Sermon, All Saints Day, 3 November 2013.
But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever–forever and ever.”
I remember the first time I came across Lutherans en masse. My sister had married a Lutheran farmer and I used to go and stay on their famer on school holidays. So, I was in their home and this meant that I would go to worship with them at the local Lutheran congregation in Geraldton, WA. I was about 12 and the drive was 80km each way. We never missed worship in Geraldton.
Pastor Ken Schmidt was the first Lutheran pastor I ever met. He would lead the Service in the black cassock and white alb from the Hymnal page 6 service order. The local farmers, teachers, medical people, homemakers and all the rest, with their various kids, would sing along as best they could as dear old Mrs Kowald played the electric organ as best as she could.
After the Service I would eagerly listen to the cockies bang on about the weather and the fencing and cropping and etc until we eventually would head into town to have a BBQ with another family or go to the beach or buy fish and chips or just head back out to the farm.
Whatever happened in that little Lutheran congregation must have been significant for me because it stuck and I stuck and I am still sticking!
I don’t think it was the quality or lack of quality of old Mrs Kowald’s organ playing. I don’t think it was the grandeur of the building that helped me stick to the community. It was not grand. It wasn’t Pastor Ken’s sermons. I can’t remember one moment in one of them! What was it?
I reckon it was the Story. It was the people and the story they were living that made me stick to the church. My brother-in-law, my sister, old Mr Nitschke, a great bloke named Andrew and his wife, Joanne and etc…..all living the story of Jesus out in their daily lives at worship, at home at work – living story boards of the good news and God’s community, the church.
Before that, I didn’t have much of story to belong to. My family was mostly non-churched, so there was not much or at least not a personally connected God’s story for me to know or tell. My family was disconnected, so there was not much family story to be proud of and learn about. My school story was disjointed and pretty unspectacular. We lived all over the place, so there was no home story or place story to sing about. Part of my story was painful. So some of it was not something you would want to speak about anyway.
These days I wonder we are in the company of more and more “storyless” people (like I used to be). There are kids and adults just like I used to be right here in our town. They don’t have much of a story to tell – so they think. They have hardly any connection to anyone else or a larger community’s story. They have no connection to the gospel story and gospel people story; no community to which they can belong. They are alone most of the time – the company they find is mostly digital, not human, several steps removed from reality.
If there is a disease of our day it is storylessness. People are so disconnected, sometimes by choice, other times by circumstances.
Plenty of people ignore God’s story – often with great pride in their intentional deafness. Others just have never heard the story. Still others are only concerned about their own little story believing that that is all that matters …. until tough things happen, grief and loss visit or tragedy strikes..then the search is on for the bigger story to try and make sense of what has happened and why.
I think those 40 people at Hope Lutheran Church in Geraldton WA gave me a story to be part of. They in their ordinary and faithful way gave me The Story to which I belong. I became one of the “All Saints” then and there and here and now.
All Saints day is all about belonging to this mysterious and yet very human story of God’s people. All Saints Day is celebrating the actual living out of and the speaking of that little line in the 3rd part of the Creed, I believe in…. the ‘communion of saints”. Luther suggests it should be translated “community of saints or “community of holy people”.
What’s your story? I wonder whether you have ever felt what is like to have no story bigger than yourself to belong to and share? I wonder whether you have ever felt cut off from community; cut off from a bigger story – alone in the world with nothing much to say and no particular place to head?
All Saints Day is for you. It is an invitation into God’s domain, God’s community – visible, and on the journey with you; invisible but heard with the ear and received by trusting his Word for your life here.
If on the other hand you have deep roots, big family and big story to enjoy and tell, then All Saints Day is a day of praise to the Lord for all of it. All Saints Day is a day to thank God for dear old Mrs Kowald, faithful pastor Schmidt, imperfect mum and dad, boring Mrs Smith who was the Christian lady who taught you in grade 3….
Thank God that you have his Story intertwined with yours and that you can hand over those you love to a gracious God who he is the One making this story happen all the time.
By God’s design, we all belong to our story here; whether you have been here 5 minutes or 50 years. You belong to the story of God creating, Jesus saving, the Holy Spirit gathering, lighting up our minds and making us holy; the story of those who have died for faith in Jesus – the martyrs, the story of the pastors, theologians, preachers, doers of God’s grace in God’s world.
How will we include each other and the many strangers into The Story? How will we welcome people you know into the greatest story ever known or told – the story of God loving, seeking, caring for, providing for, gathering people together in love?
Friends we have been given a massive gift – a life-long story in which to live and work and relate and be ourselves.
With the story goes the telling of the story. We are called to tell His story and ours often and let the Lord of the gathering of holy people do his work.
We remember those who are now living the story of the resurrected life ad we thank Jesus for giving us this big story to live in and die in and live in and die in and live in and die in and live in.
Live God’s story as you love him and tell it. As you do…
“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power”. (Ephesians 1:17-21)
What’s your story? Take a moment to think about your life’s story in very broad brush strokes. When every one has had a few minutes to think about this, share your story (very briefly in very general terms!)
Reflect on God’s story in your story. Where is God, the gospel of Jesus and the church in your whole life’s story? Very present, or only later or only in your early years or all of your years?
What has All Saints Day meant to you in your church experience?
Have some fun by trying to outline God’s BIG story in the bible in the very broadest of terms in order. So start with Creation and Fall and then go from there – again only in the very largest chunks or very important events in the biblical story. It will surprise you because you know more than you think – especially when you pool your biblical knowledge. (Spend no more that 10 minutes on this!)
How has belonging to God’s big story of salvation in Jesus helped you in living our own life – particularly when you have experienced loss or tragedy?
Read Ephesians 1:11-23 (particularly verses 17-23) noting the actions of God in the text. What has God already done? Who did he do all this for? Where does all the fullness of God’s presence in the world dwell?
Have you met a “storyless” person – someone who just has very little to tell about their life, very little connection to anyone else or their local community; people who spend most of their time alone and fully occupied with their own needs and concerns? How would you help that person find God’s big story of forgiveness and belonging in Jesus?
PRAY Ephesians 1:17-19 together and for each other.
You end by speaking this blessing to each other in pairs – each person speaking it to the other in their pair.
“Child of God (person’s name),Jesus give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him and his story”