We celebrate today the Feast of All the Saints! As most of you know, November 1st was All Saints’ Day which has traditionally been dedicated to those saints we might write with a “capital S,” women and men who have made special, even unique, contributions to the Church and the cause of Christ down through the centuries and may even be enshrined in our church Kalendar as one of our special “holy days.”
November 2nd is sometimes called “All Souls’ Day” and on that day we commemorate those “lesser saints,” our ancestors and grandparents, parents and other mentors who have gone before us into the nearer presence of God and who may not have made such dramatic contributions to the life of faith, but who were certainly loved and cherished by us and to whom we are still united by water and the Holy Spirit in what the Creed calls “the communion of saints.” Some of their names appear in our bulletin insert today and you will be invited to name them, or any others, silently or aloud, during the Prayers of the People this morning. This Eucharist will then be offered for the repose of their souls and in thanksgiving for their lives.
Our Lessons from Scripture this morning tell us something about the saints we are honoring today. The strange little reading from Daniel is his apocalyptic vision of the end times and tells us only that “the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever – for ever and ever!” (Daniel 7:18) Blessed assurance indeed for us with respect to our loved ones who have gone before!
The author of the Letter to the Ephesians writes, “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints…” (Ephesians1). It’s interesting that the Bible never refers to “a” saint, to an individual as a saint – but always speaks of “the saints” as a community, an assembly of God’s people. This same passage to the church at Ephesus refers to them as ones who “had believed in (Christ, and) were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people…”
That’s what we say to everyone we baptize when we anoint them with oil and say, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own for ever.” By Baptism we are sealed with the Holy Spirit and made members of Christ’s body, the Church.
Then, of course, in the Gospel, in the so-called “Beatitudes,” Jesus tells us something about “the lives of the saints.” How do saints live? Well, apparently, they are ones who identify with the poor, with the hungry, with those who are sorrowing. They are people who may be excluded, reviled and defamed because of their faith. But they are blessed now…they are hungry no more…they are laughing instead of crying. They have received their consolation.
He goes on to caution us not to trust so much in our own wealth or prosperity or popularity, but instead try to love even our enemies, to do good even to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us and pray for those who abuse us. He sums it all up with what has been called “the Golden Rule,” a commandment which appears in virtually every one of the world’s great religions, and has been called by the Roman Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, a “global ethic” – do to others as you would have them do to you.
As I cast my eyes over the list of those faithful departed in our bulletin today, and the many lists like it I have seen over the years, I marvel at how many of them lived by that global ethic. They did so in many ways and in many contexts. But a good number of them gave a generous amount of themselves and their resources so that you and I could be here worshipping in Trinity Cathedral today.
They taught Sunday school and served on Vestries and the Altar Guild, and in so many, many other ways. They gave of their time…their talent…and, yes, their treasure…because they believed in this church. They believed in its past…they believed in its present witness when they were alive…and they believed in its future.
Well, dear friends, the future…is us…the future…is here. It is no longer possible (nor has it ever been, really) for us to continue to live on their legacy. We can build on it…but we cannot rest on it. Endowments were NEVER intended to be used for operating income in a church budget. Endowments are for rainy days…endowments are for vast capital improvements on old buildings (which we are facing at this very hour), endowments – at their best – are for missionary outreach, at home and abroad.
Church budgets are intended to be supported wholly and completely by the pledged offerings of the members. That cannot be done by year-end gifts, however generous; that cannot be done by the so-called loose offering. It needs to be done by pledges made, recorded, and those promises faithfully kept – week by week and month by month, throughout the year. That is our challenge and that is our goal.
This church didn’t even have an endowment when many of the names on our prayer list worshipped here. They supported it with their tithes and offerings, and so must we. But please hear me that this is not just about bricks and mortar. Even if we did not have this stunning building in which to worship Almighty God, I would still be asking you to give.
Why? Because giving is one of the marks of being a Christian! Giving to the poor, giving back to the community, giving to the church (not only for the building, but for clergy and lay staff, for educational programs and youth, for the outreach which can be done through a parish that is vital and alive). Giving is part of what it means to be a Christian; giving is what it means to be part of the Body of Christ; giving is part of what it means to be a member of the Communion of Saints!
Let me thank you in advance for hearing these words and taking them seriously. And let me do so in the words of our Epistle today, the prayer of an early Christian leader for his beloved community. He writes,
“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe…”
The immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe. For us who are part of the Communion of Saints. All the Saints. Saints past…saints present…and the saints yet to come! Amen.