Summary: We find courage for the living of our days in our eternal identity: we are children of God
November 3, 2019
All Saints Sunday
Rev. Mary Erickson
Stewardship Week One: Live Courageously
Hope Lutheran Church
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
A prayer by Rosie Venner (at re-worship.blogspot.com):
When you say blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God
do your eyes rest on me in the crowd
and see how weighed down I am with possessions?
When you say blessed are you who are hungry,
for you will be filled
do you place your hand in mine
and know the feasts I have eaten?
When you say blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh
do you anoint my head with oil
and sense that I have laughed long and hard?
Then bless me again Lord,
take my riches, my fullness, my laughter
all that I have in excess
and let it rise up in the poor, the hungry
and those who weep.
That together we may delight in good things
share bread and wine together
open our hearts in joy and sorrow
knowing that together we seek your kingdom
as one body.
Today we celebrate All Saints Sunday. We take note of God’s faithful people who have completed their course on earth and now dwell in the company of the heavenly host. The writer of Hebrews calls them the great cloud of witnesses.
Some of these saints lived long ago. Their lives and actions have inspired people throughout the ages. Others of them are more personal to us. They’re the saints that we’ve personally known. They are our parents, brothers and sisters. They include aunts and uncles and grandparents. This great cloud includes friends we have known, souls who have played a significant role in shaping us into the people we are, who have inspired us.
We gather today to mark the footprint they have left and the impact they continue to make on our lives. These are God’s saints.
What makes a saint a saint? Who is a saint? We are God’s saints! But not because we make ourselves holy. No, we’ve been made holy by God. God makes us through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Knowing who we are makes us strong. It gives us courage to face the hardships and challenges that will inevitably present themselves.
Courage. The word derives from the Latin root for heart: "cour." Courage resides in our heart. When we are encouraged, we take heart. Courage doesn’t have to do with an absence of fear. Courage acknowledges fear, but moves past it. When we have courage, we cast our fears aside.
Nelson Mandela said this: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Knowing who we are gives us grounding. It builds a foundation of inner courage. One of my favorite shows on PBS is “Finding Your Roots.” Each week the host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., walks two or three notable people through their family lineage. Typically, they trace each person’s ancestry several centuries back. He also shares stories that were uncovered in the research. At the very end of the show, the guests receive a large poster revealing their full family tree.
This knowledge of who they came from gives them a greater understanding of who they are. I know that for myself, the lives of my deceased relatives hold me to my values and to know what my priorities are. Knowing the people I come from grounds me.
Our greatest sense of self identity comes when we remember who we are in the family of God. For God is ETERNAL. In God we have a permanent place. We have a forever home. God is the source of our life and God will be our homing.
We come from God. We were made in the spirit and image of God. This means that we carry within us something of the character and essence of God. Knowing who God is tells us who we are. God gives us roots. Lasting, forever roots.
These are roots that go down so deep and spread out so wide, that we will not be moved. When we rest ourselves in our everlasting connection with God, nothing in all of creation can move us! We are like a tree planted by the waters. Our leaves will not wither. And our lives shall bear fruit. They will bear fruit within each and every season of life.
This is what Jesus is getting at in this reading of his Beatitudes. Even when we are poor, even in times of hunger, we are blessed. Even in the hour of our sorrow, even during the times when we are despised and defamed, we are blessed. We are blessed, because in God, we are strong! Our hearts take courage!