Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Saints, 2015: The incomprehensible goodness of Jesus

Lectionary: Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

Lectionary: Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Today, I am honoring St. Faustina, a modern day saint from Poland. Sr. Marie Faustina Kowalska, a.k.a. Faustina, was born in 1905 and entered the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy at the age of 17, just before the advent of World War II.

Her visions of Jesus were primarily about persevering in the face of great suffering – trusting the promises of God in the absence of external, earthly evidence. For Faustina, it was interior suffering she practiced first, experiencing rhythms of mystical connection then dark nights where it felt to her like God was totally absent.

Here, in her own words, is the Good News Faustina was called to share: “Therefore, let every soul trust in the Passion of the Lord, and place its hope in His mercy. God will not deny His mercy to anyone. Heaven and earth may change, but God’s mercy will never be exhausted. Oh what immense joy burns in my heart when I contemplate Your incomprehensible goodness, O Jesus! ” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, p 37)

Faustina’s message was especially important for Poland as WWII was about to change their world and previously unimaginable suffering was about to descend upon them. Her message is timeless too – a ray of hope and a call to persevere for all people, in any time, who are suffering.

The early church considered a saint to be anyone who believed that Jesus Christ is the Savior. We still do. That’s why the Saints we remembered today in our Litany today include Catholics and Protestants, civil right advocates, medieval mystics, military generals, and peace activists. They are lay and ordained, women and men: they are – us.

As Episcopalians, we don’t understand sainthood and heaven as things we achieve after our death. For us, these are eternal and present realities. The communion of saints, something we profess to believe in each time we say our Creeds together, includes all those who were, who are, and who are to come who believe that God’s promise of salvation has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who proclaim this good news to the world, and who continue Christ’s work of reconciliation until the he comes again.

According to the Catechism in our Prayer Book, “the communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.” (BCP, 862) Our unity in Christ brings down every boundary that separates us, even the boundary between life and death, which is what Jesus was demonstrating in today’s gospel when he raised Lazarus from the dead.

Mary and Martha couldn’t imagine what Jesus was about to do. Their brother was dead and buried. Yet everything they knew and understood – about death, about Jesus, and about themselves would be suddenly transformed when their friend and Savior removed the boundary between death and life and made their family whole again. Likewise, everything we think we know and understand about being church is transformed when we trust in the incomprehensible goodness of Jesus who defeated death and established it as a gateway into new life in him.

We are held bound by many things in our earthly experience: our thoughts, our habits, our fears, our sins... We often don’t realize how much we limit ourselves by forgetting our reality of eternal unity with God in Christ. We limit what we do. We limit what we’ll try. We limit what we allow ourselves to imagine. We even limit God and what God can or will do through us.

But Jesus teaches us to live differently. Jesus teaches us to live out the promise of salvation, the promise he died and rose to give us… the promise that makes living in the presence of God our earthly reality.

In Baptism we are made a new creation in the power of the resurrection of our Savior - a power that we believe has removed the boundary between life and death and unified the family of God, making us whole, reconciling us to God and to one another.

Today we welcome a new saint into the body of Christ through Baptism: Michael McKinney. Michael’s presence among us strengthens us, makes us more interesting, and certainly more fun! Michael’s initiation into the Church is a gift to all of us who renew our baptismal vows as he takes his for the first time. His baptism reminds us that we are, in this moment and place in history, the new Jerusalem, the holy city. We remember that everything is being made new by God Christ continually - including us. As St. Faustina reminds us: “heaven and earth may change, but God’s mercy will never be exhausted.”

So as the saints of God on earth, let us be renewed in our willingness to connect our lives in a real and personal way with our sisters and brother in this family and outside the church until all that separates and divides us is transformed by the love of Christ; and let us be intimately connected with our Savior by whose grace and power we do this.

By the “incomprehensible goodness” of God, we are given the gift of making this so right now as we welcome a new Christian whom we all promise to uphold as he grows in the knowledge and love of God and in his responsibility as a member of this church.

Will the presenters now bring forth the candidate for Holy Baptism?

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