Revelation, words that refer to us: “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (7:16-17). May it indeed be so! Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
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