— A Sermon by Robert W. Prim —
~~~ All Saints’ Sunday ~~~
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“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.
Every “present” moment has history.
This time that we are sharing right now has a past.
Each new today has yesterdays that shape it.
This day in the liturgical year of the Church is a reminder that the soil of our present faith is the enriched earth of our communal past. We are here, most of us by way of video, in a worship service at Nacoochee Presbyterian Church in Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia in the United States of America in the northern hemisphere of planet earth that orbits a little star in the luminous band known as the Milky Way … all of which came into being at some point in the past long ago and not so long ago and all of which has history that contributes to this very moment in time and space. Every today has yesterdays that shape how the new day unfolds.
And to bring the history of this moment into the nearer past, maybe some of you are connected to Nacoochee Presbyterian because you at one time visited the community center on a vacation and looking across the street toward the church and you liked the blue doors – the colors chosen by one of our departed saints, Gloria Kidd Brown, so you decided to come visit? That may be some of your history in this moment. Maybe you are here because an uncle died and left you money to buy a mountain home and you grew up Presbyterian and this one – Nacoochee Presbyterian – was the closest to the cabin you bought? This moment of our gathering has history for each one of us. Maybe you are here because you retired and re-located to be near to your children … or far away from your children.
But for whatever reasons any of us are here right now we came on pathways cleared and trodden by others. We are part of a church that is located within a large stream of Christian traditions built on thousands of years of experiences – priests, prophets, apostles, martyrs, upon the life, death, resurrection of Jesus, upon the teachings of Peter, Paul, Martha, Mary, John, on and on we can go…
Every moment has more history than our limited minds can comprehend. Today, All Saints’ Sunday is a day to acknowledge that we do not live in a vacuum of space and time unhinged from the history or the people that have gone before us. Every present moment has a rich and endless store of past moments that have led us on our way to this new day.
This day, All Saints’ Sunday, not only recalls our past but gives us a guide by which to sort through all the factors, people, experiences that have gone before us. As has been noted, the past of the immediate present is far too complex, too weighted with history to be fully embraced or comprehended; so, this day – All Saints’ Sunday – gives us a way to narrow the look back. This day invites us to look back and remember the people who lived their lives in ways that brought the love of God closer to our lives and to the world. This day invites us to remember the saints who in little and large ways shaped this present moment …for the good.
And I think one of the reasons we read the beatitudes on All Saints’ Day is to remember what to remember about that which has gone before us. The beatitudes remind us of what is really important, of what really matters, of what is eternal.
That which is really important about life is –
humility in the face of God’s love,
understanding the importance of our relationships,
gentleness and a hunger for the right kind of life.
That which is really important about life is –
sharing mercy and the seeking after of God,
working for peace,
a willingness to stand up for that which is right
even when it will cost us something, maybe a lot.
These are the acts of the honored dead and the important things of our past to be remember on this day, All Saints’ Day. These are the things to be remembered so that we might be inspired to act in harmony with God’s call upon our lives in this day and in the days that will unfold in our lives.
Every today has a yesterday.
Today we celebrate the acts of persons who loved
and we acknowledge that the love, mercy, justice work
of those who have gone before us makes this day better.
It is also true to say, a harsh truth,
that those who have acted in the past
in ways that are hateful, selfish, grasping after power,
hungering for the things that do not make for peace,
well, that history is also part of today.
An obvious example of this is that the greed that led our ancestors to enslave other human beings and to think of those with black and brown skin as less that human, these sinful acts continue to inform our life today. Somewhere the Bible says the sins of the parents will be visited upon the children… I think this is what that means. We are still dealing with racism and it is a very challenging and deadly problem for us because too many yesterdays were marred by selfish grasping after power and wealth with indifference to the lasting impact on fellow human beings and their children and their children…
This fact of the past, however, does not excuse us from making changes for the lasting good today. We have a responsibility to move our world and our relationships in the direction of harmony and peace and justice. We do this by acting with love and justice ourselves and by seeing all people as brothers and sisters, by seeing everyone as a child of God. We have the responsibility right now to put in leadership people who mend that which is torn apart not people who divide as a way to maintain power. We have the responsibility in this day to elevate people who will use power to heal as opposed to wound. Wounds that are allowed to fester take longer to heal and can cause permanent damage. Now is the time to take our days and use them to make for stronger, more peaceful and just tomorrows.
Every today has yesterdays that inform it.
On this All Saints’ Sunday let us remember
the healing gifts of our forebears –
the gifts of love and faith and generosity and mercy and peace – and seek to offer those same gifts
to the generations that will follow us.
May our today make for peaceful tomorrows.
Thanks be to God for all the saints who showed us love.
Help us, O God, to follow their lead
so that our love will be gifts for those who will follow us.