All Saints Sermon By Gary F. Gleason
I grew up in a family of Baby Boomers. Being the oldest of five, with four younger siblings, there was usually a lot of commotion and activity in our house. There was one thing that never produced any argument or noise. We went to church on Sunday morning. We knew this was nonnegotiable. We went to church. My father directed that activity, and I donâ€™t remember a single Sunday when any of the five of us thought for a minute about trying to get out of going to Church and Sunday School. It was what we did. My father took great pride in taking us all to church, and I think his pride rubbed off on us. And before we left the house, my father lined up five coins on the kitchen counter and gave one to each of us to put into the collection plate. There were people who didnâ€™t have all the nice things we had, he said. We needed to share what we had with those less fortunate. His point was that we needed to share with others. And to model this, he shared with us. So many times in my adult life I have realized what a tremendous gift I received from my father, the important gift of going to church. Years and decades later I still know the importance of being part of a church community, for what it gives to me and what I give to it. More than once I have known it was God who called me to church, called me to give beyond myself and called me to practice a generosity . When I decided to transfer my membership to St Johnâ€™s, I will admit that Frank Wilson was a major draw, since he and I had worked closely on a number of committees. But other attractions were quickly apparent: the friendly people, the warm smiles, the sizzle of youngsters moving about the church, and the many activities happening beyond Sunday morning. That first Sunday, following an opening hymn with a procession of choir and clergy, Frank addressed the congregation:
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us praise and worship God who has called us together. Let us celebrate God’s majesty, and delight in the wonder of God’s love. Together we shall confess our sins and receive assurance that we are forgiven. As the scriptures are read, we can allow God’s word to speak to us, and ponder its meaning for our lives. In our prayers, we give thanks for God’s goodness, we pray for others as well as ourselves, and we offer our lives anew in Christ’s service. All this we do, because we believe in the presence among us of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and in the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. [A New Zealand Prayer Book]
All of that. Open to anyone. Open to everyone. No demands, only gifts. I knew I was home at St John’s. The essence of why God calls us to gather on Sunday morning, the same lesson learned from my father years ago. St John’s was home for me. This is supposed to be “the stewardship sermon”. As I worked on the sermon this week, I was struck by both good and original thoughts. And as Samuel Johnson once noted, the part that was good was not original and the part that was original was not good. Stewardship is not just about the annual October beg-a-thon asking each of us for a pledge to St John’s. Stewardship goes on all year, as do the needs of this parish. Today on All Saints Sunday we are asked to return our pledge cards, indicating our commitment to St John’s for the coming year. This helps the finance committee and the vestry prepare a budget and it helps the staff prepare programs of worship, music, education for all and outreach for the coming year. God loves us and our own generosity is how we show our gratitude to God. This gratitude for abundance is a sacrament—an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. That’s what a pledge to St John’s is all about. Yes, there are expenses incurred and bills to be paid and St John’s needs our dollars to do that, but even more do we need to give for the sake of our own souls. Today, on the feast of All Saints, is when we especially remember those who have gone before us, those we love but see no more. We remember especially our own loved ones, and those who, over the years, have walked the halls and aisles of St John’s, sat in these
pews, served on vestry and committees, and made decisions that allow us to enjoy this wonderful parish church today. We have an obligation today to make decisions and commitments to St John’s such that future generations will continue to worship here and make all life in Christ new. Trevor Patzer, the man who, out of his own gratitude, started the Little Sisters Fund to educate girls in Nepal, has said, “the key to happiness is helping someone else. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping somebody else; it doesn’t matter how you help.” In an experiment published by Science magazine, participants received a sum of money. Half were told to spend the money on themselves, and half were told to spend it on others. Afterward, they were rated on their happiness levels. Guess who was happier? Those who spent money on others, suggesting that giving to others increases well-being above spending money on oneself. God will richly bless you. Can we do any less for God?
From a Sermon preached in November 2010 St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, Saint Paul, Minnesota
I grew up in a family of Baby Boomers. Being the oldest of five, with four younger siblings, there was usually a lot of commotion and activ...