Sermon for All Saints Sunday: Small Acts of Love

Click here to listen along——-> 2013-11-3 NBW Sermon hfass 2-1

A stanza From the great hymn For All The Saints:

O blest communion, fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle, but they in glory shine;

Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

So, I’m a sucker for a good saint and many of you might not know this but when this church was starting I had a stack of saint card – saint cards are like trading card for Catholic saints, their picture on the front, and their stats and like, spiritual powers listed on the back…well I had a stack of these but they were all of the same saint – St Dymphna who’s my favorite. Not exactly the most famous of the saints but there you go.  Saint Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan Irish king and his Christian wife in the 7th century. Sadly, she was murdered by her father. But before her death she is said to of founded a home for the ill and many crazy people reportedly became a lot less crazy around her.

That’s right…St. Dymphna is officially the patron saint of the nervous, the patron saint of the emotionally disturbed, the patron saint of the mentally ill, and the patron saint of those with neurological disorders.

That is to say, she just really seemed like our kind of saint.

Today is a day set aside in the church year to remember the saints.  But not just the ones who have trading cards since it is technically All Saints Sunday and not just Some Saints Sunday. To be clear, this isn’t like a cult of saints or anything…we don’t need special saints to intercede for us because God listens to them more since they were just basically better Christians than we are.  What we celebrate when we celebrate All Saints is not the superhuman faith and power of a select few but is God’s ability to use flawed people to do divine things. We celebrate all on whom God has acted in baptism, sealing them, as Ephesians says, with the mark of the promised Holy Spirit. We celebrate the fact that God creates faith in God’s people, and those people through ordinary acts of love, bring the Kingdom of Heaven closer to Earth. We celebrate that we have, in all who’ve gone before us, what St Paul calls such a great cloud of witnesses and that the faithful departed are as much the body of Christ as we are.

It is quite a thing, really.  That we are connected to so many. Connected to so much faith. So many stories. So much divine love. Especially in this day and age of alienation and trying to find community and belonging in smaller and smaller ways. I mean, I may think that the basis of me being connected to other people is in having theology or political beliefs or denominational affiliation or neighborhood or musical taste or Facebook groups in common.  But none of that is what connects me to the Body of Christ. What connects me to the body of Christ is not my piety or good works or theological beliefs.  It’s God. A God who gathers up all of God’s children into the church eternal.

So, today let us remember all the deeply faithful and deeply flawed saints of God’s church through whom the glory of God has been revealed is being revealed and will be revealed.  Let us remember Mary Magdalena and Peter the fisherman and the glorious disciples.  Let us remember St Frances and Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. Let us remember Lindsey’s mom, and Moose’s brother and my friend Suzanne who took me in when I was messed up kid trying to get sober. Today let us thank God for gathering so many into the church eternal, some of whom still light our own paths.

O blest communion, fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle, but they in glory shine;

Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.

Alleluia, Alleluia!

Many of you have come here today to honor someone you have loved who has died. Your hearts are heavy with the loss of someone dear. Many of us have our own beloved dead to remember this day. People who we’d frankly rather still have here in this room as a living person and not as a photo on a white table at church the first Sunday of November. We’d rather be standing behind them in line for communion than adding them to the litany of saints.

Some of you know that this last May Julie asked us to pray for friends of hers who had lost their son Drake to suicide. Drake was 12. He was an animated child who was different from other boys.  He was on the state championship cheerleading squad and loved weaving, knitting or crocheting scarves for his friends.  And for all of this and more he was bullied mercilessly. Drake, a baptized, beloved and beautiful child of God is gone but here, today we will speak his name. We will speak his name with the names of others who have departed this world since the last All Saints – expectedly, unexpectedly, peacefully, violently. And all of them now taken into the embrace of the God from whom they came in the first place.

When I met Julie for coffee a few weeks ago and she spoke of how much she’s understandably struggling to make sense of Drake’s death, I told her as I have so many of you, that I don’t have any easy answers. And that there is seldom an answer to the question of why there is such senseless suffering.  But there is meaning to be found in it.  And for me that meaning is connected to being part of this mystic body of Christ because it means that death is never the final word because in both life and death we, like Drake are very much connected to God and to one another. The letter to the Ephesians we heard earlier calls this the inheritance of the saints, That God somehow gathers us all up into the divine love of Christ and makes us a body both now and in the life to come. That even those whose names are eventually forgotten are always and forever held in the light of God in glory. Because while death is a wrenching painful reality to us, it’s meaningless to God.

Not that God is impervious to the pain of death, mind you – after all,

Jesus had real friends who died, and he stood outside the tomb of Lazarus and wept. And then, of course, he raised Lazarus from the grave – as though before Jesus was to defeat death for good he needed to just gave it a really good slap in the face first.   God in Jesus was so moved by compassion and love for those who others rejected, those like young Drake, that his hand was ever extended to them, a God who, in Jesus was so full of grace that he went to a cross we built for him, a God who in Jesus descended to the dead as though to say to us “even here I will find you and not let go” because death has no sting – death is rendered meaningless to a God of resurrection.  And lest we forget, it is a God of resurrection who we worship.

At that coffee with Julie I said I didn’t have answers but I did know that All Saints Sunday was coming up and we could have a little shrine for Drake…. Yet one more Saint that has gone before us with whom we are still inextricably, united in the body of Christ.

So what can we do but also give thanks for this table we are about to gather around – a foretaste of the heavenly banquet around which the saints are already gathered.  We give thanks that around this table we are tied to the whole communion of saints – united with all who have ever received bread and wine and told it was Jesus and it was for them.  We are joined here with angels and arch angels cherubim and seraphim  – we are joined with the church on earth and the church in heaven and all who have called on the name of God. And we are connected to God.

I saw Julie again a couple days ago and in her bag was a picture of Drake and also a scarf he had woven for her. She asked if I could wear it as my stole when we gather around the table today and remind each other of the night before Jesus defeated death. Yes, of course I will and it will be my honor.

So for this we are also giving thanks, that saintly acts are always just really simple acts of love. And that we give thanks for all those who have come before us handing on the faith and being used by God for simple acts of love. Building homes where the crazy can be less crazy, giving food to those who hunger, taking in a kid trying to get sober, changing a child’s diaper, weaving a scarf for someone you love.

O blest communion, fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle, but they in glory shine;

Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.

Alleluia, Alleluia! Amen.

 

Drake’s scarf.

 

 

About Nadia Bolz Weber

I am the founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Learn more at www.houseforall.org

  • Elisabeth Grunert

    Thank you, Nadia. I needed that. I had to miss church yesterday and my heart is heavy, remembering many beloved dead. Thank you for this sweeping, inclusive, exhilarating celebration of All Saints.

  • Steve

    Beautiful.

  • Wallis

    Amen

  • CherylCrT

    All Saint’s Day is really hard for some of us who have lost loved ones. Even though our pastor/minister reminds us that they are not gone forever, it seems that way…

    • Sarah Howe Miller

      Many of us pastors say the words out loud in order to remind ourselves as we struggle with the same heavy hearts

  • Julie Hay Halstead

    Did I read this correctly, the Dymphna was the king’s daughter AND wife?

    • David Gaeth

      Dymphna was the daughter of a King who was a Pagan and a wife who was a Christian.

  • Suzzanne Rye

    Thank you for posting your sermons for all of us to hear/read.

  • Barbara Blackburn

    Amen. I am missing my daughter, Amber, our only child, disabled all her life, more beautiful than anyone I’ve ever known, my heart – who passed on at age 23. And, I remember her friend Logan, my Wiccan friend’s son, who took his life just two months later, after a lifetime of battling emotional problems. I pray for grace for him, because he never claimed Christ, but he was a beautiful, sensitive boy who once called me his best friend, at 8 years old. They are both loved and missed, but all who knew them were blessed by their existence.

  • MikeM

    Thanks for the message. I came here after reading an article about you that emphasized your foul mouth and tats. May I say, your sermon is very Biblical and God honoring. Honoring when we remember that
    “Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones,” those that love Him, regardless of “orientations” that may be.

  • Greg Weatherd

    I am moved beyond words. God bless you and your heart for sharing Jesus’ love in the darkest of places. I am so thankful that I happened upon your book because of Rob Bell’s FB post. You are a breath of fresh air in a world that has drawn too many lines between us and them (saints AND sinners).

  • Jeff Kisner

    Great sermon, Nadia. But c’mon man, Paul did not write the Letter to the Hebrews!

    • Any Othername

      You can always tell God’s people by how much they love to argue with one another brother.

    • SarcasticLutheran

      New Testament class in seminary is New Testament class in seminary. Preaching is preaching.

  • Jen Stuart

    Thank you for this moving sermon. Drake was one of ours. His death will not be forgotten.

  • csernica

    Tears streaming down my face. Thank you.

  • Sandra Breeden Greene

    Thank you, Nadia. My prayers are with and for you as you continue to become even more known and spread God’s love and grace. Please take sacred care of yourself. Peace, Sandie

  • tricia

    I saw your picture and the story of your church on FB. I then ordered your book on ibooks and spent the morning reading it. I was raised an Episca-Jew. Yeah, I know. I have not been in a church in years, mostly because of what I witnessed growing up in religion. I highlighted parts of your book and found myself saying, “Holy shit- yes!” more than once. I just wanted to let you know that a woman in Texas read your book and it really spoke to me. Thank you.

  • Claudia Anderson

    I clicked on this from facebook and loved it. Then I clicked on your website because I noticed that you were in Denver, which is my hometown. As soon as I saw the church you meet in I knew you were in the right place. There was a Rector of St Thomas’s back in the 60′s, whose face is before me, but whose name I can’t remember, who would be very pleased at your ministry. He guided the parish through a remarkable time, when the Park Hill neighborhood was the center of the civil rights movement in Denver. He would take great joy in your spirit and inclusiveness. I think he would have me to tell you to keep on keeping on!

  • Dwight Hasbrouck

    In the midst of false faith chaos and the empty efforts of people who are not yet truly John 3:3 converts a wonderful Savior still offers His free gift of eternal life.
    Too many individuals have gone their own way and allowed the great father of lies,”Satan”, to keep them blinded from Gods truth. The Gospel of Jesus is the absolute opposite of the gospel of man/or woman!? In these last days one would be very wise to seek the One who knows all things and not put ones trust in a man or woman who is not surrendered unto Jesus. False teachers roam the earth and peddle a false message to lost souls that hunger for Gods truth. God knows His true children and all others are still children under the power of the devil.
    Revelation 20:15 is a very strong warning to all who have not yet turned to Jesus for His rescue. Live ready and test all spirits against the word of God.

    • Freddiyo Neone

      Thank you Nadia for your very inspirational sermon. Your words are divinely inspired that has invited back the outcasts, sinners (like myself) and the marginalized to the table of Jesus Christ. Your words have inspired me to forgive the self righteous people who have quoted on my face countless bible verses as weapons that made me feel unworthy and unloved by God. Bible verses that have been used as weapons of exclusion and marginalization by self-rigfhteous people who have deemed me a worthless person in God’s eyes unworthy of love. But because of what you’ve said, I love God more than ever in my life, as well as my neighbors, especially, people who have hurt me, because you taught me to see Jesus in everybody- no exceptions! Jesus is present in all! Your words have made me seek out to find God and Jesus more and more and more and more everyday through the least of my brothers and sisters, even in the self-righteous angry judgmental hypocrite. Thank you for teaching the revealed truth that really matters- believing in God’s infinite all inclusive love, mercy and grace. Thank you Nadia. Thank you Nadia. Thank you Nadia.

      • Dwight Hasbrouck

        Freddie,
        When one is truly connected with Jesus in spirit His Holy Spirit becomes the divine teacher,comforter,convicter,encourager and main guide in our relationship and walk with Jesus. I encourage you to take a step of real faith and allow the Holy Spirit to be your guide. Nadia is in a major place of disobedience to what the real bible teaches. Much of what she presents and how she presents it is far from what Jesus offers us in His perfect word. I am sorry and please accept my apology for any bad experiences that you may have had from others who professed to be true Christians. I have been following the teachings that Nadia creates. They are sadly mixed with her flesh nature and self induced lifestyle. Religion is a creepy realm and true personal relationship with Jesus is beyond awesome.
        Go with what God desires for you and avoid feeding on the empty,half truth foolishness that spews from the abundance of Nadia’s heart. True conversion and surrender unto Jesus=a life that will be changed over time and in the process of renewal a clean heart will be the great exchange for the former heart that was full of evil and wretchedness. Simply this,the best that God is and has to offer us will fill us and form in us a pure heart nature that reflects all that God is. I pray that you and ALL people who have been cheated from Gods best by the teachings of false faith peddlers will come to experience what I have been blessed with by Jesus Himself. You matter to God and He desires that you follow His Son Jesus all the days of your life on earth and on into heaven one day. Take care & live ready!
        Dwight/John 8:51 2Timothy 2:19

  • Dwight Hasbrouck

    Until Nadia wakes up to what she has bought into she still holds her eternal burn notice and walks on a very crooked path that many are following her on. The teachings of Jesus vs what Nadia teaches are not in balance. One major area of concern is the sheer fact that Nadia and many others like herself have removed portions from Gods word and by doing so they have entered into that very dangerous realm of disobedience to Gods established commands. Place all faith,trust & hope in Jesus, not in people who have made a personal choice to go their own way and lead others in that way. Scripture+The Holy Spirit’s confirmation that Gods word is absolute truth=Victory and real life for ALL who make the personal choice to know,love,seek after,obey & serve Jesus & others! Live ready and know this. No one escapes physical death,day of personal account or judgment and then final eternal realm assignment. Hebrews 9:27/4:12-13=The real deal!

    • joeyj1220

  • Anon

    Thank you for taking the time and energy to post your sermons so we can read/hear them. To me, you transmit the love of God.

  • Jonenred

    The heresy of Protestantism is damaging

  • Pingback: Church as Communion of Saints, Cloud of Witnesses | Turning the Word

  • Pingback: keep the feast | organized redemption


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X