Sermon Archives

Sunday, November 1, 2015
The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24, Year B)
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
The Feast of All Saints

In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

They were old, so amazingly old!  Warn from years of use by pilgrim and parishioner, the ancient stone floor conveyed age and history.  As I moved through the towering nave of the old cathedral of Salamanca years ago, I was overcome by awe, not only at the beauty of the building and the artwork within it, but by its age.  You can imagine, as a 17 year only from Hawai`i, where the oldest building I’d ever been is was maybe 100 years old, to walk the stones aisle of a cathedral that was over 700 years old was awe inspiring and overwhelming!

Yet, it wasn’t only the age of the building that drew me into wonder – I had in fact, just been walking a near 1,000 year old cobble stone street to get there.  Age was part of it, but not the only thing.  As I walked through the aisles of that ancient cathedral, I realized that I was walking the same paths that thousands upon thousands of Christians had walked for hundreds of years.  It was perhaps the first time that I was overwhelmingly aware of the fact that my simple journey of faith was part of an immensely larger journey of faith that spanned not only the countries and continents of the earth, but the millennia of human history.  The journey of faith, my particular journey of faith, was neither new nor even unique; rather, I was part of an immense and ancient community filled not only with women and men from my little church in Kailua, Hawaii, but with women and men from Salamanca.  It was a community filled with women and men whom I knew from my own life, but also women and men who had walked these same aisles centuries before me, women and men whom I would never know.

For the first time, I was aware that I had been caught up in a great tide of faith and that the fast flowing river I was on was but a small tributary of something far greater than I could comprehend. 

Here at Christ Church we get a sense of this great history each week, not only as we walk similar stones, warn down over the years by the faithful steps of pilgrims before us, but also by the ancient music that surrounds us, music composed centuries ago for communities of faith seeking to experience and convey God in their own day, as we seek to experience and convey God today, here and now. 

And while the Eucharist we celebrate each week is among the most ancient of religious practices, its regularity may have the effect of diminishing its ancient impact.  So accustomed have we become to the celebration of the Eucharist that we may fail to realize that the table we gather around each week is, in fact, that first table that Jesus gathered around with his disciples nearly 2,000 years ago.  Consider that for a moment!  We join together today, and each week, to participate in a feast that has spanned nearly 2,000 years of human history, a great wedding banquet that has drawn together not only our parents and grandparent and friends who are dear to us, but strangers who look so completely different from us – the poor and the aged, white and black, Asian and Caucasian, women and men, straight and gay, cobblers and bankers, farmers and princes. 

Fortunately, we have days such as today, in which the breadth of our spiritual community is laid out before us.  As we gather each year on the Feast of All Saints, we are brought face to face again with community of faith that spans not only time and place, but culture and status.  We are invited to look back over the great breadth of holy living, to see who we are and who we are called to be.

So, what is it that we see?

For one, we see the human face of faith.  Scripture as a whole and the Gospels, in particular, remind us that the first sojourners in faith, from Abraham and Sarah, to Peter, Mary and Martha, were real women and men struggling to comprehend their faith and to live in its light.  We will recall Sarah who dismisses with a laugh the great promise made to her and Abraham who hedges his faith as he lies with Hagar.  Then there is Peter who would rather stand between Jesus and the cross than trust the absurdity of a God who chooses suffering for love over simple self-preservation.  And today, of course, we read of Mary and Martha, women consumed by their grief at the death of their brother, struggling to understand the profound implications of Jesus words promising abundant life. 

We also see, however, that this great and ancient fellowship is comprised not only of renowned figures, such as Peter, Mary, and Martha – or even modern day Saints such Teresa of Calcutta and Martin of Atlanta – but also of ordinary saints within any given community; those men and women who, in their own way and in their own time, have made known to us some great truth of God.  We must think of Sharon Snyder, and others like her, who have worked quietly and tirelessly behind the scenes to help us praise God who has blessed with his love and life.  We must think, too, of Bill Herbert and Allen Ledyard, who did so much not only for the community of Christ Church through the years, but also called us out of ourselves that we might give ourselves in ministry to the men of Mariners Inn, and together reminded us that simple kindness is among the greatest gifts we have to offer.  We must think also of Katie Trost and Emma Reich who, as young girls choose to remind us that it is great gift to serve.  And, of course, we ought to remember all of the young men and women of our choirs – from Bill Gard long ago to Maeve Hix and Marco Cavalier (Cavaliere) today – who through the years have offered their voices to our song, reminding us that each of us, in fact, must offer our very best to God. 

Today, we welcome into our midst two new saints – saints not on account of their perfection, but on account of their humanity in pursuit of God.  As Vicki and Areeta join us, they will broaden us.  Over time we will come to know them, and in knowing them we will inevitably see their broken humanity.  But through their humanity, if we wish to see it, we see as well something true about our own humanity.  Over time, as well, we will have the great joy of walking with them along the journey of faith, and as companions together they will help us to see more completely who God is and who God calls us each to be. 

But there is one thing they cannot do for us.  They cannot be saints on our behalf or in our stead.  Vicki and Areeta have been called here to sidle up beside us and to walk with us for a time.  But the lives of the saints – those are the lives we must live ourselves.

Welcome Vicki and Areeta to this wonderful community of saints – ordinary women and men, with foibles and strengths, insecurities and questions, passions and love, just like you.