Summary: A sermon for All Saints Sunday
“The Greatest of These IS…”
All the people we named and lit candles for earlier in this service, I had gotten to know pretty well.
That’s one of the blessings of serving the same church for 9 years.
Lynette Woods, Pat Murdock, Helen Westbrook, Mary Bates, Samie Nation—they all had faith, hope and love.
They all served God and this church.
Some hadn’t been involved directly with this congregation for a while due to illness or whatever.
Others were very active in our lives just a year ago or less.
In preparing for this sermon, I read through the funeral eulogies I wrote for each one of these saints, and was reminded that all of them, in some way, have helped me in my own journey of faith—in my own experience of following Jesus.
I bet many of you can say the same.
But without this church—without being part of the Body of Christ—we couldn’t say this.
Many of you have served alongside Pat, Mary, Helen, Samie or Lynette.
Perhaps you made meals together on Monday nights to take out to the homeless in our community.
Maybe you served in a small group or circle together.
Perhaps you worked on this building together, painting, replacing air filters, changing lightbulbs, cleaning or even fixing broken toilets.
Whatever it was, these people have helped you become who you are this morning.
Or how about the other people we lit candles for?
Who were they?
All of us, I pray, have special people who have loved us into being who we are today.
Some of them are sitting in this room with us this morning.
Some are far away.
Some are even in heaven.
Would you just take, along with me, a few moments to think of the people who have helped you become who you are?
Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.
Those who exhibited some of the qualities of love we have just read about in 1 Corinthians 13.
A few seconds of silence.
Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made.
Last week I was at a continuing education event where the leader asked us to answer this question: “What makes it difficult for you to acknowledge what is wrong in this world?”
My answer was: “My vocation as a Pastor.
There is so much need, and we are constantly trying to help people but the need never ends.”
Our world is so broken.
And, in this life, it’s not going to get any better.
But this is the very reason why we need Jesus.
This is the very reason that it’s not the bells, whistles, showing off—you name it that counts—True unconditional love is all that matters.
And a church or a ministry—no matter how fancy or well-endowed isn’t worth anything without LOVE!!!
Love is what saves us.
Love is what makes us human.
Love is what gives us faith and hope.
God is Love.
Two years ago a friend of mine nearly ditched being a pastor.
He started focusing only on the negatives of his job: The Saturday-night sermon-anxiety attacks, a pitiful raise, the disintegrating basement tiles in his parsonage.
After 8 years of frantically meeting needs, pleasing people, and tracking down plant stands for weddings he was burned out.
He told me, “A dangerous ice slowly spread throughout my heart—the ice of cynicism, an attitude that didn’t care if people changed because, of course, they didn’t want to anyway.”
But God didn’t allow him to escape his call.
Instead, God resurrected his call to ministry during his family vacation.
While he was reading and praying at an elementary school park, three children with bag lunches, dirty clothes, and dirt-streaked faces plopped themselves down on the grass beside him.
Before he could move, the oldest child launched into a complicated story of family dysfunction: “Hi my name is Deanna, and I’m 12,” she said.
“My sister is Kristy, and she’s 10; and my brother’s name is Mikey.
Actually, though, we all have different dads.
My dad is dead; Kristy’s dad disappeared; and Mikey’s dad beats him up, so my mom is divorcing him.
My mom and her boyfriend are at the casino because they need time alone, so she bought us all a barbecue burrito at the gas station and told us to stay at the park for two hours.
Can we sit by you?”
My friend said yes and then asked them if they lived in town.
“No,” Deanna answered.
“We used to live in town, but my mom lost her job.
I don’t like living in a tent.
By the way, what’s your job?”