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It’s Up to Us

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew

Jesus said to the disciples, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”Matthew 24:36-44

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Paul warns us today that we shouldn’t get drunk, or quarrel with each other, or be vulgar. He wants us to live our lives as if the world could end, or our life could end, tomorrow.  

And the way things are going in this world, today, right now, it could be sooner than we think.

Maybe that’s what Advent is for –  in preparation for  Christmas, maybe  we should take a good look at ourselves – at who we are, and what we are –  and see if we have slipped into doing stuff we shouldn’t be doing. 

As children of the light we need to  be ready for the coming of the Lord.  And believe me, no-one knows when that will be. Jesus told us that God alone knows when that day will come. 

It  could be today,  tonight,  tomorrow, or a week on Friday.!!

I know that lots of  people don’t lock their doors, and I also know of two separate couples both working   out back, and each couple, when they came in, found  they had  been robbed, or were in the process of being robbed since in one instance,  the thief was still there..

That’s how the  Lord will come  – like a thief in the night, or as in this case, in the day – just when we least expect it.

Pow! There He is!

You might say,’ He can come when He likes, He won’t find me doing anything wrong.  I am living my life in such a way that I won’t be caught out in  a sinful act.’   And that’s good.

But the bigger question is, “Will you be caught out in a righteous act? “

Will he find you actively helping to build the kingdom?

The fact is, that many, churches are  just  not  growing. .

If things don’t change in the next five to ten years, those churches  could close.

The time capsule we buried at my own church some time ago may not have had time to get dusty..

What should we be doing about that? And I don’t mean dusting it.

And if we aren’t doing anything about our lack of growth, then who is ?   Doing something about it? 

Luckily, we have an army of people. People who were called by God to be in his army.  People who have been schooled in the Bible – they hear it every Sunday they are in church; people taught by innumerable sermons;.people inspired by the beautiful words heard in hundreds of hymns; to help them with that need.

This army is comprised of people from many different backgrounds, and with many different skills. There are businessmen and women.  There are nurses, teachers, managers, firemen, engineers, farmers, computer experts, bakers, cooks, electricians, plumbers, accountants, school bus drivers, finance experts, and so on.

Where is  this army?  You ask?

It’s right here!

It’s you and I. We are that army, Or at least a regiment, or platoon.

Someone said once, in a planning meeting that our biggest asset is ‘us’.   Not  the Rector. Not the church building, as beautiful as it might be.  No, it’s “Us.”  You and me.

She said that we should be persuading spouses who don’t accompany us to church, to come out anyway. We should call on newcomers in the area and take a pie, introduce ourselves, offer help, and tell them we are from the church down the street. Give them one of our leaflets. 

We should be bringing grandchildren to Sunday School or our neighbour’s children even.

Workmates should know from our impeccable conduct, our fairness and scrupulous honesty, and our forgiving nature, that we are Christians.  

The Sunday service is, hopefully, to charge us up for the coming week so that we can show His face –  the face of Christ – out there in the world, talking the talk, and walking the walk. 

I have told more than once what I say to new parents having a baby baptised, and I think it  it makes a powerful point.

Part of the baptismal prep includes why we give a candle to the child.

I tell the parents about the symbolism of the lighted candle – it shows that in our baptism we pass from darkness into light – and then I put it in its box, and tell them that most people will throw it into a drawer and forget about it.

But I suggest that instead of throwing it in a drawer, they put it in the middle of the child’s birthday cake. Not to let it burn away, but just to have it there for a while. 

And not the first birthday, and not the second birthday. But maybe by the third birthday,  the child will ask, “Mommy, why do we have such a big candle there in the middle of the cake?” 

And I tell the couple. “ You can say,’ Oh that’s what we were given when you were baptised.’”

And the child will ask, “What is ’baptised’?” and you will say, “It’s what happened to you when we took you to church and asked God’s blessing on you and your life. “

And when I say this the parents smile. It is such a nice sentiment.

And then I tell them the child will ask, ‘ What is a church?” 

And you will say, “You know when we drive to the supermarket to get our groceries every Sunday, we pass that cute little building, with the boarded up windows?  That is the church.

The point  being that if parents  don’t bring their child to church, there may not be a church.

The same thing applies if we Christians are not actively working to bring God into the lives of people we know, then some day this church will not be here.

And  basically, it is just telling people what the church has done for you. 

People need to know that they would be joining a community where every person is loved.   A community where we eschew pettiness and the blame game……. and look for Christ in each other,  ………….and rejoice when one of us is blessed, and grieve  when one of us faces loss, or heartbreak, or hardship,………… and we try to be there for each other …… and not only that ……..but we try to reach out beyond this church to bring the love of God to as many people as we can.

That’s all!

You can tell then all  that while drinking one cup of coffee.

And if they do come to church, they will hear that we find a closeness with God,  through His Son Jesus Christ. And we learn here how God loves us so much that He sent his Son into the world to show us how to live, and when he did that –  when he was showing people how to live – some people didn’t like it, and they crucified him, and even though he was God’s Son and could have avoided that, he did His Father’s will, because it was in his dying – when he took our punishment, for us – that we find a chance to start a new life.

And maybe that is something that a friend of yours, or a family member, or a workmate, needs – a new life.

So this Advent might be a good time to look at how we are doing as Christians, and decide  that as we prepare for the coming of Jesus we might have to think about making some radical change.    We might see that we have been just cruising along, and we might decide that,  ‘Holy Mackerel it’s time I stood up and was counted.!’

It’s time I did something. It’s time to change.

And I know that none of us likes change, in our lives or in the places we belong to.

It’s ironic when you think about it, but Jesus came to bring change and even churches –  some of them – resist change.

Remember all the fuss about ordaining women?

Or the introduction of the Book of Alternative Prayer?

I knew a couple who threatened to leave their church because the new  Rector didn’t bother wearing an alb.

We celebrate the coming of Jesus every year at Christmas time, the arrival of that child who became the man who most changed history, so are we going into a new year doing the same old things, being the same old person.

Because otherwise, what’s the point of it all? 

We do wonder sometimes, and sometimes aloud, why ‘they’ don’t do more. Why ‘they’ don’t make this better, or that more effective,  in the church or wherever.  

But we are they.

It’s up to us.

So let’s presume that we won’t be doing something wrong on that Great Day, but also let us be sure that we will be found doing something ‘good’ that is working for the Kingdom!

After all, when the boss comes by we want to look busy, don’t we?

Don’t we?

Amen.

Love Alone

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke.

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:33-43)


How do you know a person is a king?

If a king, dressed in everyday clothes, walking down Main Street, without a retinue, without bodyguards, just walking, looking in the windows of the stores, maybe going into McDonalds for the daily special, would you know he was king?

What if you could talk to him? Ask him questions?

Like, where are you from?  What do you do?

And  what if he answered, “I am from another country. I rule. I am a king.”

 Would you believe him?

At one time a king would wear a crown most of the time, so people would know what he was. I remember seeing the movie Henry the Fifth. The king was wearing armour, and on his helmet was a crown. Not a big fancy crown, but a slim golden circlet.  A crown nevertheless.

That’s how you would know he was the king. Right?

Nowadays monarchs wear crowns only on ceremonial occasions.

You would know a king, or a Queen these days by the place they lived, by the number of bodyguards that accompanied them, and you might recognise  them from having seen their picture in the paper, or from television\, or on our coins.

But does a king or a queen, or a prince or princess, have some aura, some special something, some majesty around them that you would just know, what they are?

A newspaper reporter in England managed to get himself hired as a footman in Buckingham Palace, and wrote an expose. The palace  had an injunction placed on his newspaper to prevent the printing of any more stories about life in the palace. But some stories had already made it into print.

The stuff he revealed, however, was been pretty mundane.

He talked about what the Queen had for breakfast, and similar snippets of information about Prince Philip. It is all so ordinary.

As you might expect.

Away from ceremonial duties, and palace receptions for visiting dignitaries, royalty are just like anyone else; people.

The ruler, the procurator of Palestine was a man named Pilate, Pontius Pilate, who met a man who some claimed was a king.

The religious leaders had been kicking up a fuss about this man. Jesus was his name. They said he was a threat to peace and order. 

He had claimed to be a king, they said.

And they wanted him dead. 

He had said things about God and about the Temple that had  them worried.  If he were allowed to continue, then people might realise that God was available to everyone at any time, in any place, and you could talk to him just like that – in prayer – anyone could!. 

 You see, Jesus came into the world to witness to the truth. He came to tell the truth about God, the truth about ourselves, and the truth about life.

Instead of having to be trapped inside a matrix of rules and regulations, people would know that just asking God for forgiveness, and living a life of love – love of God, and love of neighbour – was all that was required, to be in God’s good  books.

This was dangerous stuff.

If this kept up, the temple would be deserted and all those who depended on it for a living would be out of work.

The whole edifice would fall down.

Clearly this man had to be stopped. And the sooner the better.

But they couldn’t order him killed themselves.  Only Pilate could sentence a man to death. But Pilate wouldn’t condemn a man to death for a religious crime.

So they told him that Jesus had said he was a king, and that he was a danger to law and order. Palestine had always been a powder keg. The people had risen up against the Romans more than once. So they figured this would get Pilate’s attention.

Yet, Pilate tried to avoid the responsibility of condemning Jesus. He told them,   “You take this man and judge him according to your own laws.”

But he could not evade his responsibility. He could not evade Jesus.

No-one can evade Jesus.

He is right there in your face. 

So Pilate has to examine Jesus and see if there is real cause to crucify him.

This is an interrogation. Pilate is a powerful man. He is looking on an accused person  who has been scourged until his back is raw to the bone. This is a  man who has been betrayed by his friends, deserted by his followers, tortured, and by all accounts should be a broken man.

And yet there is something about this Jesus.

“Are you the king of the Jews,” Pilate asks him.

Jesus asks,  “Are you asking this on your own account, or did someone tell you about me?”
“Your own people brought you here,” Pilate says, “What have you done?”

Jesus answers, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

“So you are a king,” Pilate says.

There is something about this man. Isn’t there?

You see, Jesus isn’t a man caught up in a web of circumstance over which he has no control.

He isn’t being hounded to death.

His death is part of God’s cosmic plan to save humankind.  Jesus is going to the cross willingly.

Out  of obedience to the Father.

Later, Pilate brings Jesus out to the people and says, “See, the man.” 

At first we might think he is trying to awaken compassion in the people. That he is saying,  “ Look at this poor bruised, bleeding creature. Look at this wretchedness. Can you really mean to hound such a pitiful creature to death?”

But  no. You can almost hear his tone change. His view of Jesus has been transformed. It is as if after his talking with Jesus, he himself  wonders at the majesty of the man. 

There is an aura.

There is – something.

Could this man really be a king?

Here, some scholars think, Pilate may be saying instead, “See!  This is indeed a man. “

You see the story of Jesus is not the story of a man whose life is out of control. Rather it is the story of a man whose last days were a considered and triumphant march to the cross.

His will not be a kingdom of conquest, but a kingdom of love.

He told his disciples, while on their journey to Jerusalem, that when he was lifted up – crucified – he would draw people to him. 

His sacrifice would be the means by which the lost would be found; the downcast lifted up; the sick in heart healed; those trapped in sin…. freed!

It would be the action of a king who loved his people.

You know, from time immemorial, armies have marched across this world, laying waste, killing, pillaging, conquering. The kingdoms they built have all but gone from memory.

When I was a little boy  at school in England, we had a map of the world on the classroom wall. Most of the map was coloured red. That was the British Empire.

It was said that the sun never set on the British Empire. In other words, it stretched from one end of the world to the other, so at any time the sun shone on some part of it.

Apart from a few islands here and there, it has, over the past fifty years, all but vanished.   

Empire builders have found out over millennia, that you can’t win the hearts  of people by force.

Jesus would win the world by love. 

There is a legend told about the return of Jesus to Heaven, after his time on earth. Even there, he still bore the marks of that cruel crucifixion.

The angel Gabriel approached him and said, ‘Master, you must have suffered terribly for people down there.”

“Yes,” said Jesus, “I did.”

“And do they know and appreciate how much you loved them and what you did for them?”

Jesus said, “Oh no!  Not yet.

Right now, only a handful of people in Palestine know.”

“Gabriel was perplexed, “ Then what have you done to let everyone know about your love  for them?”

“Jesus said, “I have asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell others about me. Those who are told will tell others, in turn, about me. And my story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of humankind will have heard about my life and what I did for them.”

Gabriel frowned, and looked a little skeptical. He well knew what poor stuff human beings were made of.  He said, “Yes, but what if Peter and James and John grow weary?   What if the people who come after them, forget?  What if way down in the twentieth century people just don’t  tell others about you? Haven’t you made other plans?”
And Jesus answered, “I haven’t made any other plans. I am counting on them.”

Jesus was, and is counting on his followers to spread the news of his love throughout the world, into the hearts of men and women everywhere.

He is counting on you and me. Soldiers  for Christ. Soldiers whose only weapon is love alone.

In the service of our king. Amen.

Less We Forget

   . The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

4 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
(John 15:9-17)

When I was a young boy, during the Second World War, I went to school one day, and the class was abuzz with talk about a Spitfire in town. It had been placed in front of the Town Hall, fenced off, so it could not be approached too closely and damaged.

It was there I think, to encourage people to buy war bonds.

I walked downtown to see the plane, and was fascinated by it. I went many times after school, to get a look at it, and to dream of being a pilot flying such a wonderful machine.

I remember lying in bed, and imagining going downtown at night, when no-one was there, and getting in the Spitfire, and starting it up and flying it all over town, looking down at the houses below, and having a fine old time.

If I had been old enough to sign up for the Air Force, I would have gone right then. But I was only about five years or six years old.

That was my age, and that was my dream at five or six years old. But there was many a young man with a dream not so much more sophisticated than that who did sign on the dotted line. And go to war.
With as little idea of what war really was, as that six year old.`

For as long as history has been recorded, men have gone to war. Women have been there too. In years gone by they would be camp followers; latterly as doctors, and nurses, or doing other ancillary work, and lately, flying transport, bomber, and even fighter planes.

And those who went, found war. And it wasn’t at all what they thought it was going to be, and it was horrible, and some came back wounded, some came back psychologically damaged, and some didn’t come back at all.
and some found depths of heroism within themselves they hadn’t known existed.

Mostly though, they were ordinary people, thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and asked to do the impossible. And they did it.

A parishioner of mine had flown Spitfires during the war. He flew in the Battle of Britain, and later he flew out of Malta.

I knew him as an old man, of course.

Late in his life he had to have some surgery. There was going to be some pain.

He told me, he said to the surgeon,” Doc, I used up all my courage in the war, so go easy, eh?”

I did serve in the Air Force, but I have never been to war, so it may be that I am being presumptuous in talking about it. A veteran who had served during the war in Air Sea Rescue and who had pulled pilots and other air crew out of the sea, told me,” You had to be there.”

I can only relate to what war was like – is like – by what I have read; by what I have been told by members of my family who did go to war, and like everyone else, by war movies.

Some men came back having had a great time. Best days of their lives they said. Do you remember the song. “ How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm now that they have seen Paree?

Others came back with dark secrets that haunted them until they died.

They all reacted to the situations in which they had been placed, out of who they were.

They didn’t have money. They didn’t have power. They couldn’t affect the course of the war in any way except by doing what they were ordered to do, and the only thing of value that they had to give, was their life.
Their life.

That was all they had, and it was all they gave.

Willingly.

Unwillingly.

It didn’t matter.

They offered all they had.

Gave all they had.

Praise God, we are not presented with challenges like that today, although as I say that I am aware of Canadians, including some from this community serving in dangerous places, not to wage war, but to wage peace.

We pray God will keep them safe, and bring them home when their time of service is over.

They are putting their lives on the line.

There are others too, who put their lives on the line – firefighters, police officers, and today because of the Covid virus, doctors, nurses, other health care workers, and those who work in nursing and retirement homes, to name a few.

But isn’t that what we Christians are asked to do?

Put our lives on the line?

Give our lives?

Isn’t that what Jesus did? And aren’t we to follow his example?

I sure hope that we aren’t called to literally give our life.

But thinking about it, I have to say, that is precisely what we are asked to give.

I knew a young woman whose mother suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease from a relatively early age. That daughter took her mother into her home, and cared for her, feeding and dressing and cleaning her for ten years until her mum finally passed away.

For ten years she gave her life – to her mother. She had no life outside of caring for her mother. I asked was it hard. She said, “No.. ….she was my mother!”
I know young women, who give their whole life, every minute, every cent, to protect a child or children from a predatory ex-spouse.

I remember our pastor, preaching his sermon and then having an altar call. He would ask, “Does anyone here feel called to give their life to Jesus?”

Some people came forward, not too many since he was preaching to the converted. But he always asked, since a new sinner may have slipped in without being seen.

Give your life to Jesus?

Think about it. Who really does that? We give some of our life to Jesus, but the whole thing?

Rarely, I would say.

We can’t all be Mother Teresa, can we?

We can’t all be like the Apostles can we?

Every heart surgeon can’t be a De Bakey. Every nurse can’t be a Florence Nightingale. Every preacher can’t be a Billy Graham.

A professor of homiletics – the practice of preaching – was telling his students the importance of making one’s facial expressions fit the subject you are preaching on.

“When you speak of Heaven,” he said, “ Let your face light up, let it be irradiated with a heavenly gleam, let your eyes shine with reflected glory. But when you speak of Hell…..well… then… your ordinary face will do.”

Then there is the danger of a preacher being too humble.

After a worship service, an old lady stopped and spoke to the pastor. She said, “I’m deaf, and I can’t hear all you say, but I still come to get my plate full.”

Hoping to console her, the pastor said, “Well maybe you haven’t missed much.”

“Yes, that what they tell me, “ she replied.

We can’t all be the best at what we do. We can’t all have the patience of saints, the fortitude of martyrs, the bravery of a young David, the dedication of a Paul.

But that’s OK because I don’t think that is, at all, what it means to give your life to Jesus.
What I think it means, is to live your life in such a way that whatever circumstances come your way, you react to them with the love that Jesus showed.

Like if you give your life to Jesus, when you are challenged with a tragedy, you turn to him for comfort, and find strength in your faith. When someone else is affected by tragedy, you are there to help, not even thinking about it.

When you are needed to help someone else, in even a small way, you don’t question whether or not you should – you accept the call, and deliver the care needed.

You know, Mother Teresa wasn’t such a perfect person. There were things about the order that she founded, and about her behaviour sometimes that showed,,,,surprise …….she was a normal person.

But when she saw someone, covered in sores, filthy, lying in the gutters of Calcutta, she didn’t hesitate to reach out to them..

It never occurred to her to wonder whether they had brought misfortune upon themselves, or whether they would be grateful, or whether they were Christian or Muslim, or Hindu.

She was in there, cradling that wounded head in her arms, washing that scarred and dirty body, giving succor to someone who had probably never known such love.

When someone asked her how she could do what she did, she said,
” I imagine it’s Jesus lying there in my arms.”

She reacted to circumstances as Jesus would. Because she had given her life to Jesus.

Who knows what life will throw at us? Who knows what terrors we will have to face. Who knows what joys will come our way? What opportunities to serve.

We aren’t perfect people. But if we are disciplined in Christ, as soldiers are in war, who knows what marvels we might work? Who knows what heroic strength lies within us?

Who knows what hidden strength, what hidden love, what hidden caring will show, once we give our life to Him?

Just as in the trenches, when men were tested, sometimes to breaking point, determination, courage, bravery, shone out of the most ordinary men. And no-one saw or cared about their human faults.
Likewise in the skirmishes we face in this world, our love of God, will help us to shine with a brightness we could never have imagined.

And find the strength and courage to face anything.

We just have to give the only really valuable thing we have, to Him.

And that is our life.

Amen.

FOR ALL THE SAINTS

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Luke.

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and, `The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.” (Luke 21:5-19)

I think you may have heard this story, but it is one that I use to illustrate one particular kind of saintliness.

A major oil well caught fire. The experts were called in to put out the blaze.  The heat was so intense, however, that the company’s fire fighters could not get within a  thousand feet of the rig. The management, in desperation, called the local volunteer fire department to help in any way they could.

Half an hour later a decrepit-looking fire truck rolled down the road and came to a screeching halt just fifty feet from the massive wall of flames.  The men  jumped out of the truck, sprayed one another with water and then went on to put the fire out.

The oil company management were so grateful that they held a ceremony some days later to commend the courage of the local firemen – courage which had gone way beyond the call of duty.   –  and then an enormous cheque was presented to the chief of the department. 

When he was asked by reporters what he planned to do with the cheque, the chief replied: “Well, the first thing I’m going to do is get the brakes fixed on that darn fire engine.” 

Those firemen were what you might call unlikely heroes. 

Today is the day when we remember the saints. Many of whom also were unlikely heroes.

When we think of saints, we think of people like Paul, or John or James, and the other apostles; or St. Francis, St. Teresa, St. Catherine, St. Bernadette, or St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Ignatius is a good example of the kind of saint people most often think about when they think of saints.

Most of them became saints almost by accident. Ignatius took a different route.

He was born about the time Columbus came to America. As a teenager he lost both of his parents.  He went to work as a page in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and, when he was 20, he became a soldier. He and his friends did some terrible things, in pranks. He was a wild man. 

His regiment  was called to war, in the course of which, both  his legs were severely injured by cannon fire. Lying there, as he underwent a long and painful recovery, he looked back on his past, on the things he had done, and was deeply ashamed. 

But he had a vision in which he felt that God forgave him, and he subsequently underwent a profound religious conversion.

After his recovery Ignatius set out on a pilgrimage.  He came across a beggar one night, and immediately stripped off his nobleman’s clothes and  exchanged them for the beggar’s filthy rags. 

Eventually Ignatius took up residence in a hillside cave, spending long hours in prayer and penance.  It was out of this experience that he was inspired to found a religious order – an order of men dedicated to Jesus in much the same way the 12 apostles dedicated themselves to Jesus.  Ignatius called his order THE COMPANY OF JESUS – or the Jesuits. 

Today the order numbers over 20,000 men world-wide.  It operates over 50 high schools and nearly 30 universities in the United States alone.  For centuries the Jesuits have provided the world with  one of the best education systems it has ever seen and increased  the goodness in the world by their service to God and to the  world.

The spirit of St. Ignatius is summed up in his prayer for generosity:

“Lord, teach me to be generous.  Teach me to serve as you deserve; to give and not count the cost; to fight and not heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labour and not to ask for reward – except to know that I am doing your will.”

In this prayer we also catch the spirit of St. Francis who taught his followers to pray like this:

Master, grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love with all my soul.”

It is saints like Francis and Ignatius that the church honours today but you know, remembering the exploits of saints like Ignatius and Francis can get in the way of what a saint really is and blind us to the fact that today’s believers,  people  like you and me,  are today’s saints.

Believe it.

You see, a saint is simply someone who has opened himself or herself to God’s grace; who has recognized their need for God and decided to rely on and trust in God no matter what.

The word SAINT comes from the Latin world SANCTUS which means  HOLY – so literally the word saint means HOLY ONE.  God commanded the Israelites  “Keep yourselves holy, for  I am holy.”

In the early church, St. Paul  and others called one another the “holy  ones” or saints.   It applies  to the church as a whole, to those who believe in Jesus Christ 

Over the years, however, it has come to be used almost exclusively, for those Christians who were martyred, or who lived lives of remarkable holiness.  

That’s alright, I suppose, but it tends to divert our attention from the everyday saints who are still among us and still living lives that epitomise Christ. 

Saints are people who differ from other people in the world not because they work harder, or accomplish more – but because their lives show more love.

People in the world love their friends,

Saints do their best to love their enemies.

People in the world do good to those who do good to them,

Saints do their best to do good to everyone.

People in the world lend to those who have good credit ratings

Saints lend to bad risks

Saints are different because they work differently to the way the world works.  They believe differently to the way the world believes. They see things differently to the way the world sees.

They believe in the work of Jesus:

– the Jesus who says blessed are the hungry  and the poor – for they shall be filled.

They believe in the way of Jesus 

– the Jesus who says blessed are those who weep now, for they shall laugh.

They see in the perspective of Jesus  

– the Jesus who says blessed are those who are rejected and reviled on account of me – for their reward shall be great in heaven.

A saint is someone who allows God to use them as an instrument of His love.  

A saint is someone who doesn’t live for worldly honours, but quietly goes about the work that God has given them to do, however humble  that task may be.

I’ll tell you what I mean:

A family of five was enjoying a day at the beach.  The children were paddling in the water, and making castles in the sand,  when a little old lady appeared.  Her gray hair was blowing in the wind and her clothes were dirty and ragged.  She was muttering something to herself as she picked up things from the beach and put them into a bag.

The parents called the children over and told them to stay away from that strange old lady.  As she passed by where they were sitting, she stooped down  every now and then to pick up something, and she smiled at them.

They didn’t smile back. 

Some weeks later, when the father complained to a local official about the “weirdos” to be seen on the beaches, he was told that the little old lady they had found so strange had made it her lifelong crusade to pick up bits of glass from the beach so children wouldn’t cut their feet.

Saints pick up the glass that others toss down; they believe in people no one else believes in;  they help those that no one cares for.   

They share in the Spirit of the One who died for all sinners, and who rose from the dead to give life and forgiveness to all who believe in His Name.

At times like this I remember the story of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, who were thought to have drowned. They were hiding in the church and listening to their own funeral service. They were so moved at all the  wonderful things said about themselves that they cried – at their own “funeral.”

Today, we think of all those who have died and whose lives and deaths connected them to our church and this community. I remember eulogies that told of the love in their lives.

How I wish they could have heard what was said about them.

So we remember  those who have gone on. We  remember with thanks the way they were.  And we also acknowledge the saints among us, today, now.  

For those who try to follow Christ, in how they love and live in their lives, are the saints of today.

You may have someone in mind.

Keep their names in your heart, and during your prayers today, whisper them, or say them out loud, for all to hear.  For that’s what this Sunday is all about.   It’s about those who helped the helpless, clothed the naked, fed the hungry, comforted the bereaving, healed the sick with their prayers, visited the lonely,  and were present to the dying.

It’s about you and me.

And we give thanks to God for graciously calling us to serve Him, enabling us to glorify His name, and equipping us in His service.

We give thanks to God for His goodness – goodness that can only be shown through those who follow Jesus.

We give thanks to God for all the saints who have served Him in the past and who continue to serve today. 

And we give thanks to God for the gift of His Son Jesus the Christ, in whose name we serve. 

Amen.