All Saints Sermon

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable unto you O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
A few years ago, I hear about a fellow colleague, Pastor Ingram. She is a Lutheran minister at Saint Michael’s located outside of Philadelphia. At the time she is relatively new to the position, she is not new to bringing the kingdom of God in the present. Pastor Ingram was affected with AIDs over 20 years ago. She was a drug addict, she was homeless, and she was the marginalized. She also survived the death of her husband who also was affected with AIDS. When he died it was still a time in our society when those who were affected by HIV or AIDS were seen as the least of all people. As she has said, he was too ashamed to get help and so he died. His death taught her that in order to live and get on the road to wholeness she had to do the opposite of whatever he did. As she said in her keynote address at the Lutheran AIDS Conference, “The first hurdle for me, was to get over myself…to forgive myself, to stop looking for the who, what, when and where and why…and get on with the business of living.”
That is exactly what Pastor Ingram did. As she said would testify it was not easy for her. It took years- years of therapy, years of emotional support, years of medicine, years of working out her own issues to help others. As the first African American female Pastor at St. Michael’s she has helped to move this 283 year old congregation into the 21st century as a missional church in the midst of a needy and hurting community. In addition to hosting free community meals the congregation also now holds free HIV testing. In the area surrounding the congregation 1 out of every 5 people is affected with the disease. Even with the free tests available monthly few people have actually ever taken Pastor Ingram and St. Michael’s up on the offer. Pastor Ingram has not given up hope. She continues to talk about the disease, continues to offer resources and support to those who are seen as the marginalized in the community. She continues to work for justice, hope, and support for those who the world often ignores.
To say that Pastor Ingram has been through her own trials and tribulations is probably an understatement. Not only has she been through some horrific experiences, that she would openly share with anyone, but she helps to share and bring life to others, life to those on the outside of humanity. Pastor Ingram shows those in her community the Kingdom of God is not some far off end of times experience, but is here and now. In our Gospel for today, Jesus calls us to be like Pastor Ingram. Jesus called those who had gathered on the mountain to bring the Kingdom of Heaven into the present. Jesus calls his followers, to be God’s presence in the world to those whom the world has forgotten.
The Beatitudes are a unique teaching of Jesus because who Jesus says is blessed, we would consider them to be blessed. Jesus tells us that those who are on the outside of society and in difficult circumstances will be blessed and happy. They will be blessed when God brings about a new creation. The blessing of those people are seen on the outside of the realms of society is both in the present and in the future. God’s kingdom is here and now and we as God’s children are called to help bring God’s kingdom to our world and our lives. That means that we as God’s children help to bring justice, peace, comfort, and hope to those who are lowly, those who mourn, and those who are persecuted. We show God’s kingdom by giving what we have and who we are to serve others. What exactly is the Kingdom of God? What does it really look like?
The Kingdom looks like free community meals. It looks like offering free HIV testing even if no one shows up. It looks like people gathering together to clean a park. The Kingdom is listening to a friend in need, not for the gossip, but because you truly care about the person. The Kingdom of God is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with all of those you meet in your daily life. Bringing God’s Kingdom into the world means looking for ways you can love your neighbor, even those you do not know. The Kingdom if God is God’s life giving, life affirming love and grace breaking into the brokeness of our world and lives. The Kingdom of God is the assurance that we are loved by God more than we could ever imagine and that loves means something, that love has the power to change. The Kingdom of God is God’s grace and love blessing the marginalized.
Hopefully, we all have experiences of God’s Kingdom in our lives. We have times when we have truly felt the presence of the holy, times we know God’s presence is in our lives. We have times when we have been times when we have been awestruck by others living out God’s love and grace in our world. People who make us think, “yes, that is what is means to be a faithful Christian in this world.” We have people in our lives who have been for us examples of God’s love for us and for all creation. Today we remember the saints who have died in the past year. We take this day to remember their life and to be reminded of the promise we all share, that we too will one day join them at the feast that has no end. We remember their love for God and for others. We remember them, not just for what they did, but also for how they have changed our lives. We remember them for the way they helped to show us a little bit more of the Kingdom of God.
In remembering those who have died in the past year, we no doubt will be reminded of stories and times when they have shown God’s love to us. We will be reminded of times when because of them and their lives we have been forever changed. In looking at the list of names for today, certain names stick out to me, faithful servants I have had the pleasure of knowing and those saints who I have heard stories of by their family members and friends. I am reminded of Betty Kisamore, who loved the Gospel of John, had a passion for Christian Education, and the church. Of Barbara Groth who was incredibly kind and pleasant. Who would light up when she saw someone she knew. I think about Marie Miller who loved her family and was always happy when people would visit. Or Jerome Fair, who never made you second guess what he was thinking, but always wanted the best for his family and his friends. And of Ed Muhlbach, who had a passion for the church, who loved church camps, and loved Helen. Of course, these are only a few stories of the faithful saints who have died in the past year and there are much more to be shared and remembered in our community.
The faith of these saints has helped to show a little bit more of God’s Kingdom for our world. For those of you who have lost someone close to you this year, you know their stories of struggle and yet their continued hope in the promises of God. You know of their stories of being blessed even when their circumstances in life would have you think otherwise and that is what the Beatitudes are about. The Beatitudes are about children of God recognizing that they are blessed because of the presence of God in their lives. Regardless of their circumstances, they trusted in God’s presence and the only way for them to respond was by sharing that love of God with those around them.
As we remember the saints today, let us also join with them in the present as people who have been sanctified by Christ, people who in happiness or difficulty, find our hope in Jesus and make the Kingdom of God the way we live in this world. Amen.

Pastor Katie has served St. Paul Hametown since July 2012. She is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg with a Masters of Divinity and a concentration in Theology and Public Life. She is married with three children.

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