Sermon Archives

Sunday, November 6, 2016
All Saints Sunday (Year C)
The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate
Circle of Life

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

For the last four weeks, we have been offering “Baptism Preparation” at the Sunday Rector’s Forum, learning with our four candidates’ families what it means to live the baptized life.  It seems fitting that today’s gospel offers us a final lesson from Jesus himself.

In scriptural context, this lesson came after Jesus’ over-night prayer vigil on a mountain.  When morning came, he called his disciples and chose 12 apostles.  As he went from the mountain to level ground, he looked up at them and began teaching them in front of the crowd.  Like our baptism prep, the lessons were directed toward the disciples but held in front of the gathered community.

In these verses, we hear the standard toward which every disciple can strive to live.  “Blessed are you who are poor… and woe to you who are rich.”  The Beatitudes, the blessings and the corresponding woes, were (and are) meant to strengthen the lives of Christ’s followers.

We hear the sharp edges of Jesus’ teaching about God’s commitment to the poor & the oppressed, echoing the Magnificat that we recite at Evening Prayer: God lifts up the lowly.   We hear not a glorification of poverty but a declaration of God’s prejudicial commitment to people who are poor. We hear and respond. We who are not poor – not really – are confronted, then, with what it means to live the baptized life, to align ourselves with God’s priorities.

Our response to this scandalous teaching can be to repent and re-order our lives and priorities, with God’s help. This hard work can be done in our community, which is what we vow to do, with God’s help, as we renew our baptismal covenant. The Beatitudes: One of the most complicated teachings of challenge and blessing that Jesus offers.

It seems to me that we have lost the art of blessing: how to bless others through the warp and woof of life, with honesty and vulnerability in ways that sanctify.  The late Irish priest and poet John O’Donohue’s proposes that blessing is a way of life.[i]  In a world that is harsh and negative, notice how kindness arises and what happens. Not saccharine kindness, but kindness that “echoes compassionate goodness” and “resonates within the depths of your own heart…” Kindness that suggests that your vulnerability, somehow exposed, is not taken advantage of but has become an occasion for dignity and empathy.”  {repeat}

This kindness is the heart of blessing, where vulnerability connects to divine grace.

Where more obviously does vulnerability meet divine grace than in birth, “…the first gift, the primal blessing…To be born is to be chosen. To be created and come to birth is to be blessed.”[ii] Blessings awake a future wholeness and open a window to the eternal time: God’s time, Kairos.

Through the Beatitudes, Jesus proclaimed a blessing, a future wholeness woven from divine favor. And today, we will, with God’s help, bless those with vulnerability among us who begin their life in Christ. Also today, we will receive blessings, too, from all the saints in our lives.  Saints who have blessed us from their soul to ours.

One of those saints, for me, was my mother.  In the last week of her life, in a fog of Lewy Body dementia and pharmaceutical halidol, she offered me a blessing, but not with words.  That day, she gingerly made her way to piano at the hospice home. Sitting in her wheelchair, slightly slumped over, she played for us Debussy’s Clair de Lune.  By heart. She blessed me that day, with music… and she blessed my life. Her music is in my bones, in my cellular make up, in my soul, in some inarticulate way.  My mother was not perfect, but she is one of my saints who offered me a future wholeness.

What about your saints?  Tell us how they blessed you, from their soul to your soul, towards a future wholeness.  Share about how they lived the sacred baptized life or were witness to scandalous teachings of Jesus.

From these scandalous teachings, Jesus wraps up his talk with one of the hardest teachings: Love Your Enemies.  These words mold in us a Christian ethic that leaves no room for vengeance or retaliation.  Love Your Enemies.  If you want to know more, look to the next three sentences: do good, bless others, pray for abusers.  Such peacemaking partakes of the very character of God, for God’s love is indiscriminate.  This hardest teaching offers us peace that the world cannot give. Love your enemies.

Today we celebrate the circle of life: a start of life in Christ for those being baptized and a reception of blessing by all our saints.  The good news is this: God redeems us, God blesses us, God calls us to know and receive Divine love.  So, here is your charge, Josephine, Aidan, Evan and Camden:

Hold us accountable to uphold you in your life in Christ.
Remind us what it is like to hear God’s whisper.
Laugh when the Holy Spirit arises in your heart.
Cry aloud when injustices happen.
Recall for us what it is like, literally, to be hungry, to weep, to mourn.
Teach us how to be completely dependent upon God.
Know in your bones, in your soul, that God loves you. 

You bless us with your presence, little saints.

Today’s epistle reading, the letter to the Ephesians, summarizes our prayer for you:  Today, you will be marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit.

We pray that you know deeply God’s pledge to be redeemed as God’s own and to live to the praise of God’s Glory.  We pray that God gives you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Jesus, with the eyes of your heart enlightened.  We pray that you know God’s power in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heaven.

We welcome you to the body of Christ, the fullness of him who fills all in all.


[i] Sermon inspired by the Holy Spirit with assistance from the commentaries “New Interpreter’s Bible” and “Feasting on the Word,” with guidance from the book “What Makes This Day Different” and with clarity from John O’Donohue’s book “To Bless The Space Between Us.” Thanks be to God for this village.

[ii] “To Bless The Space Between Us”

[iii] O’Donohue, p. 186