Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, November 5, 2023

YEAR A 2023 feast of all saints

All Saints, 2023
Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Other than Christmas and Easter, the Feast of All Saints is my favorite festival of the entire year.  Because, on this day in particular, we are reminded that heaven and earth are joined together.  That those who have gone before are still with us.  That the liminal space between the saints and angels and our mortal coil is so much thinner than we like to think—in the busy-ness of our daily life.  This is a day to stop for a moment, and to think of The Church with a capital C.  To join with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven around this Altar, in this room. 

And that connection between heaven and earth, to the saints of every time and every place, it focuses our attention on Community—also with a capital C.  As the church on earth we are not alone.  Connected across time and space with the Church of all time and space.  We are a community physically gathered here this morning, but we are also gathered with current members of this parish who are not here today.  And we gather with those who drifted away, and with those who left in protest.  And we gather with the founders of this parish, and with those whose kids are playing soccer this morning, as well as every medieval peasant who worked in the fields, and with the very first disciples of Jesus.  All of us joined together in community, every time a group of people shows up at this Altar. 

But the basis of our community, what makes us members of the church of Christ, is being baptized into Christ.  We talked about this a lot in our Wednesday evening classes last month.  It is our individual Baptismal authority invested in others that gives us Bishops, and Diocesan Conventions, and General Conventions, and Presiding Bishops.  Together, we hand over some of our Baptismal authority and invest it in other people to lead us.

And that is why it is fitting that All Saints Day is one of the four specific feasts in the church year where we can substitute the Baptismal Covenant for the Nicene Creed.  Today, we will profess our faith together, as always, but we will intentionally root it in the Baptismal Covenant—the “contract,” if you will—that binds us all together on equal footing.  

In trying to wrap our minds around the meaning and the mystery of the Feast of All Saints, it’s worth taking a moment to notice one little phrase from the collect for this day, as I mentioned in the sermon this past Wednesday.

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord.

That idea and image of being knit together is quite powerful.  When knitting, one starts with skeins of yarn, of all different colors.  Wound up and turned in on themselves.  Though they are beautiful in and of themselves, they are all wrapped up--or at least bound up--in themselves. From those skeins, separate strands are then knitted together to make up a blanket or sweater or some other thing.  They are still individual strands, but it is in their being joined together that they become something much more than individual strands. 

The knitter gathers these threads, fashions them together, and makes a new thing.  The strands retain their essence.  They don’t cease to be what they were.  But together, they become something entirely new, entirely lovely, an entirely different thing in the world.

The Church of Christ on earth has a unique feature to it, in that we believe we are connected to those who have gone before.  (A mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won, as the hymn puts it.)  You could think of us as being knit together with them, though we do not see them, or know most of them, or even know their names.  All those who have died, all of us who are living, and all those who will come after us, knit together into one glorious garment of many colors.  But there’s more!  Listen to that sentence from the collect again:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord.

Not only are we knit together with one another, and those who have gone before, and those who will come after us, but we are also knit together in the mystical body of Christ!  We are together, and we are in Christ.   And, we are knit together in the body of Christ.

We can take this a step further when we consider that Jesus has no hands and feet except for us—his disciples.  We are the literal hands and feet of Jesus in this world.  When we do what we do in the name of Christ (feed the hungry, preach the good news, comfort the afflicted), we are doing this along with all the others with whom we are knit together.  We are never alone, because we are one body, one glorious garment, joined together with those past, present, and future, serving the world in the name of Christ.

And there’s even more!  Every time we gather at this Altar for the Eucharistic prayer, we are entering into an ongoing stream.  There is a never-ending hymn being sung, by the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, and we join in singing it—even when we are speaking it.  
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
That song goes on forever, because the whole company of heaven is singing it for all eternity.

We enter into that endless ongoing stream, every time we gather for Communion.  A glorious hymn of praise to the Lamb seated on the throne, who was, and is, and is to come.  We are part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, a communion of saints, singing praise to God for all eternity. 

Hear it again:
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord.

We are all strands of one glorious, beautiful, heavenly fabric.  Joined together for all eternity, by the grace of God.


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