A sermon preached at St. George’s Anglican Church Calgary by the Rev. Clara King, November 4, 2018.
All Saints Day - Year B
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be always acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Today we’re celebrating the Feast of All Saints. On this day, we commemorate the faithful disciples of Christ whose deeds aren’t necessarily important enough to be granted their own special day in the Calendar.
You know, there’s Saint Paul, and Saint Augustine; and St. Theresa and St. Francis - but then there’s all those other saints. Saints whose lives mattered deeply to the people around them; whose lives and deeds made a difference, saints who were faithful disciples of Christ.
And there’s so many of them, we can’t necessarily have a special day for each one, so instead we have this day, when we say, “and all the rest of the saints!” All those who are known to God as saints, who deserve to be commemorated.
But here’s the thing about Christianity that we sometimes forget: God’s dream for each of us is to become a saint. Not because God will be angry if we don’t, but because God knows that each one of us has inside us the potential, the possibility that our lives would matter deeply to the people around us, and that our lives and deeds would make a difference.
It’s called “Sanctification” - being on the journey to become a saint - even if it’s small “s” saint.
Historically, we’ve understood that after conversion and baptism, sanctification is everything else. It’s the whole rest of our journey; the journey we spend the rest of our lives on.
But maybe I don’t need to tell you that… because I think you already know it. It’s something you’re already doing - when you make up the hampers at the Foodbank on Tuesday and Thursday mornings; when you treat your neighbours with kindness, whether they look like you or not; when you go out of your way to make people feel welcome here, no matter where in the world they might come from; when you take one another communion.
I notice these little things you do, my lovely people of St. George’s, and it fills me with joy. I boast about you to others - you should hear what I say to the folks at the Diocesan Office about you!
Many of the staff at the Diocese are new, and they’re learning all the time about the character of the various congregations. St. George’s is getting quite the reputation for being reliable, grounded, faithful, solid, salt-of-the-earth, friendly and helpful.
Now perhaps you’re blushing at all this praise; or perhaps you think it’s not seemly, it’ll give us all big heads. But I say to you, these little things you do for one another, these little things that characterize this community - they are important.
You may not notice how important it is that you are polite to your neighbours, but it is. You may feel that in the world of big problems, your small actions make little difference, but they do.
On Tuesday, Michael and I went to a vigil at Beth Tzedec Synagogue, along with about 500 Calgarians from all kinds of religions, races and skin colours, to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the face of anti-Semitic violence. It seemed like such a small thing to do in the face of the rising tide of fear and hate.
But one of the Imams there that evening told us of this saying: for there to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nation. And for there to be peace in the nation, there must be peace in the state. And for there to be peace in the state, there must be peace in the city. And for there to be peace in the city, there must be peace in the community. And for there to be peace in the community, there must be peace in the family. And for there to be peace in the family, there must be peace in the heart.
Friends, these small things you do for one another matter deeply. They are not too small; there is a catalyzing effect - not only of peace, which starts in the heart, but of civility too, which starts in the heart and radiates outward.
These small things that you do - little interactions in the narthex, or before the service, little things you say to one another, and do for one another, and do for your neighbours and your co-workers and the strangers you encounter - there is an effect, which ripples outward and makes a difference.
I often see you give one another small things: a hug, a squeeze of a hand, a card, a welcoming smile, a bag of groceries, a used puzzle - and I wonder if you know how these little gifts of joy add up. They may seem small, but friends, they’re powerful.
A small story to finish.
Some of you may not know that I work for St. George’s only half-time. The other “half”, I work for the Diocese, looking for ways to better support our rural and small town congregations that can no longer afford clergy.
Friday was a Diocese day, and at the end of the day, I saved the file I was working on, closed everything down, closed my books and put away my pens, and drove home, feeling oddly like something incredibly important had happened.
The feeling continued all evening. Michael asked me what I’d done, and I was full of energy and excitement about the day, because something incredibly important had happened - but I couldn’t put my finger on what, exactly the important thing was.
After all, all I’d done was have one meeting, make one phone call, and spend a few hours working on a document. And yet, it was like a deep, solemn bell tone, sounding somewhere a bit in the distance, ringing out in celebration. Something big and good had happened.
Sometimes that bell rings in our lives, and says, something huge happened today, and when we look back over everything we’ve done, it’s all been small or unimportant-seeming.
But remember what God likes to work with the most: small, unimportant-seeming things. “You are the salt of the earth,” says Jesus to his people, “you are the yeast”, “you are a candle”.
Friends, you are the salt of the earth; you are yeast, you are small candles, and in your small, beautiful actions, you light up this community with joy.
And this is your feast day, lovely people, when we celebrate. God notices all these little things, and says in response: well done, good and faithful disciples. Keep it up.