All Saints Day, November 1, 2105
Commerce Presbyterian Church, Commerce GA
Slide: Images of Saints
Never too early for Jolly Ole St. Nick!
What vision fuels your living?
I feel like since there are so many football fans in this congregation it’s okay to use football references from time to time..if you get tired of them, just let me know :)
Yesterday was rough for most of us football fans in this state, but not all of us!
This football story comes from what seems a distant memory.
At the end of the game last Saturday against Florida State, Georgia Tech blocked the field goal attempt.
The chances of that happening were extremely miniscule:
The FSU kicker, a two time All-American, was 23/23, in the 4th Quarter.
The person who blocked the kick, Pat Gamble, had never blocked a kick before.
Slide: Photo: Pat Gamble, Brett Davis, USA Today
In the post game interview, Pat Gamble said, “Actually when I got down in my stance, this is the crazy thing, I saw myself blocking that kick.”
He had a vision, which lead him to the improbable.
Visions. What we see.
These are what inspire or in the very least guide our living.
What else gets you out of bed in the morning?
It has to be what you see...
There are many images and visions which compete for our imaginations,
Political candidates cast visions which they hope will captivate us.
They seek to “reignite” “unleash,” “Heal.” “be a champion”
They cast visions of walls, jobs, security, revolution!
There are visions of advertisers who promise us a better life with their product, which can give us better hair, whiter teeth, a beastly vehicle, insurance, the energy we need to get through work since apparently adequate sleep is not an option, even romance well into our golden years.
Yes, so many visions which compete for our imaginations, visions which inspire our living!.
Here we are in church. we gather as Christians,
Do we realize that Jesus, and that the scriptures are as guilty of competing for our imaginations as any of the product vendors and politicians out there?
I would think that is why we come...we seek an alternative from what we see all around.
And interestingly if we turn off the 24 hour news, turn down talk radio, and skip over the ads, and instead
Read the bible every day--it too will shape your imagination.
Pray and Meditate every day, and you will gain vision for what God wants for your life.
Study the life of Jesus, see his vision, in order better see how you might walk in his footsteps.
Actually, the visions cast in scripture could be considered ridiculous! And I’m sure many people think they are.
Look at what Isaiah says in chapter 25--which we will affirm later in the service--
A vision of meeting God on a holy mountain, where there will be limitless food and wine, tears will be wiped away, and disgrace removed.
Or listen to what John the seer says in the book of Revelation chapter 21 which we are going to pray together after gathering around the communion table:
I saw a new heaven and new earth. the people from every tribe and a tongue will gather together, and God will dwell among them. Tears again wiped away. Death, tears, thirst, hunger will be no more.
Even Jesus gets in on the action of vision casting in our passage from John 11,
everyone is so distraught at the death of Lazarus, including Jesus.
Yes, back when children were required to memorize a verse from the bible, this passage contained the most popular memory verse: John 11:35: “Jesus wept!”
Clearly Lazarus was very well loved.
He had been dead for days.
Guided by some strange, improbable vision, crazier than blocking a field goal attempt, Jesus orders them to remove the stone from the tomb.
Martha expresses her dismay, by objecting to Jesus’ command, so eloquently expressed in the King James version of the bible:
“Lord, by this time he stinketh!”
Visions of what could be
Dreams of the impossible,
guiding the actions of those who allow their imaginations to be captivated by them.
The Prophet Joel said long ago,
your young daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams
your young men will see vision.
What are your dreams?
What are your visions?
Providentially, as I was putting this sermon together Friday morning, I went into the kitchen for a coffee refill. My girls were watching a little program on Netflix which they insisted I watch with them. When I resisted, Zia literally grabbed hold of my shirt…
I figured I better stay and watch.
It was a Disney short called, “The Little Match Girl.”
It is based on the Hans Christian Anderson story first published in 1845.
The story goes like this:
On a cold New Year's Eve, a young, poor nameless girl tries to sell matches in the street, and all she receives are cold looks. Shivering from cold and early hypothermia, she is afraid to go home, because her father will beat her for not selling any matches, so she shelters in a nook and sits down.
Slide: Little Match Girl
The girl lights the matches to warm herself. In their glow she sees visions,
- first a Christmas tree;
- next lighted match, a holiday feast with wonderful foods.
- As she lights the next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness.
Frantically, desperately, she strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother alive for as long as she can.
Until her grandmother gathers her in her arms and carries her soul to Heaven.
The next morning, passers-by find the child dead in the nook and feel pity for her, although they had not shown kindness to her before her death.
A moving story that captivated my daughters’ imaginations.
As I watch the story of the little match girl,
I saw her visions reflected the visions found in scripture--the vision of Isaiah of a holy mountain with endless food and drink and no more tears.
The vision of Revelation, of God dwelling among the people, providing shelter.
The vision of jesus of raising the untimely dead from their tombs.
These biblical visions are the visions of the poor
These images are of those who suffer for lack of food, drink, and shelter.
These are the visions of those who suffer from abuse and misfortune.
While Hans Christian Anderson had hoped his ending of the story with the little match girl at peace in heaven with God and her grandmother would have been seen as a happy ending.
More modern versions of the story were not satisfied with the ending, and in some of these: a kind family rescues the little girl by inviting her into their household, offering food, warm clothing and a soft bed. A selfless act of mercy.
Today, is a day we call All Saints Day.
Take a moment to think about who is a Saint. What is it that makes a person a saint?
what are saintly qualities?
Imagine the view from your death bed
See what you’d like to see.
Think of what you’d like to see that’s not there
And think of what you wouldn’t like to see that ‘s there now, and maybe needs to be transformed.
(exercise from John O'Donoghue's talk Imagination as a Path of the Spirit)
The journey we are on is so short.
Our days are running through our fingers like the finest sand and we can’t stop it. - John O’Donohue
Saints do not dream about conquest or domination.
Saints do not envision power or possession.
Saints are not captivated by fear or isolation,
Saints are big dreamers. They believe that with God on their side, no one and nothing can stop them. Saints are go-getters. They don’t wait for someone else to do good first; they jump right in. Saints are love-bringers. They try to see Christ in every person and every situation. Saints tell us what matters most in life is not what we earn or own, not the job we have or the people we know. What really matters is how much we love God, others, and ourselves, and how well we show that love in all we do." (Loyola Press Website)
Let that crazy vision be your guide each and every day as you march toward sainthood;
To god be the glory and honor now and forever. Amen.