This sermon was preached on November 2, 2014. Unfortunately, it didn't get videotaped, so it only exists in outline form.
5 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Gladys Maude Ferron was born on January 10, 1922 in New Jersey. This dear woman with the rather unfortunate name is better known to me as Mom-Mom – my maternal grandmother.
· About Mom-Mom
o Talk about how much I idolized her
§ Sat near her at the dining room table
§ Sat next to her on the couch
§ Would go pick tomatoes from the garden while she was cooking dinner
· She always managed to find a way to use those green tomatoes I’d pick, too.
o She had a sharp wit and never stood back on her word.
o Mom-mom was a great cook – she learned all the good meals from my grandfather’s German parents while he was fighting in Europe – but even more important, she was a fantastic baker.
§ Her snickerdoodles were the family’s favorite. It was always a good day when there were snickerdoodles in the house.
o How I was able to remember her
o She died in 1997 – weeks after my 10th birthday – but I still think about her often. The things she taught me, the way she acted, has stayed with me so much that I’ve always known she’s never been completely gone.
· So here we are, celebrating All Saint’s Sunday.
o All Saint’s Day began in the Roman Catholic Church as a celebration of beatified saints, those who have been declared holy. Historically it is followed by All Soul’s Day, a day in which teh church would pray for the souls of those who have died in the past year.
o In the United Methodist Church, we don’t tend to celebrate one certain canon of saints – but the celebration of All Saint’s Day has prevailed. We celebrate the whole “communion of saints” – all who have done God’s work, whose life has done good, who have been a blessing to others – whether specifically “churchy” or not.
o The reason we celebrate these saints, whether codified or not, is because these blessed people have pointed us towards God. They have lived lives that reflect the good news in some way – in freedom, in love, in belonging, in welcome.
o We are surrounded, both physically and in memory, by these people. In our reading from Revelation, John of Patmos saw a great multitude – from every tribe, nation, language – surrounding him in his heavenly vision.
o They are through with their struggle – no longer hungry, no longer exhausted – but they are still a part of God’s reality. They have done their part, and we have proclaimed “well done, Good and faithful servant.”
o This, I believe, is what the writer of Hebrews called “the great cloud of witnesses” – the whole contingent of incredible people that we love, admire, know – either personally or from far away – that have both made us who we are and walk with us on our journey.
o They may not be with us physically in the same ways that they were previously, but that doesn’t mean that those whom we love and admire are completely gone from our lives.
o Just in the same way that my grandmother is alive while my mother repeats her sayings and I bake her snickerdoodles, the saints in our lives are very much alive while those who knew them continue to teach their lessons.
o We mourn their passing when they die because it’s only fair. Someone we loved, admired, is no longer a part of our everyday life. And even though we know, at some level, that death is as common an occurance on this earth as birth is – one of two inevitable things in the world, according to Ben Franklin – we always hope it can be evaded in some way. At least this once. But that’s just never the case.
o Enter the Beatitudes. These phrases, as well-known and celebrated as they are, are a bit confusing when you think about it. They twist the world as we know it on its head. The meek take control, righteousness prevails, and those who mourn are consoled.
o We aren’t blessed to mourn in a sick, twisted, “God needed that person more than we did” sort of way. God isn’t bloodthirsty like that. But those who mourn, those who deeply and heart-wrenchingly miss those who they love and have since passed on, are blessed to have known these people who make up the great cloud of witnesses.
· Keep doing what those saints did, carry those saints with you
o Our God is a god who blesses so that we might be blessed so that we might in turn bless others. (repeat that.)
o So on this All Saint’s Sunday, this day when we celebrate that great cloud of witnesses around us, let us remember that all the saints who have surrounded us have blessed us. And while they may be gone from this earth, as long as we do what they taught us to do – they will not be fully, completely gone from this world.
o So bake snickerdoodles. Toss a football back and forth. Encourage people to vote. Plant gardens. Bestow the blessings you have received on others so that the world may continue to be blessed by the saints in your life.
Introduce the lighting of the candles:
As you can see, there are many candles up on the altar this morning. Let us celebrate those who have come before us, who have lit our paths thus far. Take a candle and light it in the
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