RCL C, Ephesians 1: 11-23
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace on this wonderful All Saints Sunday. A day to remember and to celebrate all the great heroes of the Christian family, and as I know we remember and give thanks as well for those perhaps not quite as well known in the history books, but are those loved ones, friends and family, whose lives and gracious gifts in so many ways are recorded not in the history books, but in large letters and indelibly in our hearts.
A day for music, as with this beautiful Mozart mass and with our Parish Choir and the Baroque Ensemble. Music and celebration, and I know and would express my and our deepest thanks to you as you lift us up in our worship this morning.
And it is a good day as well and very fitting that on All Saints Sunday we would be dedicating the new entry. So much creative planning and the hard work of gathering resources, and the gifts of so many workers over the past summer and fall. The prayers of family and friends.
This project of a new accessible entry on the drawing board in one form or another for many years, but a reality today in large part because of a gathering intention of folks who would honor and celebrate the ministry of my colleague and our good friend, the Rev. Bill Marchl. Mom and dad--Bill and Mary Anne--Laura, Will, Caroline Grace. All family and friends, and all of us of St. Andrew’s Church—and certainly beyond our congregational circle, as this indeed a blessing for others Fr. Bill and his family have touched in friendship and ministry, and for our neighborhood, as we gather in this place for so many programs and musical and theatrical and community events.
A great day for all the saints of God indeed. We honor the memory and celebrate the ministries of those who have gone before us. We expand the mission of the Church of Christ in our own day. And we build strong foundations to equip and support the saints who will come after us, generation by generation. Doors continuing to open wider and wider, that this might be truly a house of prayer for all people.
On a day like this so much of what there would be to say in a sermon is lifted up in our music and song, in our prayers, and always in the mysteries of the Holy Table, as we are made one in and with the Body of Christ. That he may dwell in us, and we in him.
So this morning I would simply take a marker to highlight the critical section of our second reading, from the opening chapter of Paul to the Church at Ephesus, in this stunning and beautiful language, beginning here at the 17th verse:
“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
“God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come.
“And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
Wow. All this, on this glorious day, a reminder for us, as they say in the 12-step movement, “to keep the main thing the main thing.” To keep the main thing, the main thing. To keep our eye on the prize. Which is what we can know and what we can become in Christ Jesus. A celebration today, and always, always, an invitation. That we may come to know him ever more deeply and more completely. Wherever we are now in that process. Here this morning.
That the hope to which he has called us would become ever more deeply and more completely the hope and vision and purpose that shapes and supports and nurtures our lives. Day by day, “very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people, and also heirs through hope of” his “everlasting kingdom.”
They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still, [I’ve always loved this!] the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea, for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.
On November 9, 2003, my good friend Fr. Bill Marchl was rector of St. Paul’s Church in Smithfield, North Carolina. And it happened on that day—and I’m sure you remember this, Bill, just seven years ago-- that there was also a service of dedication for a new ramp that would make that church accessible to people in wheelchairs, dedicated on that day as a memorial to a man named Sam Smith. [And it happens that his mom saved a copy of the sermon from that morning and shared it with me!]
In that sermon Fr. Bill talked about the ramp as a kind of bridge, which is a great image. A somewhat different kind of structure architecturally from the one we are dedicating today—but we get the idea. He talked about how during the colonial period in America there had been this great activity of building of churches. And to connect it to the event they were celebrating, a new “bridge,” to talk about the commitment to build for all who would “enter the way of Jesus” by the “door of faith.”
In any event, here seven years later and in a new place, another sermon, and we continue the good work of bridge building, of making connections, of opening doors wider and wider. In appreciation of Bill’s ministry, but more importantly today the Day of Celebrating All Saints to honor the one who has called us, lifted us up, generation after generation. The one who sends us out. Who calls us to himself. “The head over all things for the church,” as we read in Ephesians. Who is both Bridge and Bridge-builder. That we would come to know ourselves, and I love this phrase, “with the eyes of” our “hearts enlightened,” and to share among ourselves, and with the world, “the fullness of him who fills all in all.”