A Legacy of the Saints

Ephesians 1: 11-23
LUKE 6: 20-31

November 6, 2022 ALL SAINTS DAY

Have you heard? Have you heard? Friends, have you heard of the grace of the God of creation? Have you experienced the love of God? Have you prayed in recent days? Do you REJOICE in knowing that Jesus Christ is your Savior each day and every night? Did you have time to open up the Holy Scriptures sometime in the last … let’s say … month or so? Have you sung a song of the saints of God recently? Oh wait …. I think we just did that together this morning.

There is a legacy that comes from the saints of God that clearly has impacted your life and mine. WE WOULD NOT BE in this church today … if someone along our journey, called life, did not impact us or invite us or share their faith with us. And, whether they are a departed saint of the church or someone who one day will carry that banner … the saints of the church of Jesus Christ have clearly been there for you and most definitely for me.

The saints obviously were there for us on at least one occasion in our lives but those same saints through our connection in faith have left us something more. There is a challenge from every saint of God to those of us who have inherited the faith. They either told us directly or they may have implicitly left to each of us what our part of the plan of God that Paul refers to might be. A plan of faith locked into the teaching of Jesus Christ, which we have discovered as God’s truth … Paul calls Jesus teaching “good news of our salvation.” A plan of faith that we may or may not be fulfilling. Those saints want to celebrate in heaven … they know that all too many are lost and not even seeking God and definitely God and those saints are fully aware of the lack of invitations being shared in the world to the lost so that they can come to worship where perhaps one or two or many might find faith and the party of the saints can once again go all night long in heaven … just one invited who discovers Christ; a heavenly party. But sadly the invitations are gathering dust ….churches are shrinking.

I would hope that in our remembrance of those saints …. In our thanksgiving for those special people or so-called saints from our lives … that we would be willing to take on the challenge that is now ours as the potential saints of the church of Jesus Christ alive and well in the year 2022 who are quickly approaching the year 2023.

You heard Paul’s commentary to individuals of faith who impacted his life when he wrote, “I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people; THIS IS THE REASON I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you in my prayers.”

People in Paul’s time on earth who perhaps even saw Jesus … heard Jesus and clearly they understood how God’s love for all of humanity was showcased through Jesus including the simplicity of directions for living life that paralleled the prophet’s teaching … LOVE GOD and LOVE ALL of YOUR NEIGHBORS … these people … these faithful ones living in extremely challenging times were the reason Paul did not stop giving thanks to God! He told the Christians in Ephesus that he was thankful for the saints from his journey …

You have heard me mention names through my time as your pastor. Names of people of faith starting with my parents but carrying through to individuals from the times we are living in. People who put a spotlight on God’s love through Jesus Christ for me. People who have loved all … cared for the poor … stood up for justice even as they were attacked by other humans focused on racism, sexism, and just plain disregard for God. I try to recall their examples most days …. And as we sang together this morning I was praying the closing words of the songwriter , “I mean to be one too” … a saint of God. I pray that my journey provides a faith example that leads others to Jesus Christ … to church … to mission … to keep places like St. Paul’s vital, energized, and growing knowing as a human I will slip and fall … I will sin and need God. I hope people see the joy in my faith even in the midst of the storm … I hope I demonstrate a love of God and love for all of my neighbors.

But, friends if people like you and me stop caring about our inheritance of faith that we received from the saints …. If we hide our faith even from ourselves … or if we are embarrassed in our faith … if the people of this awesome church called St. Paul’s do not recognize that God needs each of us to fulfill God’s plan THEN BY …. Then by the year 2035 the doors of St. Paul’s just might be shut permanently leaving no one to celebrate what once was alive here.

Look around this beautiful stained glass embraced sanctuary here at St. Paul’s. Take a moment … check out Jesus knocking at the door behind me or the incredible imagery of Jesus with the lambs at the back of the sanctuary. These are pews generations have sat in … this baptismal font that I very deliberately fill with water every Sunday to celebrate each baptized person who comes to worship God has connected babies and adults to their faith for years. I am filled with joy knowing that through the century plus years that St. Paul’s has existed that this has been a home of faith to a collection of humans with a wide variety of names, looks, and shapes … Christians who have done amazing things for God and Christ while caring for the poor and broken of the world and worshiping with joy and enthusiasm.

Pause with me friends to imagine who might have been seated where you are in the years before World War 1’s ‘War to end all wars started’ … Do you ever wonder who prayed desperately during the Great Depression and World War 2 right from the pew you are in now. Those who celebrated the moon landing. Think about those who suggested air conditioning … oh THANK YOU GOD for those who approved air conditioning!

And, for those of you online … consider the people of faith who have utilized the technology that allows you to worship and those who make sure it works weekly.

We have arrived at a time and place on ALL SAINTS DAY when we need to remember … we need to be challenged … we need to be emboldened to take on the mission of God in this world because friends if it were not for the legacy of the saints who came before us … this church would not be here and more than likely few if any of us would be connected to God because it took someone or a group of someone’s to be difference makers who willingly countered the world’s vision for life by delivering Jesus Christ …. The Holy Spirit … and the Creator God to us.

WE HAVE BEEN BLESSED BY THE SAINTS of the CHURCH …. And today we need to become committed to joining their ranks by asserting our faith into our life in a way that not only brings others to hear about Jesus Christ but we need to be the messengers who bring others into this loving and welcoming church so that St. Paul’s UNITED METHODIST CHURCH of WEST DEPTFORD NEW JERSEY can continue to be a loving missional island in the sea of world chaos for Jesus Christ just as this church has been strong in faith since 1858!

We need to hear Jesus from Luke … “HAPPY are those when people reject you because of Christ. Love your enemies … do good to those who hate you. If someone takes your coat do not withhold your shirt also! GIVE TO EVERYONE who asks and DO NOT DEMAND your things back from those who take them. Turn the other cheek. TREAT ALL PEOPLE in the same way that you want to be treated.” A radical lifestyle … a radical way of living … a life that counters much of what the world expects that’s what God expects from the saints of God. That’s what our legacy needs to be … not judging; not cursing nor mocking; not focused on punishing but embracing love of God and love of ALL neighbors.

Paul reminds us, “God’s power was at work in Christ.” Jesus died … on Easter morning the tomb could not hold Him back, HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>>. Jesus is seated at God’s right side in the heavens FAR ABOVE any ruler, authority, and power now or in the future.”

Today, on this All Saints Day … I believe that God’s Holy Spirit is reaching out to me and to each of you. Calling on us to make a new commitment of faith. WE HAVE AN INHERITANCE in Christ! The Holy Spirit is the down payment, which is applied toward our redemption as God’s own people who honor God’s glory through our lives. I join Paul’s prayer as I pray for each of you and for me, “I pray that the eyes of our hearts will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, which is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working amongst believers.”

WE each must decide whether we will leave a legacy as a saint of the church of Jesus Christ through our life actions … I hope today you will join me in making a renewal of our faith commitment as we go to the Lord’s Table. The world needs people of faith to be activists … this community needs people of faith to be activists … St. Paul’s needs loving caring incredible people to be activists so that we together continue to fulfill God’s call here in West Deptford. AMEN



© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ