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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

We Are a Great Cloud of Witnesses - 11/06/2016

Luke's sermon on the plain.

It speaks powerfully into this service today – our day set aside to name, in particular, those we have commended to God in the last year. Grief over these losses is still quite raw.

It speaks deeply into our memories of others we will also remember today as we come forward to light a candle – places where time has perhaps soothed our grief to some extent, but where we will always bear the scar of those loses.

And it speaks quite clearly into our own lives too. This is All Saints Day, after all, and so we also celebrate the lives of the living saints around us everyday. This is particularly relevant (this weekend) (this morning) as we baptize Casen Sontag Long, our newest little saint in this wide legacy of saints. Luke's sermon on the plain echos with the Jesus-centered approach to this life that we promise to teach Casen and nurture in him.

We hear in this sermon how Jesus lifts up the poor and hungry; those who weep in lonely and heavy situations; those who are pushed aside for their belief that Jesus is, in truth, God among us. We remember the ways the saints who have gone before us modeled those teachings from Jesus and we ourselves are called to act on behalf of the poor, the hungry and the lonely … and to help one another grow into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in the 21st century.

It is a life that gives us hope when we ourselves are among the poor, hungry people of this world. And it is a life that challenges us to be radically generous and welcoming when we find that we are safe and satisfied, happy, and well-regarded. We give thanks for those gifts from God and let a new hunger and new thirst take us over – a hunger for justice for those who do not have enough food or a safe place to sleep; a thirst for reaching out to those who mourn and despair in all sorts of loss.

This idea and image of this vast legacy of saints has really called out to me this week as we've prepared for our All Saints celebration. It's happened in many ways and perhaps most profoundly in the joyful circumstance of Casen's baptism. The wideness and diversity of this communion of saints we talk about and remember today is quite apparent– Casen enters into this legacy of saints through baptism today and we name and remember saints who have completed their baptisms and now rest in the promised Kingdom.

To that end, I've provided an All Saints devotion that I found this week and revised for our use. I encourage you to take this devotion with you and use with your family or friends, or even on your own. I used this at Tendercare this week and it was quite moving to watch the saints in that assembly close their eyes and remember people they have lost who were so dear to them in their lives, and to reflect on how they themselves are saints in the lives of others … how the Holy Spirit is or has worked through them to bring people closer to God, to bring love and compassion and support to the hungry and poor and despised.

Indeed … Luke's sermon on the plain, speaks powerfully into our service today. But I think to more fully understand just how powerfully it does so, we have to include the set up to this sermon that our lectionary leaves out. Listen to the verses that set the scene for this:

“(Jesus) came down (the mountain) with (his newly named 12 disciples) and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.” (Luke 6: 17-19)

Jesus came down from the mountain to preach this sermon. He had slipped away from the crowds to pray. Some of his disciples followed him up there eventually. He could have stayed up there and called the people up to him, like so many other mystics and teachers. Those who could manage the trek up the mountain to see him would have made that climb, I'm certain. People were following him everywhere.

But Jesus came down from that mountain to meet the people where they were, to teach them, to step right into the places where they needed healing and consulation. And he ministered to all who came, not just his own people from the region around the Sea of Galilee or his own Jewish tradition, but also gentiles and seekers from the far cities of Tyre and Sidon.

This is our God, my friends in Christ … the One who willingly comes down from the mountain and breaks into the lives of all the saints – past, present and yet to come

The One who promises to be with us in our grief and poverty and who challenges and pushes us to model Jesus in our abundance.

The One who worked in marvelous and sometimes mysterious ways through the saints we remember today and who freely claims Casen and all of us as Children of God, forever marked by the cross of Christ in our baptisms … and the One who continues to work through all of us saints (slash sinners) today.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses … just as we ourselves are a great cloud of witnesses. Amen. 

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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