Sunday, November 6, 2022

All Saints, 2022-C: Bound together in Christ

 Lectionary: Daniel 7:1-3,15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31 

En el nombre del Dios: que es Trinidad en unidad. Amen. 

I love the feast of All Saints because it reminds us that our experience of reality in this world is only part of a larger picture. The larger picture, for Episcopalians, includes heaven and earth and all that is in them: the vast expanse of interstellar space and this fragile earth, our island home… along with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven (BCP, 370-371) who sing their praises with us each time we gather for Holy Eucharist.

In that larger picture, the will of God is the only reality, and that will is most simply and most accurately described as reconciling love, love that seeks, finds, and joins together all things and all people. We are, therefore, never alone. The saints who were, who are, and who are yet to be are united to us in and by God’s eternal love.

In our earthly lives, we witness and experience a world that often isn’t safe for us and it seems like we need to take care of ourselves even as we profess our belief in God’s redeeming love. The Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ ends up being reduced to a set of beliefs or practices that function more like ecclesiastical fire insurance (you know, staying out of hell) rather than as an invitation to live transformed lives.

When we are baptized, we are baptized first into the death of Christ, and everything we think we know about God, the world, and even ourselves dies there. In Baptism we are reconciled to God in Christ, becoming part of that larger picture of love. We take on the title and the identity of saint: one who shares life in Christ.

We are baptized into new life and we emerge from the baptismal waters already living a new reality. We then spend the rest of our lives sharing the Good News of that truth by living it so that all who know us know that God’s love is the true reality of the world.

In his book, “Proof of Heaven,” neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, M.D., admitted to being a C&E Episcopalian who wasn’t particularly spiritual – until he contracted E.coli and nearly died. Dr. Alexander talked about having a near-death experience in the hospital after which everything he understood about everything was changed. He said he was transformed by a Love he encountered in a place he calls heaven while his earthly body lay in a coma in a hospital bed.

He described his experience of heaven saying: “It seemed that you could not look at or listen to anything in this world without becoming part of it – without joining with it in some mysterious way (45) … Everything was distinct, yet everything was also a part of everything else…” (46)

Dr. Alexander goes on to describe other worlds, higher worlds that “aren’t totally apart from us, because all worlds are part of the same overarching divine Reality.” This is reconciliation and it is what the world witnessed for the first time at Jesus' baptism when the heavens opened and the voice of God declared Jesus the beloved Son. It's what we continue to witness today at this and every Baptism.

Our earthly experience that we are separated from God is replaced by the reality of our eternal oneness with God in Christ, and that transforms how we live and the choices we make, which Jesus kindly outlines for us in today’s gospel from Luke.

Speaking to his disciples, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” These aren’t declarative statements, they are descriptive. When you begin from your oneness with God, you will love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and bless and pray for those who harm you.

It’s the outcome of the reality of our oneness with God. As Jesus’ disciples in this moment of the Christian narrative, we can expect that the world’s response to us will be much like it was for those first disciples: we will be hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed by those who choose to live as if they are separated from God’s love, power, and mercy. When that happens, Jesus says, “Rejoice,…and leap for joy, for …your reward is great in heaven.”

Episcopalians don’t see this reward as something we collect upon the end of our earthly lives. We understand it to be an eternal reward, eternal – having no beginning and no end. It doesn’t start later, it’s happening now. The reward is that we are able to look beyond the circumstance of any earthly moment and trust the continual working out of God’s plan of redeeming love on earth as it is in heaven.

Our Catechism reminds us that we believe that “the universe is good… the work of a… loving God who
creates, sustains, and directs it. We believe that the world belongs to its creator; and that we are called to enjoy it and care for it in accordance with God's purposes. We believe that all people are worthy of respect and honor because all are created in the image of God…” (BCP, 846) We believe that the communion of saints is the whole family of God, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.

Living this larger, heavenly reality, in the face of a very different earthly reality isn't something we can do on our own. It's something we must do together as the church, the mystical body of Christ on earth.

Today, we have the great joy of baptizing Vincent Johnson into this heavenly reality, and we invite the heavens to open up as we all declare Vincent a saint, a member of the family of God in Christ among the communion of saints on earth.

I invite the family to join me now at the Baptismal font.

No comments: