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Sermon delivered at St Paul's Cathedral on November 6, 2005

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A Sermon for All Saints Sunday

Sermon preached by

The Right Rev. J. C. Fricker

November 6, 2005


There’s a wisecrack response to part of Jesus’ summary of the Law, which says, “Love your neighbour as yourself, but, choose your neighhbourhood wisely !”.

While it may have been a cynics mind that conjured that response, there’s some wisdom in it. Today we celebrate the lives of all those saints, known and unknown, who have gone before us in faith., not just as examples but as windows into God’s vision for human kind. It’s also a day when we experience that vision by witnessing and leading those who have been called to baptism into Christ’s community, the Church. So it’s a day when we welcome these three children to the neighbourhood which they have chosen, called St.Paul’s Cathedral. Believe it or not we of St.Paul’s are the saints to whom these children will some day look to glimpse the holy truth that Christ’s Body is resurrected in us.

Now I know that sounds awfully intimidating. Who me? A saint? The saints are those birds we consign to stained glass windows. I’m far too sinful. My faith is far too weak. I don’t pray enough . I scream at other drivers on the road. I’m impatient, moody,self-indulgent. There’s no way I’m anything close to a saint. What’s more I prefer to live on the edge of the neighbourhood and not get too involved in its life. So I don’t pledge, just so you get the message.

Well, if even some of that description applies to you, as some of it sure does apply to me, we’re in good company. Look for example at the 12 apostles. Sometimes they were plain dimwitted, they jockeyed for power, they were sometimes arrogant. Yet Jesus called them to be his followers and the foundation of his Church.

So hear this, saints were and are pe3rfectly human, often boisterous, annoying, impatient, intolerant and frightened. But also kind, open hearted and compassionate. Sometimes slowly, sometimes suddenly they surrendered their personalities to a greater love that turned human failings into human strength.

One of the most startling yet compelling tidbits of information that surfaced for me about Mother Theresa of Calcutta was that for the last 50 years of her life she felt spiritually abandoned by God. Mother Theresa ? Can you imagine? She felt abandoned. She questioned God’s presence, and yet she kept on in her spectacular ministry. Human failing into human strength.

I another couple of months you will welcome a new priest to be your next Dean. I thake fdrom that news that I have been summarily dismissed!!!!! In the eyes of too many people, priests are expected to be extraordinary Christians. They are expected to pray better, preach better, be more sensitive, more intellectually discerning, more generous. Just plain better !But in this matter of saintliness, “better” is not in the vocabulary. What I know your new priest will strive to do is to live out the meaning in her life and ministry of all those promises we will be called once more this morning to strive for. Human failings into human strength.

It is our baptism that calls us into ministry, not ordination. When we are asked what we are to do, as today’s saints, we reply “I will, with God’s help” We don’t just say yes, or I will. We acknowledge that we are unable to persist in these promises alone. We are weak. The covenant does not say, “If you fall into sin”, it says “whenever you fall into sin” .

So we remember today the saints of God, those who are no longer with us, those who helped shape our lives, whose names we offer in thanksgiving today. And we remember our newest saints whom we baptize this morning. We remember them all.

How do you want to be remembered? Think about it. We encounter lots of people in our lives, relatives,friends,colleagues,teachers,neighhbours, parishioners. Why is it that some of them stand out in our memories, while others are just there? What makes the difference in how we remember someone? One of the keys unlocking that question is found in those Beatitudes we heard in the Gospel. They are Jesus’ definition of saintliness. How do you want to be remembered?

 

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2005 St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo New York