Sunday, November 6, 2022
Remembering the saints in our lives.
The Rev. Mark Wilkinson, Rector
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Katy TX 77493
All Saints 2022
All Saints Day, is the midpoint of a three day religious festival that we have. All Hallows Eve October 31, All Saints on November 1 and All Souls on November 2. We can celebrate it on the following Sunday which is what we are doing today.
This celebration traces back to 373 CE and was established on November 1 by Pope Gregory IV in 844. Some of the customs date back to pagan Celtic traditions that were adapted into the church celebration, which is something that happened quite frequently in the church. This is a celebration of the saints of the church and All Souls celebrates all the faithful departed. We will read the names of those souls who died this year during our prayers of the people.
The Communion of Saints: what is it? According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church it is the spiritual union existing between Christ and all believers living and dead. There are times when I stand at this altar and am aware of this presence. I know one mystic who tells of watching a priest standing at an altar in an old cathedral and seeing what looked like a long line of priests standing near him as he celebrated. Once before I was ordained, I was setting the altar (yes I was on altar guild) for an All Saints service at the parish that sponsored me and being aware of the footprints that were worn in the marble floor from all who had stood there before me.
Br. David Vryhof: “(On All Saints) we recall that we are in the presence of all the saints, those men and women and children who have gone before us in the faith, who have shown us the way by their words and their actions. The Christian faith affirms that for these followers of Christ, “life is changed not ended” and that they continue to be present to us in the “communion of saints.” Having finished the race they were given to run, they are now praying for us, supporting us, and cheering us on as we run the race that has been set before each one of us.”
-Br. David Vryhof Society of Saint John the Evangelist
Take a moment to consider the “saints” in your life and the life of this parish. Now many saints in this sense are not necessarily the nicest people, the friendliest or the easiest to get along with. Saints are often those people who challenge us to be more than we are. They challenge us to take a hard look at ourselves, in short they are truth tellers even when we may not want to hear the truth. So, who are the saints in your life both those living and those who have died?
- Who do you know who has turned to God when their life was falling apart around them? Who are the people who know their dependence on God alone and were an example of faith in God for you
- Who do you know who has lost something or someone close to them and kept their faith in God. Who are the people who have trusted God to provide for them in their time of sorrow and mourning
- Who do you know that was or is content with who they are. Who realizes that they are loved by God, just as they are? People who are able to reach out in love to others, knowing that they are loved by God. The person in your life who is “peace filled”.
- Who do you know who works for justice? As our Baptismal Covenant says, “will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
- Who do you know who attempts to see Christ in others? Who are the people who see the best in others and helps you to see the beauty in the world around you?
- Who are the people in your life who are peacemakers, who promote acts of reconciliation in the world?
- Who do you know who has striven for justice and peace among people, in Jesus’ name, and experienced persecution in their daily life. Who do you know who has stood up for what they believed in and been ostracized. Or maybe even something simple such as attending worship, instead of a sports event on a Sunday morning?
I have challenged you over the past year to ask the question, why are we here? Why does St. Paul’s exist. As we did our Mission and Vision work one of those things that was clear is that our sense of community is essential to who we are. It’s why the pandemic isolation was so hard for many of us. We lost that anchor of community.
Part of this leads me to ask what is so important about doing the work we do within a community? This brought to mind an old Hassidic tale. The story is about a young man who asked his rabbi why it was important to be part of a community of faith. The rabbi pulled a partially burned log from the fire and set it aside. In just a few seconds the flame went out and the log stopped burning. He then returned the log to the fire and it instantly burst back into flame. The rabbi said, “You see my son when you are removed from community your flame will go out. It is only in a gathered community that we can burn with the flame of faith.” This community has been built by those who have gone before us and many are in the cloud of witnesses, the communion of saints that we acknowledge in the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed
Now I have scheduled the in-gathering of our pledge cards for this day. I want you all to take some time to consider some of those “saints” that have paved the way for this congregation in the 60+ years that we have been a parish. Think back to those saints in churches that you may have previously attended. Without their work and sacrifice we would not be where we are today. We are called to stand on their shoulders and not only continue the work, but to build and expand what they have done to provide a parish that is even better than what has been. Your pledge is important to our continued growth and health as a parish family.
So, who is are the saints that you can name. Not a big famous saint, but one from your personal experience. Turn to the person next to you and tell them something about one of these people.
(Pause for discussion)
I want to do something a little different this morning in our in-gathering. I have placed the votive candle stand which normally is on the side in front of the altar. There is a basket in front for your pledge cards. What I would ask you to do is to come forward with your pledge card if you brought it and place it the basket. I would like everyone whether you have your pledge card of not to come forward and light a candle for those “saints” you want to remember on this day.
The Blessing of our Pledges to St. Paul’s
O Lord, on this Sunday when we make our pledges for 2023, accept, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
And on this Sunday we thank for the generous support of the members of our parish family to further the good works of St. Paul’s. Accept these pledges of our treasure for this coming year that we may further your kingdom here in Katy and in the world.
As we offer these gifts, grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.