Sparks

Sermons

Preached by Fr. Paul Allick on All Saints (Wednesday, November 1, 2017)

Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

 

 

 

One of the best things one can do for their reputation is to die. Seriously, we all look so much better in retrospect, don’t we? It’s because all that remains after time is the good. Even some of the challenging things become humorous memories. That is such a blessing.

 

This isn’t always the case. Some of us do such harm that the good never emerges but for the vast majority of humanity we grow in love and stature in the memories of our loved ones.

 

Each Christian life is a witness. As soon as people around us know that we belong to a Church we become a witness for Christ. For good or bad we become an example of Christian living.

 

It isn’t so much what we do as much as who we are. What are we showing forth in our lives? Do we show forth wisdom and forgiveness or foolishness and grudges? Do we alienate people or draw people in? Do we show forth courage or cynicism?

In our Episcopal Tradition, as in all catholic traditions, we have a great tool in striving to represent Christ and His Church. We have the calendar of Saints. As we observe the feast of Saints, studying and praying through their lives, we learn how to live into the sainthood we are called to in our Baptism.

 

In the calendar of Saints, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. (Hebrews 12:1)

 

I love this description of the souls made righteous from the book of Wisdom: They were tested and found worthy. They are now at peace after their great struggles to be faithful to God. Now they shine and “run like sparks through the stubble.” (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9)

 

Each Christian life should be a spark in the world. Our Discipleship should matter. It should be noticeable to the outside world.

 

Each month we have sparks of the Christian life to ponder. Here are just two of those sparks we commemorated in the last month.

 

 

On October 15 we remembered Teresa of Avila. She lived in the 16th Century. As a young person she was sent off to a convent because after her mother’s death she became too “worldly” for her father. We all know this story, the kid we worry won’t make it if we don’t do something to intervene?

 

Teresa went onto receive visions. Out of those visions came great writings on the spiritual life that are still studied today. She founded 17 Convents. She suffered imprisonment. She endured a two-year illness before her death. Out of all of that she left a mark on the Church. She was a spark travelling through a lot of stubble.

 

On October 23 we remembered St. James of Jerusalem, the Brother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. After the Lord’s Ascension, James became head of the Church in Jerusalem. He battled with St. Paul over the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church. James went through a transformation: he came to understand that the gentiles should be welcomed into the faith just as the Jewish believers had been.

 

 

He became so successful at converting people that the officials of Jerusalem tried to stop him. They set him on the top of the Temple and told him to renounce Christ. He refused. He was thrown off the top of the building onto the pavement and then beaten to death. His spark would not go out. The Church grew because of martyrdoms such as his.

 

Each Christian Disciple witnesses to this proposition: life is eternal. We live now on this earthly pilgrimage in the confidence of that knowledge. Eternity is now. We live focused on our eternal life not on all of the stubble in our way.

 

In Christ death no longer has dominion. (Romans 6:9/Pascha Nostrum) Death is a thin veil between this life and the life to come. The Saints stand around us cheering us onto to those ineffable joys that God has prepared for us.  

 

 

 

 

In the meantime, we lived blessed lives. The lives Jesus identified in his sermon on the Mount. We witness to the world as we live through the stubble and keep shining. We shine through poverty of spirit,

mourning, meekness and our hungering and thirsting for things to be set right.

 

And as we shine with we shine with the whole communion of saint on earth and in heaven. We shine with mercy, sincerity of heart and by being peacemakers.  We do not falter under persecution for the sake of doing what is right because we live in the eternal and not the temporal.

 

We like those saints St. John sees in his vision have come through great ordeals. The prayers of our brothers and sisters in the communion of saints and the love of God carry us through.

 

  

As we travel along we keep reminding ourselves of what St. John writes in his first epistle, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God… Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”