Tuesday, November 6, 2012

For All the Saints!

The hurricane disrupted many lives this week.
We still are praying for those who are still without power.
My disruption was small.
I was supposed to go to the Bishop’s convocation on Cape Cod this week.
It is something I always look forward to.
Mainly because I get to catch up with my friends and colleagues.
I get to spend a couple of days thinking about ministry and the church;
I get to hear what other people are doing.
I get to hear how other congregations are tackling some of the more difficult problems we as a Church are facing.
I get to have my own assumptions questioned and challenged.
It is renewing for me.
So instead of going to Bishop’s convocation I spent some time with my family.
It was equally as gratifying.
On Tuesday My wife, Vicki, and I, took our son, Charlie, out to eat for lunch.
I made them talk to me about the Church like I was at the Bishop’s convocation.
I asked Charlie what he thinks the Church should be about.
He thought about for a little while and said, “The Church is about love.”
Vicki and I looked at each other and said, “See it is that simple.”
Perhaps I should have Charlie be the main speaker at next year’s Bishop Convocation.
He could just get up and say, “the Church is about love.”
And then sit down.
Perhaps sometimes we try and over think things.

Jesus this morning simplifies for us and this earnest scribe who asks him a question.
What is the greatest commandment?
Love God and love neighbor.
It is really that simple.
(This of course is a dangerous thing to say because it might put me out of a job.)
We put way too much time into things that don’t really matter.
This has always been my struggle with organized religion.
We spend way too much time talking about, and arguing about things that don’t really matter.
What time will the church supper be?
What hymn will people want to hear on this Sunday?
What would be the proper lighting for All Saints day?
Where should the flowers go?
All other good things that we might come up with are subjected to these two commandments.
These two commandments are were the Church should be giving all of its attention.
There were many other things in Jesus day that also occupied people’s time and energy.
There were many religious laws and observances that people put time and effort into.
This scribe asked Jesus this question while he was in Jerusalem.
It comes at the end of other questions that Jesus was asked.
And they really were all beside the point.
Should we pay taxes?
If a woman who had seven husbands dies whose wife will she be in heaven?
These are all questions that are interesting to ponder, but they are all beside the point.
There are only two things we need to love God and love each other.
So instead of debating points of minutia we should be putting our time and energy to living out these two very simple commandments.

Of course, it isn’t that easy.
Lots of things in our lives want our time and energy and we are often diverted from making God our priority.
Many people come into our lives that are hard to love.
This morning I don’t want to get caught in the complications, it is enough just to acknowledge that they exists.

This morning I want to talk about the people that surround us.
These people whose names we have written and surround us this morning.
They are all people that we remember this morning.
We remember them because they are saints.
And they are saints not because they were perfect, but because of the love they shared with us.
They are saints because of their love for God.
That is all that is needed to be a saint.

What are the stories that you share about the people that surround us?
Those stories might be funny, might be sad, might be informative.
But I bet they include some way that person helped you, encouraged you, and influenced you.
I bet that they include some way that they showed you that they loved you.
And that love is equivalent to God’s love.
Jesus connects them together.
To love God is to love others.

I think of the people who loved me who now are in eternal glory.
I could tell you a story about each one of them and how they manifested that love.
And all of them were people who knew God’s love and who passed it on to me.

I think this morning of my Grandfather’s.
0Grandpa Kent he used to take us out in his garden when we were kids and tell us the story of Peter Rabbit.
My Poppop would stock his house with Tasty Cakes whenever we would come to visit.
They were both very different men.
Grandpa Kent was a pastor, he was a FDR liberal.
Poppop was in upper management for Sears and Roebuck, and was an Eisenhower Republican.
But both men were men of God, they both worked hard, and they both loved their family and friends with warmth.
In their own ways they were extremely generous.
Neither of them was perfect, but I don’t remember their flaws all I remember when I think of them I remember how much they loved me.
How they both inspired me in their own ways to be the person I am today.
How I am really a little bit of each of them.
I bet that all of you have stories and memories of people that you loved.
Saints who have shared God’s love with you.

The saints of God are not just the names on these walls.
They are not just the ones who have died.
You all too are the saints of God.
You are here this morning because you love God.
You have given up this part of your week to be with God.
You all desire to know God better.
And all of you love someone else.
All of you have passed on that love to someone.
If nothing else we have an opportunity to give that love to one another here.
A couple of the people I wrote down I am not related to.
They are people who taught me something about Jesus in my life, or who I loved.
They are church people who gave me faith in my life.
And all of you continue to encourage and inspire my faith with yours.
I see how you love God, one another, your families, and our community.
You are the saints that God has called to love.
What made me most happy about what my son Charlie said was that he thought the church was about love and that is because of all of you.
You will be his saints that he remembers and encourages him to love God and others.

Loving God with all of our heart, mind, and soul, and loving our neighbor as ourselves are the marks of our faith.
They are outward signs of an inward belief in a God who gave us everything.
And that is what our Church is all about.
Let us continue to live that out saints of God.

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