11/7/2010 -- Anne-Marie Jeffery, All Saints and Stewardship Sunday

posted Nov 10, 2010, 9:31 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 10, 2010, 12:09 PM by Terry Brady ]

Luke 6:20-31

This morning, I have the interesting task of preaching on the feast of All Saints as well as on stewardship as this is the last Sunday before our ingathering of pledges. At first I thought I would have to ditch All Saints, but then I saw a connection - so let’s see if this can work.

One of my favorite hymns is I sing a song of the saints of God - # 293 in our 1982 Hymnal.   How can you not be attracted to a hymn that says, “And one was slain by a fierce wild beast?” However, what I like the most is that the hymn makes saints sound like pretty ordinary folk. After all, you can meet them at school or in lanes or at sea, in church or in trains or in shops or at tea. The idea of being a saint is not one many of us easily lay claim to.   Even after we have done something particularly wonderful for someone and they exclaim, “You are a saint.” we often say. “Oh no. It is nothing.”

            I looked up the definition of saint or at least what we mean by saints on the Feast of All Saints. Saints are those who have been baptized and who try to live by the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ.  The communion of saints includes both those still living on earth and those who have died in the faith and are now living in heaven.  As living saints, we live in the tension between gospel ways and worldly ways.  As one sermon writer put it - Saints are people who aren't afraid to live with both the gruesome and the glorious.  They are not embarrassed to struggle with the great division between good and evil, life and death, heaven and hell.”[1]  Perhaps that is why we have been given the beatitudes this morning for our All Saints Day gospel – those pronouncements that remind us living saints about the gospel ways and that are so different from what the world tells us.  "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  

I suspect that we would much rather they go something like this.  "Blessed are you who have lots of money, for you will be safe and secure and able to handle any emergency that comes your way. "Blessed are you who have plenty of good food to eat for you will be strong and able to run a marathon. "Blessed are you who do well at work or get good grades, for you will be admired by all and be successful in life. "Blessed are you when people like you, for you will have lots of friends and influence over others. If you have spent any time in a church or reading the bible or studying what Jesus taught, you will know that this is not how the kingdom of God works.  No such luck.  In the kingdom of God, money and popularity do not rule.  They cannot save us from the pain and dangers of this world.  We know that the only thing we can truly rely on is the love and presence of God.  

In our celebration of this All Saints Day, we are given a gift because we are not the first to live in this tension between gospel and the world. All those who have come before us over the years, those who taught us, who mentored us and who loved us have all been part of our finding our way as we live into the teachings of Jesus. I love the expression that says we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us because we do.  We know that while they made mistakes and we make mistakes, that we all struggled and continue to struggle through – attempting to live the life that God calls us to.  In this Christian community of St. Margaret’s, we stand on the         shoulders of all those who prayed and worshipped in this place, who cared for the buildings with their time and talent, and who reached out to others in this city and beyond.  And here is where I hear the theme of stewardship.  Just as those who came before us have cared for this place and its life, we too are called to be good stewards of all that has been passed on to us at St. Margaret’s. Just as others have prepared the way for us, we in turn are preparing the way for others – as says our stewardship theme. 

We care for the physical things like our beautiful buildings, but also      the non-physical things such as our tradition of welcome and care and concern for others.  Like those who come before us, we give of our time, talent and money to continue the ministry of this place so that those coming after us may also participate in this ministry, joining the saints who have shared in this ministry. So I ask you to take a good look at what you are giving of your time, talent and treasure. This is part of our work as a saint in this place and it is important that at least once a year we pray and ponder what we give.  And really it is bigger than St. Margaret's.  Think about how using all the gifts you have been given can bring about God's kingdom in this world.  We cannot forget that has all been given to us.  We arrived in this world with nothing and we will leave with nothing.  All that we have is given to take care of for awhile. As saints we are challenged with the question of whether we are taking care of it well. In this place, in our faith community, we learn how to be good stewards – not just in what we give to St. Margaret s but in what we give everywhere else.    

For some, the treasure part – our money – is hard to talk about, but yet our care of our money is still part of our life with God.  God knows you have bills to pay and a family to care for, but God also has work for us to do and that needs the gift of our money as well.  We have a great example set by the saints at St. Margaret’s. This place and its ministry have been supported generously over the years.  Also, it is not so much the amount, but the decision to give, the action of giving, that forms us.   Giving our treasure away reminds us that our blessings do not come from being rich or being full or having people speak well of us, but rather through trusting the everlasting love of God. Maybe you cannot give much whether it is money or time.   Maybe you can give a lot. The act of giving brings you into participation in the work of this place and in this world where money is so important to us, pledging to the church helps that practice of giving take root and grow in our hearts.  So pray about your pledge.   Remember that it can be changed at any time. If you are struggling with how much to pledge, sometimes talking with another living saint who also lives in the same tension can be helpful.  

God has put great trust in us in the care of this community of Christians that began to gather here at St. Margaret’s in 1894.   Many have prepared the way as we heard in our stewardship announcement last week when the ghost of St. Margaret’s past made an appearance during announcements.  These include Leroy Tuttle, Sophie Little, Malcolm Marshall, Margaret Sands, Meg Graham, Bill Wendt, Bill Huckaby, Charlie Gilchrist, Chuck Vetter, Steve Lembesis, Victor Indrisano and this list could go on and on.  It is now our turn for us, the living saints of St. Margaret’s, to continue to keep on preparing the way

[1]Sermons that work, November 1, 2006 - All Saints' Day - Year B [RCL}  by the Rev. Charles Hoffacker, Wisdom 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44 – also quoting from Barbara Brown Taylor, http://www.episcopalchurch.org/sermons_that_work_92388_ENG_HTM.htm