Saints of God. Who, us? Yes, us!

The text of the sermon, based on Luke 6.20-31, preached with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the Sunday after All Saints’ Day, November 6, 2022.

Today, we celebrate All Saints’ Day. For centuries, in Western Christendom, November 1 or the Sunday after has been set aside for the Church to honor those who followed Jesus in ages past and those who follow Jesus in any present time. Like today. Thus, we are numbered among all the saints.

Who, us? Yes, us!

Are we, as many people typically think of saints, perfect? No. Are we larger-than-life heroes and sheroes of the Christian faith whose deeds of gospel service are proclaimed throughout the world and will resound through the centuries? Probably not.

Nevertheless, I say to us that we are saints. And today, in an effort to convince the still-dubious among us, I will describe what saints of God look like and, to encourage us, I will describe what saints of God do.

I bid that we look at our gospel passage, and, for sake of context, I begin with what precedes it…

Jesus, on a mountaintop, had prayed all night. The next morning, he called his disciples, those who had come to learn from him, of whom he named twelve to be apostles, those he would send out to share his message. Coming down the mountain, Jesus encountered a great crowd from the surrounding countryside, who had come to hear him and, afflicted with various ailments, sought relief. And Jesus healed them all.[1]

Then Jesus looked up…and said, “Blessed are you…”

This is what he says to each of us today. For each of us is a member of each of the three groups gathered at the base of that mountain.

Each of us is in that crowd from the countryside. For each of us, in some way – whether physical, emotional, relational, or whatever – one some days (perhaps, depending on the issue, always) is in need of help. And we have come here today seeking the healing of Jesus. A cure would be grand! Yet, if not that, then, surely, the spiritual sustenance that grants us the fortitude to live fully, freely with balance in the face of all that besets us.

And each of us is a disciple. For we have come here today to hear and learn what Jesus has to say, and to apply his word to our lives as best we understand it.

And each of us is an apostle. For we have come here today to go out into the world, our worlds of life as we live it to do his work; as we say in our Prayer for Spiritual Growth, “to preach, teach, heal, and make disciples…to share (God) with everyone we meet.”[2]

This is who saints…we are.

Now, let us listen again to Jesus, saying, “Blessed are you.” For he describes his work and, therefore, our work; what we are to do.

Jesus’ mission was, is, and always will be to address and ameliorate, to confront and change the conditions that keep people poor, hungry, sorrowful, and marginalized. And those of us who are fortunate to possess the resources of wealth to buy whatever we need and want, food to satiate our hunger, the pleasure of laughter and the laughter of pleasure, and the blessing of a good reputation are to live with the loving, liberating work of sharing our good fortune with others.

This is what saints…we do.

So, today, as we, in the words of the hymn, recall

…all the saints who from their labors rest,

who Thee by faith before the world confessed;

Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.


may we also, in the words of another hymn, confirm our calling:

Let saints on earth in concert sing

with those whose work is done;

for all the servants of our King

in heaven and on earth are one.[4]

© 2022 PRA

#saintsofGod #wearesaintsofGod #whosaintsofGodare #whatsaintsofGoddo

[1] See Luke 6.12-19

[2] The Prayer for Spiritual Growth (full text): Gracious Father, we ask spiritual growth for ourselves, our families and friends, and especially for our family St. Matthew’s. Grant us growth in understanding and willingness to be your body in this world. Empower us to live the mission of Christ: to preach, teach, heal, and make disciples. In joyful thanksgiving for the blessing of your presence in our lives, compel us to share you with everyone we meet. May our numbers increase, our commitment deepen, our lives be joyfully yours. Make us a God-centered people. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

[3] For all the Saints, who from their labor rest, verse 1 (1864); William Walsham How (1823-1897)

[4] Let saints below in concert sing, verse 1 (1759); Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

2 thoughts on “Saints of God. Who, us? Yes, us!

  1. Thank you, Paul, for the message and assurance of sainthood to all of us within ear- (and eye-) shot of your and St. Matthew’s congregation’s words. I feel especially blessed today by this warm breeze of love from the South and home. I find myself clinging mightily to these particular words:

    “Jesus’ mission was, is, and always will be to address and ameliorate, to confront and change the conditions that keep people poor, hungry, sorrowful, and marginalized.”

    Right now I am fiercely resisting widespread exposure that seeks, most especially during this hideously destructive and bitter election season, to have ringing in all American ears a grotesque, perverted “gospel” that has nothing to do with Jesus’ mission as you have so beautifully described it.

    Ted and I spent yesterday at a consortium sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches called “White Church Truths,” designed largely around the research and writing of Michael Emerson, a professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and committed follower of Jesus. The program revealed not a great deal that I did not already know or strongly suspect, but it brought me to my knees with its additional focus on local Black and indigenous Christian voices speaking, with great candor, their truths regarding the actual objects of worship in many, likely most, nominally white religious institutions – both churches and seminaries – here in Minnesota and across the nation. The entire program was recorded and will be made available on the Minnesota Council of Churches website in a couple of days. I commend it to you and will send you a link when it is available.

    At lunch yesterday a good old friend I had seen hardly at all since I departed the church (the very church, by the way, at which the consortium was held yesterday), said to me, “I try to keep in mind at all times that this is the end of the world as we know it, but it is not the end of the world.” I was so glad to have that way of framing the way I have been feeling for a very long time. The way we get to a new world is to lose the old one, as painful, even chaotic, as that may be.

    You so reliably help to keep my eyes on the real Jesus, his mission, and his message, Paul. You help keep my feet on holy ground. That holy ground is the ground from which a new world will emerge as we watch the old one fade/slip/crumble/crash away. Whatever happens, God is in it, I believe, not controlling, but loving and sustaining all – and I do mean all – those who are caught in the struggle. And therein lies all our hope.

    With great gratitude and much love,



  2. “I try to keep in mind at all times that this is the end of the world as we know it, but it is not the end of the world.”

    I, too, favor and savor your friend’s perspective on the state of things in this world. Of course, this word bears manifold meanings from manifold perspectives. For me, I embrace it as a statement of truth about the way (many, woeful) things are, yet a word of trust about possibilities. Thus, I hope. And I hope that my hope continues to manifest itself in laboring today for love and justice by my being loving just and just loving all people, perhaps especially those with whom I have the largest disagreements…

    Last night, during our (St. Matthew’s, now, 2 1/2 years and counting, amid this ongoing COVID-era, as I’m wont to term it) nightly online offering of Compline, I bid our folk pray for the restoration of civility, particularly in the harshly contested and absent-of-kindness election season. Moreover, that as we pray, at times, our orisons seem in vain. However, we are called to labor with God as co-collaborators to bring to life what our prayers have brought to the light of our consciousness; praying always, too, that our expressions of our needs and wants align with a greater, Divine will and are not merely the emanations of our always humanly (necessarily) self-interested desirings.

    And, my dearest Karen, I thank God for you and Ted in your individual and corporate earnestness of engaging in the world around you and seeking to be and to do good. In this, I think again of Emilia’s grandly eloquent and passionate sermon in which she, for me, encapsulated the gospel of love and justice.

    A luta continua…



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