Monday, November 2, 2015

Saints: Dangerous & Necessary1

All Saints' Day Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
1 Nov. 2015 Year B: Isaiah 25:-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44

Ever notice that the bills & coins we put into our
United Thank Offering boxes & our wallets have portraits of dead people on them?
Even in our secular life we intentionally recognize the lives & contributions of the dead.

Beloved Brothers & Sisters, on this All Saints' Day we give God thanks for the great cloud of witnesses to our faith in Jesus! Among those witnesses are well-know Saints & our local saints of St. John's, whose icons & photos we see around us...& Lazarus, whom we see gain new life through Jesus in our Gospel. We know this is not the ever-lasting life of eternity: We know Lazarus died or we'd see regular interviews of him in our frenzied media world.
Frenzy is life out of balance. Frenzy is part of that shroud Isaiah assures us in our 1st lesson that God will overcome. Instead of “shroud”, The Jewish Study Bible says “covering”, “the illusions that befuddle us will disappear” when God destroys evil & sorrow2.
Frenzy & befuddlement show in our lack of stewardship of time & energy. Our scriptures point us to balance, to the gifts God gives us: hope that calms us in life's storms, peace in our befuddled world, new life that we know through Jesus, who has lived among us, has wept with us, & helps us see anew.
Revelation tells us: “See, the home of God is among mortals....See, I am making all things new”. Notice the positive reinforcement in Revelation: The home of God is among mortals...I am making all things new: not stuck in past tense was & isn't now, not future tense will be but isn't yet; not made as in over & done with, not will make as in yet to be accomplished. “It is done.” Day by day we live into this reality.
It is like Lazarus: Jesus calls him forth, he is raised from the dead, now the work is to unbind him & let him go: set him free from what holds him back.
What holds you back?
The gift of eternal life is at work in you – in us – to live fully & faithfully now, knowing we will know the gift of eternal life completely when we join the Saints after our own deaths. Until then, we have much to learn.
All Saints Day teaches us much, including about stewardship.
We see stewardship of relationships in our Gospel. We see Jesus' relationship with his friends, cherishing Lazarus & his sisters, sharing in grief. We know grief doesn't end with a funeral. It doesn't end when we get all the paperwork done: the thank yous written, the death certificate sent to the bank, to the insurance company & to Social Security. [At least Martha & Mary don't have these details to handle. They have more freedom to focus on grief.]
Lazarus has been buried 4 days & his sisters & friends grieve together/in community. Grief is a process that calls us to stewardship of time, energy & emotions. This process can be long & can come at different, unexpected times, sometimes years after the death. [That's why we offer our Blue Christmas Service of Solace & why your Daughters of the King pray daily by name for a year for those who mourn. This is a gift of stewardship of time & skills that your Daughters of the King exercise.]
Stewardship, as the dictionary says3, is “the activity or job of protecting & being responsible for something...; especially:...careful & responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.” Jesus shows us careful & responsible management of what's entrusted to him. He shows us stewardship of skills & time – gifts that God gives us so generously day by day.
Why does Jesus delay going to Lazarus? Maybe to shows us the stewardship of his energy, the need for him to rest for the hard work to come. Maybe to nurture stewardship of the faith & trust of his friends, to give Martha & Mary an opportunity for faith grow through his delay.
Notice the stewardship Jesus shows us in his use of his time & energy: he says “Take away the stone.” He relies on others to work with him in this miracle. He doesn't do everything himself. If Jesus can call a dead man to life, he can easily tell a stone to scoot out of the way, or move it himself. [Someone who grew up working in his dad's carpenter shop, is surely strong enough to move a stone. I hear an echo of Jesus' days fasting in the wilderness when Satan tempts hungry Jesus to turn stones into bread: Jesus turns him down.]
Jesus shows us stewardship of physical resources. These include our skills & our finances. We see stewardship in this great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us: local saints & Saints from other times & places. We see skills in singing, hospitality, teaching, wisdom, creativity, generosity, courage.
Saints call us to our true vocation, as our Bishop says in his latest eCrozier.4 Catching our attention & “reminding us of our true calling...saints are both dangerous & necessary. They're dangerous in that they can upset the best-laid plans for our lives. And they're necessary because, without them, we wouldn't know of the hope we have in Jesus....”
He says: “In my office, saints surround me...Every time I go out the door, Martin Luther King, Jr. & the Blessed Virgin Mary stare me down reminding me of the cost of discipleship.”
As our lives & situations grow & change, we are wise to check with God about how we are to live into our new reality, to pray for grace in this costly work of discipleship.
We see living into a new reality in the life of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who died at Auschwitz during the frenzy of life out of balance, that shroud called World War II.
The only Saint to have an amateur radio license, he applied modern technology to his work of ministry as a missionary in Japan, where he used a printing press in his work with the poor & later in Poland opposing the Nazi regime against which he also used his radio skills to combat the Nazi cause. AND he sheltered Polish refugees, hiding 2,000 Jews.”5
Arrested & imprisoned by the Gestapo, he endured beatings because he answered honestly “Yes” to the repeatedly asked question: “Do you believe in Jesus.” Branded as prisoner 16670 & dressed in prison stripes he was put to work hauling blocks to build a crematorium. In the dark cell, Maximilian shined the Light of Christ, spoke of God's infinite love & waited to eat until others had food.6
When 3 prisoners escaped, the prison commander chose 10 men to be starved to death to deter others from escaping. One of the 10 men cried out: “My wife! My children!”
Maximilian took his place.7
In the starvation cell he celebrated Holy Eucharist daily & led the men in prayers & hymns.” Calling him “the patron saint of our difficult century,” Pope John Paul II canonized him in October 1982. Among the crowd gathered, the Pope embraced Francizek Gajowniczek, a man in his 90s, the man who had cried out “My wife! My children!”8 The man in whose place Maximilian died.
Bishop Benhase says:
It's dangerous to surround ourselves with the Church's saints.
They keep coming at us &
calling us to saintly lives ourselves...

So, be careful when you come forward &
receive the sacrament...
God may be calling you to be much more
than you are right now.”
Barfield, Ginger. “Commentary on John 11:32-44”. Accessed: 30 Oct. 2015. Note: Author is Professor of Theology & Executive Director of the Academy of Faith & Leadership, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary of Lenoir-Rhyne University, Columbia, S.C.
Benhase, The Rt. Rev. Scott A. “Saints, Dangerous & Necessary”. eCrozier #278. Oct. 30, 2015. Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. Accessed: 22 July 2015.
Rice. The Rev. Whitney. “All Saints’ Day, Year B – 2015”. Sermons That Work. Accessed” 30 Oct. 2015. Note: The Rev. Rice of the Diocese of Indianapolis is Priest-in-Charge of the Shared Ministry of St. Luke’s Shelbyville and St. Thomas Franklin. A native of Lee’s Summit, MO, she comes to ordained ministry by way of the University of Kansas & Yale Divinity School. More of her work is at
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Charity”. Monastery Icons website. Accessed: 3 Aug. 2015.

1Benhase, The Rt. Rev. Scott A. “Dangerous & Necessary”. eCrozier #278. Oct. 30, 2015.
2 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 832.
4 Benhase, The Rt. Rev. Scott A. “Saints, Dangerous & Necessary”. eCrozier #278. Oct. 30, 2015. Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015.
5 “Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Charity”. Accessed: 3 Aug. 2015.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.

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