Fr. John Allison
All Saints (A)
1 John 3:1-3
November 5, 2023
Christ Church, Hudson
Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints and as we remember and recognize those exemplars of faith who have gone on before us it seems a fitting time to share a little secret that I bring with me to our Sunday worship each week. Each week, as we process in and take our seats here in the chancel I’m always very aware of who’s here with me. I look out to you, in the congregation and across the aisle to the choir and notice who’s here with me in worship; I’m sure many of you do the same. And then, and this is the part that is the secret, I look up, to this row of windows I can see from my pew and say good morning to Henry and Ann Layton. Their names are on the first of the high windows here in the front of the church and, though I know nothing of the details of their lives or their time here at Christ Church I recognize them as fellow travelers on the Way, that, though they have long passed from this world, they remain with me, and all of us, members of the Body of Christ. I noticed them in the early weeks of first beginning my ministry here at Christ Church and my awareness of their presence here with us has been a constant for me ever since.
Indeed, with them are a whole host of the saints of Christ Church whose names are etched on windows and plaques throughout the church, some of whom are known and remembered by many of you as well as others who are so distant that no one here has even a faint memory of them. What we recognize today is that in our baptismal identities we are all connected, are all partakers in God’s grace, and are not separated even by time, even by death.
In our reading today from the Book of Revelation, John the Evangelist says, “I looked and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.” Indeed, the saints comprise a great multitude that no one can count, and our call to discipleship is interwoven with that great multitude; Our collect of the Day says, “knit together in one communion in fellowship in the mystical body of Christ.” That’s the communion of saints, that’s the Body of Christ in which we are all called to participate.
The key word to remember from that sentence is, participate. It’s easy to think of All Saints Day as a celebration of memory, a celebration of all those who have gone before us, but to focus our attention on the past only is to neglect God’s promise of a new future, as well as God’s presence right here, right now. Today, new life in grace is celebrated as a present reality and future promise. We’ll see that quite tangibly in just a bit with the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
In our Gospel reading from Matthew, it’s no coincidence that Jesus offers the beatitudes. A beatitude is a blessing or announcement of God’s favor both in the present and in the future. All Saints Day is about claiming that blessing, of receiving God’s gift and living into the demands incumbent on us as a holy people. The beatitudes, as Jesus presents them in Matthew’s Gospel are only partly about promises to those in need; more fully, they are challenges to take on attitudes characteristic of God’s Kingdom.
Consider how the Beatitudes are structured. the first four focus on those who suffer now but will receive justice in the coming reign of God:
Blessed are the poor in spirt, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
In these first four Beatitudes Jesus promises reversals of present conditions in the coming Kingdom. That’s the future toward which we are all journeying.
The last four promise blessings to those who strive to alleviate the conditions described in the first four:
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
In these blessings we see God’s love and mercy embodied in the present and in the future and have a picture of how those who are blessed are, in turn, a blessing to others. This is the Communion of Saints to which we are called to participate. This is the life of holiness that represents a reversal of the expectations of the world.
In a few minutes, when the Baptismal Candidates come forward the first question that will be asked is, do you want to be baptized? Their, “yes,” is the first step on the journey. It begins with desire, desire to be the sign of God’s love that we are meant to be. Saying yes is the first step, but along the way there are many stumbling blocks and obstacles and it’s easy to forget the path on which we are to travel. All Saint’s Day reminds us that we are not alone. We are part of a great multitude and are lifted up and strengthened by all those who came before and all those who will come after. We are all united in Christ and in that recognition God’s will and purpose are fully realized.
God WILL make you what you were created to be. God is making us what we were created to be. Our reading from John’s First Letter says, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called Children of God; and that is what we are.” We ARE God’s children and we are created in God’s image. That’s the gift we have in God; our task, what we are called to do, is reflect that image, as completely as we can, to the world.
As we prepare to begin the Baptism, I remind all of you, but especially our candidates—Khalib, Khamari, and young Charlotte and her family—that you are joining a great multitude that stretches back through time and forward into the future. We are all connected in God’s promise of love and new life. For that, may we all give thanks and carry God’s many blessings into a world that is in desperate need. Amen.