I Want To Be In That Number (Sermon for Feast Of All Saints)

There is a favorite hymn of mine:

    For All the Saints, whom from their labors rest,
    Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
    Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.

And another one is the one we sang at Lois’ Roberts memorial service:

    When the saints come marching in,
    I want to be in that number,
    When the saints come marching in.

There has been an All Saints’ Day from at least the beginning of the 3rd century, and probably before that, almost from the beginning of the Church. All Saints’ Day was begun as a feast, not to honor human beings, but to honor God for his work of salvation and sanctification.

The term “saint” is widely used. People use it to refer to gentle and humble people, those who serve selflessly, anyone who has died and, specifically, to certain honored dead in the Church’s history.

In the Apostles’ Creed and a few other writings, the phrase “Communion of Saints” is used as a synonym for The Holy Christian (catholic or universal) Church. The Episcopal Church currently has over 120 saints that we commemorate during the liturgical year. These saints are an example to all believers in Christ; if you are a believing Christian, you are a saint. . . or on your way to sainthood!

There are indeed saints in our midst right now also — people with great faith – who are examples for us all. Whenever someone of faith dies, I think about them the next time we come to the words in the Great Thanksgiving,

    “Therefore, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying …”

On All Saints’ Sunday, I recall the images of those who have gone before.

Occasionally, my eyes burn and tear. And there is an aching in my heart for those who no longer inhabit this earthly plane. I know for sure that I will be seeing Lois Roberts as one of those saints I envision this year.

A saint, then, is simply this: a human being who belongs to God, who has been set apart from the world by the Blood of Jesus Christ, shed on a cross and received in the Holy Communion of Saints. We are holy because of God’s action in our lives. Every member of the Church in Heaven is a saint; and every member of the Church on earth who is faithful to Jesus Christ, who puts their trust in Jesus Christ and in nothing else, is just as much a saint right now.

    O Lord, I want to be in that number,
    When the Saints come marching in!

So we remember those saints who are no longer with us, and as we remember all the saints in our lives today, let us pray:

God, the generations rise and pass away before you. You are the strength of those who labour. You are the rest of the blessed dead. We rejoice in the company of your saints. We remember all who have lived in faith, all who have peacefully died, and especially those most dear to us who rest in you. Give us in time our portion with those who have trusted in you and striven to do your holy will. To your name, with the church on earth and the Church in heaven, we ascribe all honour and glory, now and forever. Amen.
 
 
Delivered at Lindley Inn Assisted Living Center, Athens, OH, 2 November 2008

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