All Saints Sunday
November 3, 2019
A little over a week ago I had the fun of being in Paris, France, winding up a long-planned although delayed 40th wedding anniversary celebration. Bonnie and I took one afternoon to make the journey by the funicular railway up to Montmartre, the hill on the northern side of the city where the glorious Basilica of the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) sits overlooking most of Paris.
Surrounded by the mystique of the beauty of that grand edifice and knowing that artists such as Renoir, Monet, Picasso, van Gogh and Matisse lived and worked in the area, only added to the awe-filled experience of entering such a magnificent structure. Walking down one side aisle and noticing a striking multi-colored beam of light radiating through the stained glass, the colorful array landed on a pillar and was reflected off of a piece of glass on a stand next to it. Taking a closer look, I was pleasantly surprised to see these words, first in French and translated to say: “I am a Christian. What have I done with the grace of my baptism?” Oh my gosh, here was this historic place, one more time, calling the people of God, All the Saints, into deeper faithfulness in response to the gift of one’s baptism.
That is what we are doing here today on All Saints Sunday and as we celebrate a new ministry among a priest and people for the mission realities of 21st century Hilton Head Island, the Diocese of South Carolina, and yes, for the country and world. This particular configuration of people gathered here today has never before existed on the face of the planet. God is giving you now another opportunity to live into the grace of your calling as the baptized. You, as we heard today in Ephesians and will renew in the Baptismal Covenant in a few minutes, have been “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.” Daniel proclaims, in the face of great turmoil and threat, that “the holy ones,” that includes you by the way, “shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.” That is the promise of your baptism, hearing again in Ephesians, “the hope to which (God) has called you.”
Today we catch a glimpse of that hope in what we call in Luke the Sermon on the Plain, a version of the Sermon on the Mount of the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel. It is a different context and probably a different audience as it comes through Luke’s eyes. It is directed primarily to those with some means and with many possessions. Listen in to the challenging words of this Gospel as they shape the ministry to which we are called. I wonder if you might consider how each of these could be embraced, incarnated if you will, in the ministry of All Saints Church through the grace of your baptism into Christ.
First, we find that the Kingdom of God belongs to “the poor,” those who have little enough to offer in God’s service and who have no temptation to boast of what they have or what they are—yet who give themselves in trust to God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now.” Those not participating in prosperity might have a keen interest for God’s justice to take root in all the world, in the created order itself. Luke is seeking the vindication of all who suffer and calling us to make the changes necessary in the world order so that God’s agenda can be established for every human being.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh,” pointing to the great reversal that Jesus continually calls forth. We hear it in parable after parable, perhaps taught on his mother Mary’s knee as she sings in what we know as the Magnificat, “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”
“Blessed are you when people hate you...and when they revile you.” All because of our first loyalty to God, we are clear about the responsibilities of being baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, having a sense of the cost of this ministry to which we are called. We die with him in order to be raised with him. I would go so far as to say if there is no cost to who we are in Christ, than we are likely missing something of Jesus’ call on our life.
In the end, such mission perspectives are rooted in grace, that is, because of the mercy and love given to us, we seek with all of our being to offer the same to every person of God. It is to participate as part of our answer to the prayer Jesus taught us, that God’s Kingdom might come and be known “on earth, as it is in heaven.” This is the work of this parish of All Saints. It is why God has called Denise to be among you as your Rector as you, together, offer your gifts to God in thanksgiving for all God has given you in his great embrace.
All Saints, this day of celebration, the name of this parish, and each of you as God’s baptized saints, are called into the depths of God’s love. Your first virtue is to be nothing more or nothing less than simple yet profound faithfulness. All Saints Sunday celebrates the innumerable company of people who have responded to God’s call by quiet and honest service, not for recognition, but out of faith. Today we recommit ourselves to the great company of saints, in gratitude for all that has gone before and in all that is yet to be. You do so now, in this unique configuration of God’s people called All Saints Church.
You are God’s blessed ones. What will you do with the grace of your baptism?
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Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.