Sunday, November 25, 2018

“The Kingdom of Truth.” A Sermon from Littlefield Presbyterian Church on Christ the King Sunday

"The Kingdom of Truth"

John 18:33-38

            In 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted a new liturgical observance:  the Feast of Christ the King. The Pope felt that the followers of Christ were being lured away by the increasing secularism of the world. They were choosing to live in the “kingdoms” of the world, rather than in the reign of God.
            This last Sunday of the church year is Christ the King Sunday.  We prepare to begin a new church year next week. On the First Sunday of Advent, the coming of Jesus, not only in Bethlehem, but the second coming as well, we pause and reflect upon who Jesus the Christ is in our lives.
            Truth be told, the language of “king” and “kingdom” troubles a lot of people these days. As Jill Duffield points out, “it creates a stumbling block to seeing God.  Male. Dominating. Subjugating. Hierarchical….”  Those of us who live in the United States of America remember that back in 1775 we declared our independence from a king and fought a war of independence.  
            So…what do we do with Christ the King Sunday?  These days, we also call it “Reign of Christ” Sunday. We talk about “the kin-dom of God. “But how do we talk about Christ as King of our lives?
            The scripture texts appointed for this week give good clues for where to start.  The Revelation gives a beautiful glimpse into the glorious, majestic, all-encompassing power of the Risen Christ.  John the Evangelist proclaims that the One we worship, the Lord of all, poured himself out to the point of death on a cross.  

            Today’s gospel lesson is set in Pontius Pilate’s dusty headquarters in Jerusalem.  Pilate, an officer of the Roman Empire, looks over the ragged street preacher.   The Jewish religious authorities have turned Jesus over to be tried by the Roman authorities.   It is Pilate’s job to decide whether or not Jesus is a threat to the Empire.
            “Are you the king of the Jews?”   Pilate asks.
            Jesus answers, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
            Pilate replies, “I am not a Jew-- am I?   Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me.  What have you done?”
            Jesus answers, “My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
            Pilate asks, “So you are a king?”
            Jesus answers, “You say that I am.  But ‘king’ is your word.  My task is to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
            Pilate then answers, “What is truth?”
            Of course, “What is truth?” has everything to do with Jesus as king, for Jesus is the truth.
            Dr. Emilie Townes makes a helpful distinction between the more intellectual understanding of truth (which Pilate represents in this passage) and truth as revelation, which we find in Jesus Christ.[1]
            Dr. Townes writes, “We must seek to know God and live as active witnesses on this journey into God.  Jesus’ life and mission is a model of this for us. In Jesus, we learn that truth is a stimulant for faithful living and witness, rather than only a matter for contemplation. It is something we do.”
            What Pilate misses-- what most of the world misses-- is that Jesus’ Kingdom was never a place, but a perspective…never an established rule, but a stated reality of how to live life.  It was never about hierarchy or domination, but a way of interpreting the world and embodying Jesus’ gospel truth in everything we do.
            This is a counter-cultural way to live. We’re socialized to trust in the kinds of kingdoms that aren’t interested in the Truth at all, but who tell half-truths, false truths, fake truths that tap into our insecurities and our fears. It might be easier to live under authority, rather than turning away from that and living into the way of truth and justice for all.
            The gospels tell us what happens when oppressive, unjust kingdoms are confronted for their wrongs and defied for their abuses-- you can end up like Jesus. Or Dietrich Bonhoeffer… or Dr Martin Luther King…or Archbishop Romero.  We know when we stand up to privilege, those with power and privilege will want to shut us up.
            When you stand up to the workings of the world’s kingdoms that rely on sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, classism, or able-ism to survive, expect to be silenced. When you stand up to the injustices of the kingdoms at hand that survive because of thrive on fear, expect to be discredited and disregarded.[2]
            The kingdoms of this world use power and privilege to keep people in their place.  But Jesus’ Kingdom tells the truth about the Truth-- that God so loves the world.
            Jesus Christ, our Savior, the one who was betrayed, arrested, beaten, mocked, and taken before Pilate, tells the ruler with the power to kill him, “My kingdom is not of this world.” When he could have spared himself, Jesus chose truth over safety, saying, “I came to testify to the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
            In a time when there are so many lies, those of us who worship Christ the King are called to testify to the truth.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to listen to his voice and to live in his way of truth and love. We are called to love God and our neighbors, to work for peace and reconciliation and justice for all, to embody the love of Jesus Christ in all our relationships. As we grow in faith toge
            In our Presbyterian and Reformed tradition, our understanding of baptism emphasizes God’s initiative.  God reaches out graciously to us, and offers us the gift of life in the kingdom as a free gift.  We respond by dedicating our lives to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and committing ourselves to follow him.  Baptism is the beginning of our life in the church…a first step in a journey that takes a lifetime.
ther, we trust in the Holy Spirit to guide us, to lead us further into the truth, and to empower us to live into God’s Kingdom.   Through the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, we teach and encourage each other to live in the way of God’s love.

One of the great joys of the Christian life is when parents present their children for baptism.  This is their public declaration that they want their child to be a part of the church and to have a ministry in it. 
            Baptism is central to our identity as Christians.    As we live into our baptism, we learn who we are and whose we are.  We are nurtured to see ourselves as beloved children of God, and that can make all the difference!
            The baptismal font stands at the front of sanctuary to remind us that we’ve been initiated into this congregation, as well as into the universal church of Jesus Christ. 
            When parents and a congregation baptize children, we all promise to teach them who they are in the light of God’s truth.  We promise to teach them what makes them different as part of a holy people…a royal priesthood…consecrated to God’s service.  
            When parents present their child for baptism, they promise to live the Christian faith themselves, and to teach that faith to their children, by word and example.  To grow in the faith, we all need to worship and learn together—in our families, and in the faith community which is the church.  
            Today, we’re inviting Khalil to be part of the great adventure we call church.
            What God will make of Khalil’s life, or where God will lead him, or what kind of ministry he will have, we don’t know.
            But what we do know…what we can say with certainty, because we have God’s PROMISE—is that God is with us every step of the way.
            May God bless Khalil and his family…and all of us on our adventure, as we live into God’s Kingdom together!

Rev. Fran Hayes, Pastor
Littlefield Presbyterian Church
Dearborn, Michigan
November 25, 2018

[1] Emilie M. Townes, “Theological Perspective,” in Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 4: Season after Pentecost 2 (Propers 17)  Reign of Christ
[2] I’m grateful to Caroline Lewis for her insights in “The True Kingdom” at Working Preacher.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

"Don't Worry or Be Afraid." A Sermon from Littlefield Church on Luke 12:13-34.

"Don't Worry or Be Afraid"

Luke 12:13-34

In this world we live in, there’s so much to fear.  Political speeches on various parts of the spectrum have named a litany of things and people that we should be afraid of.   When we travel, we go through security screenings.  There are metal detectors at big events, surveillance cameras in a growing number of places.  Churches have security systems.   I just attended a training on safety in houses of worship.  We’re surrounded by reminders of the possibility of danger and possible loss.
            On my phone, I get texts and emails from the local police and the Nextdoor app with subject headings like “Be on the lookout”, “Heed the Warning”, “Attempted home invasion,” “Secure your home and automobile.”    From a variety of voices, we keep getting messages: “Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”
            Truth be told, a lot of the news is grim around the country.  Mass shootings.  Forest fires. Global warming.  Economic worries.  Diseases. Fears of not having enough.
            At the beginning of today’s gospel lesson, Jesus warns people in the crowd to be on their guard against all kinds of greed.  He puts our relationship with material wealth in perspective: “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

            Then Jesus tells a parable, about a rich man whose land produced abundantly-- so abundantly that his barns were full.  He had so much that he’d run out of space to store his harvest. This rich man thought to himself, “What should I do?”
            Then he answers himself: “I’ll do this: I’ll pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I’ll store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years. Relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
            This rich man thinks--or hopes-- that if he can only fill more barns, then he can finally relax and be happy.
            But God said to the rich man, ‘You fool!  This very night your very life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
            Jesus goes on to teach his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, don’t worry about your life, about what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
            Look at the birds, Jesus says.  They don’t worry about stuff, and God provides for them.  Look at the lilies.  They don’t worry about stuff, and God provides for them.  How much more will God provide for you?   It is God’s good pleasure to provide in abundance.   Don’t be anxious.  Don’t worry or be afraid.   

            Stuff, Jesus tells us, is not to be collected and stored up.    Stuff is to be shared… given away…used for others.  He told a rich man who was too attached to his wealth, “Sell your stuff and give it away to those who are in need.”[1] 
            The kind of life Jesus describes has to do with choosing to live more simply, choosing to intentionally have less stuff, choosing to stop collecting more possessions… choosing to discover our sense of well-being in a just sharing of material possessions.
            What Jesus teaches about having a faithful relationship to possessions isn’t hard to understand.  But it isn’t easy to follow. 
            It’s so counter-cultural, in a society in which we are known as consumers… a society in which we are bombarded by messages that try to convince us that the things we buy and own can make us happy…secure…and content. 
            I’ve become more and more convinced that the greed and worry and fear that Jesus keeps warning his disciples about are at the root of so much of the evil and the problems in our world today.           We live in one of the richest nations in the world.  Yet we don’t seem to have the will to make sure that the neediest of Americans have what they need.
            We have enough food to provide basic nutrition to everyone in our nation. There’s enough food in the world for everyone to have a basic diet.  It’s a matter of priorities.  What are our highest priorities?  To care for the most vulnerable in our nation?   To pay for wars?  To give tax cuts to the wealthiest people?
            I believe that—deep down—a lot of us want to be more generous and gracious.  I think what gets in the way for a lot of us has to do with chronic anxieties.  We worry about whether we’ll have enough.  We’re afraid we’ll be vulnerable or dependent if we don’t build bigger barns or houses or retirement accounts, so we cling tightly to what we have. Maybe we tell ourselves that, if we can accumulate more-- then we’ll be happy and secure, and then we’ll be free to share.
Jesus knows our human condition.  I think that’s why he spent so much time teaching about how to be in a faithful relationship with material possessions and how to have faithful priorities. 
            I like the way Eugene Peterson translates this passage in The Message.  Peterson hears Jesus saying, “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting-- so you can respond to God’s giving…. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met….” 
“Don’t worry about your life,” Jesus says.  “Don’t keep striving for the things of this world…  Your Father in heaven knows what you need…. So, strive for God’s kingdom, and what you really need will be given to you as well.”
“What you really need will be given to you…. It is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

            Do we believe this?   Do we live like we believe it—like we trust God to give us what we need? 
            Imagine how freeing it would be if—instead of being afraid, instead of worrying—we would stake our lives in trust in our great and faithful God!     
            Jesus asks his disciples, “Why are you afraid?”  If we trust that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus our Lord,[2]  then we don’t need to be afraid.
            In the midst of all the voices of fear, we are called to live fearlessly.  Not because the world isn’t scary.  Not because we are invincible.  Not because we don’t struggle with fear and anxiety.  But because we know we belong to God.
            This may sound simplistic to some, but placing our trust not in earthly treasures but in the treasures of God’s kingdom can be powerful and transformative.
            As Henri Nouwen wrote, “The more you feel safe as a child of God, the freer you will be to claim your mission in the world as a responsible human being.”
 Living fearlessly in faith can free our energy, our imaginations, our intelligence to live into the Kingdom.  It can open our hearts and empower us to embody God’s love in ways that the world so desperately needs.
            Over the years, the stock market and the value of our homes can go up and down. Governments rise and fall.  Corporations split and merge and restructure.  Possessions can be stolen or destroyed in fires or floods.  In faith communities, income rises and falls.  The political scene is full of scary scenarios.
But don’t worry.  Don’t be afraid.  God knows what we need, and it is God’s good pleasure to provide us with what we truly need.  
            So… may we learn how to relax…and not be so preoccupied with getting or hoarding or trying to be in control-- so we can respond in faith to God’s generosity.  May we learn to trust that God will provide what we truly need.   May we learn not to worry or be afraid, as we learn to trust that God is good—all the time. 
Do we believe this?  Do we believe that God is good and that God delights in giving us what we need?   Do we trust in it? 
            I pray that we do.  I pray that we can affirm our trust:  God is good. All the time. All the time, God is good!
            Thanks be to God!
Rev. Fran Hayes, Pastor
Littlefield Presbyterian Church
Dearborn, Michigan
November 18, 2018

[1] Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30.
[2] Romans 8:38-39

[1] Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30.
[2] Romans 8:38-39

Sunday, November 11, 2018

"Don't Be Afraid. There Is Enough." A Sermon on the Widow's Mite from Littlefield Presbyterian Church.

"Don't Be Afraid. There is Enough."

Mark 12:38-44; 1 Kings 17:7-16

            We don’t know this woman’s name.  We really don’t know anything about her, other than that she is an impoverished widow in first century Palestine, living on the margins of her society, with no safety net. No husband to protect or advocate for her.  No pension.  She’s part of a poor and vulnerable class of society. 
            So, don’t you wonder what it means to point to a destitute woman who gives her last two cents to the Temple?  Should we applaud her self sacrifice—or see her as naïve and impractical?

            Mark only uses this word for “widow” twice in his gospel, both times in the passage we just heard.  Unlike Luke, Mark doesn’t emphasize a mission to “the poor” in his narrative.
             The first time Mark mentions the poor is when a wealthy man comes to Jesus asking how he can inherit eternal life.[1]  Jesus responds: “Sell what you own and give the money to the poor.”  The man couldn’t do it.
            But this poor widow does just that. She gives it all.
            What do we do with this?  What does it mean?   Why would this poor widow give everything she had to live on?  Surely her small gift couldn’t make any difference to the Temple.   In ancient Israel, the “poor” were not required to give to the Temple.[2]  If they did give, they might have done so out of a sense of obligation… or a sense of hope.   We just don’t know.     
            Our gospel lesson today is framed by verses that show what Jesus thinks about what was going on in the Temple.  Jesus has visited the temple and cleansed it by driving out those who were selling   and tossing the tables of the moneychangers.  He quoted the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah to explain his prophetic action: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’” But you have made it a den of robbers.”[3] 
            In today’s lesson, we heard Jesus teaching his disciples to “Beware of the scribes,” those religious leaders who like to walk around in their long robes.  Jesus said, “They like to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.”                           
            In the two parts of today’s lectionary passage, Mark offers us contrasting examples of discipleship.   These are teaching moments for Jesus as he calls his disciples to pay attention to the scribes, who “will receive the greater condemnation.”   Then Jesus points to the widow’s giving.
            This is one of the widows Jesus had just accused the scribes of abusing—offering her copper coins amidst the grand displays of generosity from the rest of the temple crowd.        
            The widow gives sacrificially—all she has to live on.  Her sacrifice is complete—so complete that Jesus wants his disciples to witness it.   “Truly,” Jesus says, “this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.  For all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
            That is why we know about her today, this nameless woman—because she gave all the little she had, holding nothing back.

            But don’t you wonder?  Are we really supposed to admire a poor woman who gave her last cent to a religious institution?   Was it right for her to surrender her living to those who lived better than she did?   By ordinary human standards, what this widow did makes no sense.  Is Jesus saying we should all follow her example?  What does Jesus want us to learn from her?      

            Did you notice?  Nowhere in this passage does Jesus praise the widow for what she is doing.  Nowhere in this story does he say, “Go, thou, all of you, and do likewise.”   He simply invites the disciples to contemplate the disparity between abundance and poverty, between large sums and two copper coins, between grand donations--and real sacrifice.   He doesn’t dismiss the gifts of the rich.  He simply points out that the poor widow turns out to be the major donor in the story.
            In Mark’s gospel, this is the last of Jesus’ lessons in the upside-down kingdom of God, where the last shall be first, and the great shall be the servants of all.   When Jesus leaves the Temple that day, his public ministry is over.  In four days, he will be dead, giving up the two copper coins of his life.  The widow withheld nothing from God. Neither did Jesus.    
            In the scriptures, there are recurring themes of abundance and of trusting in God to provide what we need.

            In the Exodus story, the people begin to complain, afraid that they won’t have enough provisions for the journey ahead of them.  God responds by sending them manna—white flakes of bread falling from heaven—just enough manna for today.  The people aren’t willing to trust that God would continue to provide, so they try to hoard their food for tomorrow.  But when they wake up the next morning, they find that the left-over manna has rotted overnight.  God was trying to teach them that hoarding and lack of trust deny God’s daily providing…and the predictable and faithful grace of God.

            In today’s lesson from the Hebrew scriptures, God tells Elijah to go to Zarephath, and that a widow there will feed him.  The widow is preparing to bake the last little bit of meal and oil into a last supper for her and her son—everything she had—and then they would die.  Elijah says to her, “Don’t be afraid.  Make me a little cake, and then make some for yourself and your son.  God promises you won’t run out of meal and oil as long as the drought lasts.”  And it was so.  There was enough.
            Jesus, the one who gave his all for the sake of the world, for the sake of all of us, calls us to follow him… and learn from him.  The gospel gives us clues about how to live joyful lives of freedom and trust. 
            Like the angels who keep showing up in the Bible, saying, “Don’t be afraid,” so Jesus uncovers our motives, those habits of the heart that keep us holding on tightly to things, to money, clinging to the things we think might keep us safe.  Then he invites us to care for the poor, and he offers us a new life of freedom from fear-- an abundant life of gratitude and trust.
            So how are we to love God?  With trust, instead of fear.  With gratitude, instead of demands.  With hope instead of despair. 
            How do we comprehend the poor widow’s offering in the Temple?  I think we can see it as a statement of radical trust.  She chooses not to play it safe.  Instead, she gives her love gift first, trusting in God to provide what she needs. 
            But how does this happen?  How could she give everything?
I wonder if she somehow has come to feel that she has enough, and that she will have enough.  I wonder if she has allowed herself to experience life as a blessing.  I wonder how this poor widow has come to trust in God as the one who blesses and provides—abundantly, predictably, faithfully. 
            I wonder if she has discovered something about the ultimate meaning of life-- that when we give, we are most like God.  Could it be that she has come to see that-- when we are lavish and gracious and generous-- we are most like our lavish and gracious and generous God. 
            How much do we love God?  How much do we trust God?  These are ongoing questions that we encounter on our journey of faith.  I don’t have any easy, pat anoswers for you today.  But not to keep asking the questions is to shut God out of some of the most intimate details of your living.

            Like many of you, I enjoy supporting charitable and social causes I think are important, causes that help me to live out the Christian values that shape my life.  But my main giving is focused on the church, in this local congregation, as well as some church-related missions. 
            There is something about putting a check into the offering plate as part of worship that gives focus to my life and to my faith.  It’s part of my spiritual discipline to write the check each week.  It’s part of my spiritual growth to increase my giving each year. 
            I believe that my giving is a witness to the gratitude I have for life…and the joy and freedom that I experience when I give my money to the church and to the causes that express my faith values.

            You and I have received commitment cards in the mail.  Sometime between now and next Sunday morning, I hope you will hold it and pray over it…and consider what level of commitment will help you to grow in your faith and trust in God… and then fill it out with joy and gratitude.  Then, I hope you will offer it with great joy during worship next Sunday.   
            How do we love God?  Let us count the ways.  And then let us respond with the offering of our very lives.

Rev. Fran Hayes, Pastor
Littlefield Presbyterian Church
Dearborn, Michigan
November 11, 2018

[1] Mark 10:17-24
[2] Emerson Powerey, Commentary on Mark 12:38-44 at
[3] Mark 11:17

Sunday, November 4, 2018

"Those Through Whom God's Light Shines." A Sermon from Littlefield Presbyterian Church on All Saints Sunday.

"Those Through Whom God's Light Shines"

Luke 6:20-31

            In today’s gospel reading we heard some of the Bible’s most challenging descriptions of the Christian life.   It’s what’s known in the gospel of Luke as the “sermon on the plain.”  The parallel “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew is better known-- but I think Luke’s version is even more demanding. 
Both start with what’s known as the Beatitudes:  Blessed are you who are poor.  Blessed are you who are hungry…you who weep and mourn…you who are persecuted.  But Luke’s version continues with the “Woes:” Woe to you who are rich now.  Woe to you who are well fed now…you who laugh now…you who are applauded and commended.  You’ve already had your rewards.”
            Both versions are followed with a series of instructions for how to live as a Christian.  “Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who abuse you.  If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If anyone takes away your coat, don’t withhold even your shirt.  Give to everyone who begs from you.  If anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.” 
            Surely Jesus isn’t calling us to be naïve-- and easily exploited doormats for everybody else to wipe their feet on?  But surely Jesus doesn’t mean for us to ignore these words because they are too hard.  So…   how are we supposed to understand this?
According to Jesus, it is better to be poor in things and rich in spirit—than it is to be rich in things and poor in spirit.  There is joy and celebration for those who enjoy the reign of God, but those who trust in the riches of the present world have received all they will ever have.  What Jesus teaches is radically counter-cultural. 
            The culture says, “Show me the money,” while faith says, “Give me the kingdom.”  The world says, “I want it my way—now,” while faith says, “I’ll take it God’s way—in God’s time.”  The society says, “What you see is what you get,” while faith says, “What you see may well be an illusion.”

            When I was studying Hebrew and Greek in seminary, we had to read passages were translating aloud in class.  In English, you can’t tell the difference between “you” singular and “you” in the plural, but you can in the original Greek.  So, we sounded a bit “Southern” when we did our translations-- when we would read “you all” to distinguish from you in the singular form. 
            When we read “Blessed are you who are poor… blessed are you who are hungry now,” it’s clear in the Greek that it’s plural.    “Blessed are you all who are poor.”  “Blessed are you all who are hungry.”
            What difference does it make?  If I say to [one of you], ‘I need you to lift the piano off the floor,’ I don’t that s/he’s going to be able to do it.  It would be a real struggle.  But if I say to the choir or to the people sitting in the third pew, ‘You all need to lift the piano off the floor’—I think you all could do it.
            This morning we’re celebrating All Saints’ Day.  It’s about remembering the Christians who have gone before us...  those who have shown us what it means to walk in the way of Jesus Christ.  It reminds us that we’re part of the “communion of the saints.” 
            So…  on this All Saints Sunday-- greetings to all you saints. 

            Does that make you squirm a little?   Most of us don’t think of ourselves as being very saintly.  We might be able to relate to what Nelson Mandela said when somebody called him a saint.  Mandela said, “I’m just a sinner who keeps on trying.”
            I think that’s a good way to think of it.  We are all sinners, in need of God’s redemption.  In some Christian denominations, saints are people who have lived exceptionally holy lives.  But, in our baptism, we are called into a holy priesthood.  So, in the New Testament understanding, any Christian is a saint.
            In the Catholic tradition, on each day of the year there are certain saints who are remembered.  Two of the best-known examples are St. Patrick’s Day and St. Valentine’s Day. 
            Over the centuries, there got to be more saints than there were days in the year.  The church also realized that there were many people who lived saintly lives, but who did so in such a quiet way that most people never knew about them.  So, All Saints’ Day was created as a day to remember all the saints.
            In the Protestant tradition, we have come to understand the word “saint” as not just referring to a special select few Christians.  Rather, we have come to understand the word “saint” in a broader sense—in the biblical sense.  All Saints’ Day is a day to remember all the faithful people of God.
            We remember that saints aren’t just those who did miraculous and amazing things.  The saints are also all those people across the years who showed their faith in Jesus by how they lived their lives.  Quite often, that faith was shown in very quiet and simple ways.

            It’s been said that a saint is someone who lets God’s light shine through them.   As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be “the light of the world.”  God’s light shines into the darkness of this world, and we are called to let God’s light shine through us.
            It isn’t our light that is shining:  it is the light of God, shining through our lives. 
            The apostle Paul began some of his letters by writing, “To all the saints at Rome…or Ephesus…or Corinth”—even if he was going to spend part of the letter telling them how they’ve been failing in the Christian life and need to do better.  Their failures don’t keep Paul from calling them “saints.” 
As Will Willimon says, “A saint is any Christian, anyone whom God has called out to be blessed… baptized… different… distinctive.  Saints are those ordinary people who have had their little lives caught, commandeered by Christ in rather extraordinary ways.  And for that, Jesus calls them “blessed.[1]
            We are called together to be the church.  The church is in the business of producing and equipping saints for their ministries.
            Think about it.  You are the only word from the Lord that some people will ever hear.  So, you—you all-- are blessed and sent out into the world to be God’s word in a troubled, hurting, confused world. You and I are called to embody God’s love and light to the people we meet who are sad… or lonely… or hungry…or just need a friend. 
            The GOOD NEWS is that you are not alone.  On this All Saints Sunday, we remember the saints who have gone on before us, trusting in the promises of Christ and the reign of God.  We are in a long line, part of a procession of people of faith who are rooted in the past and march on toward an eternal hope. While we who are a part of the Communion of Saints here on earth labor on for the kingdom of God, the rest of the Communion of saints, those who’ve gone on before, are cheering us on!

            Saints, the light of God shines through your lives.  It is not our light that is shining:  it is the light of God, shining through our lives.  So, let the light of God shine through you so that others may know God’s hope and peace and joy! 

To God who is able to accomplish abundantly
            far more than all we can ask or imagine--
            to God be the glory in the church... 
            and in Christ Jesus... 
            to all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!  (Ephesians 3:20)

[1] William Willimon, “Saints, All of You” at