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Church Explainer: Saints?

Hello, friends, and welcome back. I’m the Rev. Sare Liz Anuszkiewicz and this is the Sunday Sermon. If you’re looking for the bits of the bible I’ve referenced in this sermon, you can find the link right here. For the nerds in the know, this is All Saints Day, Year C, and here’s the sermon I preached on Sunday, November 6, 2022.

For the audio-only, click here.

Full text of the sermon is below:

Good morning! Today we celebrate the Church’s feast day for All Saints, which actually is November 1st (also known as the day after Halloween), but in the Church, if that doesn’t fall on a Sunday, we just move it to the next one.

So the next question that would be reasonable to have is ‘Who are these saints we’re celebrating?’ Well, the Church believes that anyone who letS God make their decisions, anyone who letS the Holy Spirit be the strongest influencer in their lives, that person is a saint. Now, perhaps that person let God be in charge only for 15% of their decisions, but they were the most important ones. Which means they were still imperfect people, but they had access to the most perfect Advisor you could imagine and they listened when it counted. Others may have listened more like 60% of the time, despite living a life that didn’t seem to influence anyone else.

And in our worship guide, we have a different saint that we read about every week. This week is Catherine of Alexandria and you can read her colorful biography located right there on the back cover.

But you know, on All Saints we also pray for those we love who have died, and very shortly our Intercessor is going to pray the whole list for us. Why do we do that on this day? The implication is that we are all saints of God. We all have the capacity to listen to the Holy Spirit. In addition to the ability to listen to the Spirit of God, God is quite genuinely present with each and every one of us, right now. And God was with us yesterday. And God will be with us tomorrow. There’s nothing we can do to alienate, annoy, frustrate, anger, or drive God away. Yes, in the Old Testament people thought that they could anger God, and people thought they’d have to make sacrifices to appease God’s anger, but prophets before Jesus came along were already beginning to correct those rather paltry views of God, and then we have Jesus who, every time he opens his mouth says in some way or another that God is always with us, God is more merciful and loving than we can comprehend, God is only waiting for us to figure out what is important and do it.

Even today, we hear Luke’s version of the sermon on the mount, which you know, in Luke, is the sermon on the plain, and in the small portion of his sermon that we hear this Sunday Jesus is turning common religious assumptions on their heads. Because all of the people that were religiously speaking assumed to be sinners, people who had fallen short, the people obviously on God’s Naughty List, all those people Jesus says, ‘Nope, you’re all blessed.’ And everyone would have assumed that certain people would have been obviously blessed, that they’d clearly be on God’s Nice List, and Jesus says, ‘Yeah, no. Enjoy it now, because that won’t last and it’s not about God.’

And the way that sermon supports this idea that we’re all saints is this: if we assume that some people are just more holy, just better, and also if we assume that some people simply can’t be any good… then we’re obviously not all saints. But Jesus sweeps away this idea that some people are better than others. He doesn’t buy it, and he teaches against it. Everyone is worthy of God’s love and mercy, and everyone receives it. Everyone is worthy of God’s guidance and advice, and everyone is capable of listening.

I am capable of listening.

You are capable of listening.

And we can listen just as well as Catherine of Alexandria, or Paul of Tarsus, or Martin Luther King Jr.,  or any of your own favorite saints. We can. But will we?

Amen.

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