Sunday, November 26, 2017

"Christ the King: Shepherd of the Saints" from "A Season of Saints" - Sermon, November 26, 2017

In some ways, I feel like I’m still quite full from Thanksgiving dinner, although I think it’s my soul that has been overflowing with thanks this past week.  It is full of thanks for being able to serve and live in a wonderful town like ours, surrounded by so much beauty; full of thanks for the Holy Spirit at work in our congregation with the new growth we’ve experienced this Fall (with people sick and traveling, this morning might not indicate it); and full of thanks for family and friends.  I hope that all of your souls are also filled with thanks in one way or another as well.  In addition, I do have to say that I’m thankful that today is not the first Sunday of Advent, which typically happens quite often the Sunday right after Thanksgiving.  I’m sure Alice and Charlotte can concur too, as that is among the music directors’ worst nightmare. 
            Today, we conclude our series, “A Season of Saints” while we also close out the liturgical year with Christ the King Sunday.  The liturgical year is divided up into the Christmas Cycle, which are the seasons Advent (the four weeks before Christmas), Christmas Eve and the Sunday after, and Epiphany (January 6).  Then in the Spring, there’s the Easter Cycle, which is the season of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) and Easter (Easter Sunday and the 50 days after).  Following the day of Pentecost (when Holy Spirit made itself known among the people and the church was born) is ordinary time.  Kind of an abridged lesson on the church year, which is also why you see the colors on our altar change and if you want to know even more, that’s always a good topic at the ‘Coffice’ on Thursdays.  The liturgical year begins with the first Sunday of Advent and ends with Christ the King Sunday, so next Sunday, it’ll be a new year!! 
Now, Christ the King Sunday is relatively new to us in the Mainline Protestant church.  When I was doing some of my research earlier this week for this morning’s message, Rev. Dr. Dawn Chesser at Discipleship Ministries in Nashville gives the following short history of Christ the King Sunday:
[Christ the King Sunday] was first added in 1925 by the Roman Catholic Church in response to increasing secularization movements worldwide, but in particular to the plight of Mexican Christians who were being told by their government that only their government was due ultimate allegiance. The Church in Mexico remained faithful, holding public parades throughout the land (with significant governmental pushback!) proclaiming “Cristo Rey!,” “Christ is King!” Pope Pius XI made that declaration the basis of a Holy Day to be observed throughout the entire Roman Catholic Church, “Christ, The King of the Universe.” After Vatican II, Rome moved the observance of this day from October to the final Sunday of the Christian Year, and many Protestants, including United Methodists, who adopted the Revised Common Lectionary and its calendar have followed suit.[i]

Some interesting little tidbits there, although sounds a little like the ‘give to Caesar or give to God’ question that came up in an earlier chapter in Matthew’s Gospel.  As we think about what we just read in Ezekiel and the Gospel of Matthew this morning, I’m not so sure that I necessarily feel all that uplifted when I hear both, as there is a little bit of a message of judgment there; although both passages are ultimately trying to get all of us to take a long, hard look in the mirror at some of the negative aspects of our lives, and ultimately points us towards our true shepherd and king, Jesus Christ.  Prophetic writing will often do that too, as I know there are times I’m not always comfortable with what I read.  It’s kind of like getting a dose of ‘tough love.’ 
Amidst the judgmental tone we may hear, we do have this message of hope that is in there, as this message is of a God who WILL seek us out, a God who WILL care for us and shepherd us, offering us protection from our fears and our uncertainties.  We also get this image of Christ the King, the shepherd of the saints, almost a full circle from what we saw a few weeks ago when the multitude was gathered around the lamb of God, although now this lamb has simultaneously becomes shepherd as well.  
            In Ezekiel, God is seeking out the people who have been displaced as a result of the Babylonian Exile, but now Jerusalem has fallen and it’s time for the exiles to return home to their land.  As Old Testament scholar, Charles Aaron Jr. explains,
God now promises to act as a shepherd.  God will seek out the exiles and bring them back.  God will not wait for them to return, but will search out the exiles.  God will feed and nurture them, and will heal them.  God will provide justice for them by confronting those who have failed them.  For experiencing displacement, God will bring them back.  For their misery, God will nurture and feed them.  For their hurt, God will heal them.  For their neglect and mistreatment, God will vindicate them.  Within the world of the text of Ezekiel, the words of comfort come right on the heels of the fall of Jerusalem.[ii]

            After all this judgment that is a common theme until this point in the Book of Ezekiel, God shows the people who the true king will be, not so much the earthly kings, or rulers, or even politicians of today.  Instead, “the true King, the King God wants to see, the King that Jesus was and is, is like Israel’s second king [David] started to be: a Shepherd,” except that “this is a shepherd whose flock has been scattered by the actions of typical kings and rulers, religious and otherwise.”[iii] Like God as shepherd in Ezekiel will do, Christ the King, Shepherd of the Saints will also seek out the lost, the hurt, the sick, the poor, the outcast, etc..  Another instance where we come full circle with the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ that we talked about in January and February this year, particularly “Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers” among a few…
            Things get a little bit more interesting in our Gospel lesson toward the end of the Gospel of Matthew, as Jesus Christ as shepherd of the saints talks of the separation of the sheep and goats, similar to the word of judgment we hear in Ezekiel.  Vs. 35-36 are oftentimes quoted and can be an effective guilt-trip, yet Jesus definitely takes the side of marginalized, the sick, the hurt, and the poor, as that’s who he ministered with and cared for during his ministry on earth.  And especially with Christmas and winter both on the horizon, today’s lesson is a good way to think of the ways we can care for the poor, the outcast, the hurt, the lonely, the least; not just this time of year, but all year around.  Some of the judgment in both passages is mainly about how we use our resources and how we can live a life of generosity and compassion, which I know that even I will feel convicted about at a time or two.  Regardless of where we are at in our life or where we are on the journey of faith, Christ the King, Shepherd of the Saints is still our shepherd because “if we are his, we acknowledge who we are and what we’ve done” throughout our lives.[iv] If we can name it and own it in what we’ve done in our lives, we can also accept the gift of grace that is there.  And then, we can take up the invitation to allow Christ the King, the Shepherd of the Saints to lead us and guide us.  The ones who are part of that multitude dressed in white, “the ones whose story is one of ultimate salvation, the ones whose whole lives are marked by thanksgiving – the saints” are the ones who Jesus closely identifies with and is shepherd of and we too can be part of that multitude and the ones to keep working towards bringing God’s kingdom to earth today.[v]
            I don’t think I need to offer any more concrete examples of ways we help care for the poor and the marginalized than I already have in past sermons, although be on the lookout for some local mission opportunities in the coming weeks.  We do a pretty good job already of being the hands and feet of Christ in our community and in our world, as we already give a lot of ourselves and of our time.  As the shepherd of the saints, Christ will continue showing us how to reach out to the poor, the outcast, the lonely, the hurting and like Christ the King, Shepherd of the Saints, maybe that is the next step we can take, even if we may not be sure what that step may look like, although will require listening to the Holy Spirit and paying attention to those little nudges that may be coming from God.  Nevertheless, we can still invite others to experience how Christ the King, Shepherd of the saints can offer healing, eternal love, inviting others to let our savior who is like a shepherd lead us on the journey of faith.  No matter what, kingdoms and rulers of today will not be around forever, yet God’s kingdom and Christ our King will last forever.  Let’s keep striving towards that goal!!   
 I invite you to turn to hymn ___ in The United Methodist Hymnal as we sing together “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”
(After Hymn)
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Let the Church Say Amen. 




[i] Ministries, Discipleship. 2017. "Christ The King Sunday 2017 — Preaching Notes - Umcdiscipleship.Org". Umcdiscipleship.Org. Accessed November 21 2017. https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/christ-the-king-sunday-2017-preaching-notes.
[ii]  "Commentary On Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 By Charles L. Aaron, Jr.". 2017. Workingpreacher.Org. Accessed November 26 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3480.
[iii] Ministries, Discipleship.  2017.
[iv] Ibid. 
[v] Ibid.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November "Adventures" from "The Quincy Quill"

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful: the Lord God made them all (UMH 147)

What a beautiful Fall this has been here in Quincy!!  While the days have been on the warm-ish side, the beautiful colors around us have not disappointed.  While walking to the office from my house, I will often pause to admire the trees behind the courthouse, with their leaves turning orange and gold.  Just a few blocks away, I then see shades of red, as some of the trees look as if they are blazing.  It is a wonderful sight to behold and I can’t but help singing “all things bright and beautiful…”

Even amidst the beauty we have around us, my heart breaks for the people of Santa Rosa, the Napa and Sonoma area, Loma Rica, and everywhere where fire has carved a destructive path.  People have lost their homes and other materials, some have lost pets, and as of the writing of this article, over 50 have died.  My heart also breaks for mine and Pastor Ray’s clergy colleague, Rev. Blake Busick at First UMC Santa Rosa, whose home was lost in the fire.  Yet amidst losing his home, Pastor Blake was still in the midst of ministering to those who lost homes and those who were evacuated, as First UMC was a shelter (some of you may remember Pastor Blake when he served at Greenville/Taylorsville in the mid-1980’s).  Amidst the horrible and devastating fires, we have seen the church being the hands and feet of Christ in our world, opening their buildings to evacuees, providing food and drink, clothes, and toiletries.  Our California-Nevada Conference has also been quick in response and we still have opportunities to give and will be finding out other ways we can help as soon as information becomes available.  However, I encourage us to still contribute to the CNUMC Fire Relief fund or to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).  We would also like to put together a Volunteers in Mission (VIM) team from our church or circuit to go out and help in recovery efforts from the fires or hurricanes. 

This month is also a month of thankfulness and gratitude as we celebrate Thanksgiving on November 23.  What are you most thankful for?  This past year, I am thankful for this congregation, for the opportunities to get to know our community more and new relationships through Rotary Intl. and the Star Follies, the ways we reach out in love to our community these last fifteen years through the Community Supper, and for the firefighters and first responders who kept our town safe during the Minerva Fire.  As we have been discussing in worship, God provides for us in ways we don’t always expect and as one of my favorite songs in the musical “Godspell” says, “all good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above.” God gives us abundant life and for that I am thankful. 

We have a very exciting month ahead here at Community UMC, as we celebrate a season of saints and a season of stewardship, as we think about the joy we of giving back to God and thinking of the stories of how we as the saints of God connect the mission of our church to the greater community and world.  I really hope ALL of you will be in church on Sunday, November 19 for Consecration Sunday, as Pastor Ray will be preaching, then we will have a special lunch following worship.  Before we know it, Advent, the season leading up to Christmas will be here.  We will be doing a series around James W. Moore’s book, All I Want for Christmas and hope you will participate in the small group study, as the book is very readable and has a devotion for each day of the week.  We will begin with the first small group on Monday, November 27 at 10:00am in the church office and will also have a section available at 4:30pm on Wednesdays (beginning Nov. 29) if there is enough interest.  Please let me know if you are interested so I can order enough books. 

I look forward to seeing you during the week and in church on Sunday as we celebrate the saints around us and give thanks to God for all of the wonderful things that God gives to each of us. 

Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Andrew



October "Adventures" from "The Quincy Quill"

While I began writing an article singing the praises of Fall, especially after celebrating the baptism of Anna Scovell and welcoming her into membership of the church, along with Gaye Porter restoring her membership on September 10, things took a whole different direction when our lives were shaken by the unexpected and sudden passing of Londa Lehman on September 16.  Londa’s passing has affected all of us and my heart especially breaks for Marilyn.  Londa was also an active member of our bell choir and her smile and presence are really going to be missed among our ringers.  Her presence will also be missed among the volunteers and the cats she cared for at PAWS.  Her loving spirit was everywhere and brightened all of our lives, especially the many children who had her and Marilyn’s classes for Kindergarten at Pioneer Elementary School.  Even in the relatively short time I’ve known her and Marilyn, I always enjoyed sitting together at the theater, or the delightful conversations we had whenever she and Marilyn would join me for ‘coffice hours.’ I also admired how Londa stood strongly and demonstrated for causes she believed in, down to her very last day.  However, any loss that we experience in the life of our church leaves a void and it has been very strange to look out over the congregation and not see her and Marilyn in their usual spot and I know that I am going to miss her a lot.  At the same time, I am very proud of our church family for coming together and supporting Marilyn in love and in acts of love the way we have and know we will continue doing so. 

Along with Londa’s passing, my heart is with the people of Houston, TX and all throughout Florida in the midst of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and my many friends and colleagues who were affected in both places.  Amidst the disaster and devastation that took place because of the wind and rain, we can see God through the people who are helping, through the people who gave their time, their resources, and through the companies that gave away water, food, and other materials.  I am especially grateful to our congregation for taking up our Bishop, Minerva CarcaƱo’s call for special offerings for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), plus we still have opportunities to make hygiene and cleaning kits for the long-term relief effort which will be picked up from South Reno UMC on October 15.  AND, we are even considering putting together a Volunteers in Mission (VIM) team to go to Houston or Florida to help rebuild from the devastated areas.  I look forward to sharing more information about VIM in the near future to see how we can get on the ground and roll up our sleeves in the recovery effort.  Had our church or town been damaged in the Minerva Fire, UMCOR and VIM would have been here helping us recover, as UMCOR is often the first to arrive and among the last to leave in a disaster!!  UMCOR is also working with the places affected by the wildfires in the Northwest too, as well as VIM so there may be opportunities in those places too.


While this second half of 2017 has had its challenges, I look forward to these final months of 2017, including the beautiful colors, the excellent fishing, the Great Northern District celebration on the 7th, our planning day on October 21 (see Pastor Ray’s article), and being with my childhood church, Rio Linda Community UMC on October 8th as they celebrate their 100th anniversary.  And I especially look forward to seeing YOU on Sunday or out about in the community!!                                  

Peace & Blessings ~ Pastor Andrew

"Stories of the Saints" from the series, "A Season of Saints" - Sermon, November 12, 2017

Community UMC, Quincy
“A Season of Saints: Stories of the Saints”
Pastor Andrew Davis
November 12, 2017
Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25

            During the holiday season, we are oftentimes inundated with commercials on TV, print, and radio about the latest and greatest new gifts and gadgets.  A few years ago while beginning winter break in seminary, one commercial I saw had me nearly in tears, as there are quite a few commercials around this time of year that really tug at the heartstrings (like the Santa balloon commercial during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last year).  This particular commercial was for the iPhone, in which a teenage boy is recording moments throughout his family’s Christmas gathering and although it does reinforce the notion that young people are always glued to their phones, it ended up being poignant when the boy goes up to the TV and stops whatever was on TV much to everyone’s annoyance.  However, when a video montage of the family’s gathering set to the song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” begins playing, almost everyone begins crying.  Even though we often want to fight technology, or as I said a couple weeks ago when talking about idols, we might want to throw those phones and gadgets into the fire and grind them up, technology can be a powerful storyteller in itself when seeing videos of family gatherings of the past and recalling the different memories.  It’s why I also love going through family photo albums, previous church directories, or the digital albums on our social media platforms, seeing the changes in people, the kids growing up, and remembering those who have joined the company of saints.  I am reminded of the stories of the saints both in my family, and in the life of our church family.
            As we just read in the book of Joshua, Joshua who succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel is reminding the leaders that they are part of God’s story and need to keep it going.  Joshua is reminding the leaders that Israel’s story is about how God chose an ordinary man in their ancestor Abraham and promised Abraham offspring and land if he would follow God.  Much later following Abraham and his descendants, God called Moses to lead the Israelite people out of slavery and oppression in Egypt to go to a promised land, although it would not be an easy or fun journey.  The people go on this long, sometimes unbearable forty-year journey through the wilderness until they reach Canaan, the land God has promised them.  Moses would only get to see it from a distance, but did not get to enter it because he died and Joshua became the new leader that will led the people into Canaan. 
            We are at the point in this morning’s lesson where Joshua is about ready to die and the leaders are renewing the covenant that God made with the people, although Israel is still struggling over whether to serve the Lord their God or the gods of their ancestors.  They can serve one or the other, but not both.  The people ultimately choose to serve the Lord God, as this is the same God we worship today.  Even all these years later, we too are a part of God’s story just like Israel had been, just like Joshua, Moses, and Abraham.  Of course many years later, Jesus would become a part of the story when God came down to earth in human form, then Paul came along and had a profound conversion experience in which he dedicated his life to serving God through Jesus Christ.  Because we are part of God’s story, it’s up to us to keep the stories of our saints going.  These “are stories of a God who called us while we may have been…in a place far away from where God was calling us to go,” similar to Abraham.[i] 
Some of us have different reasons why we are here and different stories in our own faith journey and life.  Some of us may be here because want to know God and know more about what loving and serving God is all about.  While I know I have only known and served one God, some of us here may have only come to believing recently.  Whatever the case, God called us and we said yes.  It’s along the lines of what the founder of Methodism, John Wesley refers to as prevenient grace, which is the free, unearned gift of love that God has for each us before we even began to believe in God.   
I know that for me, I come from a family whose faith identity is Christian and I’ve only known the Lord our God and no other gods.  However, faith has played a significant role.  In learning the story of my ancestors, I have learned that my mom’s side dates all the way back to the Mayflower, as one of my ancestors on her father’s side, William Brewster was the reverend elder aboard the Mayflower (I remember getting all excited about it in 11th grade English when seeing his name in “On Plymouth Plantation”).  That’s the furthest back that I have knowledge of in my family’s story from my four grandparents, as I have not really sat down to trace the history of the Lindbaum, Davis, or Hills side of my family yet and perhaps where their journey of faith has led them (although I also learned last year that another not-sure-how-many-times-removed great grandfather was a Methodist circuit rider).  Even though I don’t know as much of their stories as I would like to, they too are part of the stories of the saints, and a part of God’s story among humankind just like all of our ancestors from our different families. 
On the other hand in our text, Joshua reminds the Israelite people that “Abraham was not always connected to the God they knew as their God,” just like we may not have always been connected to God in our lives because there are times we may drift away or go through the desert or just not believe until something moved us towards wanting to know more.[ii] I know that in my own story, I wandered away from God by my own choice eleven years ago, except God never left me and I came back to God because God wouldn’t stop calling me, leading me to where I’m at now, even amidst dead-ends and U-turns along the way. Regardless of what we do in our lives or in the instances where we might ignore God, “God does not ignore us [as] God is calling us toward the fullness of life in Christ.”[iii] 
The good news is that God doesn’t stop calling us and wants us to be part of the stories of the saints and keep the story going, especially among our younger generations so that their children and grandchildren can do likewise.  I think of the people who answered God’s call and founded this church around 1858.  Even though the town and church have changed since that time, God’s call is still the same today as it was then.  We are still called to bring a word of hope and good news to our town, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to love one another and our neighbors too, and to love God and serve God.  We’re keeping the story going that the saints before us began, as they are now part of that great multitude we talked about last week.  I saw our faith in and God’s call in action this last Thursday at the Fall Dinner, as everything came together in time, even though Kitty and Jackie expressed concern a couple weeks ago that we still needed help in many areas, but they had faith that it would happen.  As the Holy Spirit moved about, everyone stepped up and we had an amazing Fall Dinner that was appreciated by the many in our community who came to eat or take their food home.  It was the love of God in action, and that’s the main part of the stories of the saints, as they served our God of love faithfully just as we continue to serve a God of love.[iv]
As we get ready go all-in with the holidays and beyond with Thanksgiving a little over a week away, tell your stories to each other, especially during your family gatherings this Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And even tell others the story of how you said yes to God, while perhaps telling the stories of your ancestors.  Then at 2:30 this afternoon in the Fellowship Hall as we gather for our annual charge conference, we have an opportunity to hear the stories of this past year and the how the saints of this church here and now are loving God and serving God here in this church and in the greater community, so that we too may share the stories of the saints of this church beyond these walls.  Many years have passed since the days of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Jesus, and Paul.  It’s up to each of us to continue the story, share the story, and live into the stories of the saints, yesterday, today, and in days to come.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let the church say, AMEN!    



[i] Ministries, Discipleship. 2017. "Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Preaching Notes - Umcdiscipleship.Org". Umcdiscipleship.Org. Accessed November 9 2017. https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/twenty-third-sunday-after-pentecost-2017-preaching-notes.


[ii] Ibid. 
[iii] Ibid. 
[iv] Ibid.  

Sunday, November 5, 2017

"Clothing of the Saints" from the series, "A Season of Saints" - Sermon, November 5, 2017

Community UMC, Quincy
“A Season of Saints: Clothing of the Saints”
Pastor Andrew Davis
November 5, 2017
Revelation 7: 9-17

Today is one of my favorite Sundays of the Christian year, and not necessarily because we got that extra hour of sleep last night when we set our clocks back by an hour.  Today is All Saints Sunday, where we celebrate the saints who have gone on before us, those who are among us today, and those who are yet to be born as we think closely about how thin the veil really is between life and death.  I also say this in the wake of another loss within our church, as Bonnie Norton moved on to the company of saints this past Thursday after a battle with leukemia. 
While we adjust to the time change this morning, we embark on a new adventure, as we journey into the season of saints to finish out this current Christian year before we move into the season of Advent, which are the four weeks before Christmas.  Throughout this series, “Season of Saints,” we will be talking of clothing of the saints, stories of the saints, thanksgiving of the saints in conjunction with consecrating our pledges (which you’ll hear about shortly form Pastor Ray), and the Shepherd-King of the saints, Jesus Christ.  As we go through this series, “we move in a sense from the outside inward, from what we wear, to the stories we can tell, to the thanksgiving flowing from our inmost being, to Christ as our Shepherd-King at the center of it all.”[i] 
            While preparing our message for this morning during the week, I read how one the retired professors at Wesley Theological Seminary, Dr. Lawrence Hull Stookey, who himself joined the company of saints last year,
tells the story of a friend of his who explained to a Protestant class about the meaning of All Saints Day. A student abruptly stood up and replied, “Protestants don’t have saints!” The professor, in a moment of quick wit, ran to his office to grab a phonebook, and he asked the student to read the names of all the churches in the area. The student read, “St. James Baptist Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, John Knox Presbyterian Church,” until he gave up and said, “I get it … I’m wrong!”
It became obvious to that student, and to the whole class, that we all have saints -- those who are deceased, and those who are living and walking among us, and if we think with Paul, perhaps even we ourselves are saints. The word saint is not limited to the “greats” of history, for Paul and other writers in the New Testament use the term synonymously with Christian and, at times, believer. No matter how you define it, the word saint has broad implications, and that is perhaps the best way to describe this week’s New Testament passage from Revelation 7.[ii]
            Indeed, we do have many saints among us, both living and those who have gone onto the great company of saints, much like we see in the imagery of our reading from Revelation with everyone dressed in white standing around the throne, singing songs of glory, honor, and praise before the lamb, a very joyful scene.  It’s a far cry from what we usually associate the Book of Revelation with, as there can be some very disturbing images when we read through the entire Book of Revelation.  Unlike the occasionally disturbing imagery we might associate the book of Revelation, this particular scene shows a great multitude that comes together from ALL over the world, a great diversity represented here.  Taylor Burton-Edwards at Discipleship Ministries in Nashville explains that
God has drawn every one of these whom we have known and loved and seeks to draw us all into the innermost circle of God’s throne, into the Holy of Holies in God’s heavenly temple.  God has made of the despised, the suffering, and those who stand with them priests forever.  And as they are drawn around God, God dwells among them.  For those who knew hunger and thirst and merciless labor under scorching heat, all of that is no more.  Jesus is their shepherd, leading them evermore to pasture and life-giving streams.  And in their sorrow for all the grief they have witnessed, felt, and may still feel, God wipes away every tear from their eye.[iii]
These are the same people who have gone through this life here on earth, complete with its ups and downs, its sufferings, its joys, and its sorrows.  While imagining what this sight that the narrator in Revelation, John is seeing, “we are given a stunning view of a massive throng of people from everywhere, a multitude no one can begin to number, people from every nation, tribe, ethnicity, and language. They wave palm branches and cry out together, rejoicing in Christ’s victory over sin and death. And they are all robed in white.”[iv] As we remember those in our church who are now part of that multitude, Zigie, Barbara, Gerri, Londa, and Bonnie, we remember the love we all had for them, the love they had for us, and what they meant to us here in this congregation.  I can see each of them a part of that same throng of people from everywhere, all gathered around the throne of the Lamb of God, having exchanged the clothes they wore in this life to the new pure, white garments of their new life that is filled with JOY!!! 
Each of these saints in this multitude
have plunged their garments into everything [Jesus] stood for in his life and everything about him that led him to a bloody death [on the cross], and so have made [their garments] dazzingly bright.  They do not simply ‘wear Jesus on their sleeves,’ as we say of those who seem to want to make a show of their religiosity.  This is no show.  This is who they are.  They wear him on their entire bodies.  They are his, and they let the whole world know it even through their clothing.[v]
            Zigie, Barbara, Gerri, Londa, and Bonnie did just that: they wore Jesus on their entire bodies through each of their gentle, loving actions, filled with laughter, helping others, standing up for causes they believed in, beautifying our church, or laying a foundation of faith in their children.  I also remember saints in my own family who have gone on this past year:  one of my best friends Steve who brightened many customers’ and co-workers days at Raley’s; my Uncle Gary who served as a firefighter for many years in the Sacramento area; or my great-Aunt Marge who was compassionate and saw joy and hope in everything through wearing Jesus on her entire body. 
Even in our own lives, we have saints, some we may not even stop to think is a saint.  In her second book, Accidental Saints, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber says that
It has been my experience that what makes us the saints of God is not our ability to be saintly but rather God’s ability to work through sinners.  The title ‘Saint’ is always conferred, never earned.  Or as the good Saint Paul puts it [in Philippians 2: 13], ‘For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’  I have come to realize that all the saints I’ve known have been accidental ones – people who inadvertently stumbled into redemption like they were looking for something else at the time, people who have just a wee bit of a drinking problem and manage to get sober and help others to do the same, people who are kind as they are hostile.[vi]
            Nadia is someone who encounters many people who are accidental saints and I consider her one as well.  If you saw a picture of her, you would wonder if she is a pastor or not save for the collar based on her appearance, although sometimes looks can really be deceiving, yet she still wears Jesus on her entire body, even with all the tattoos.  And she is someone who changed her life around from being a drug addict and alcoholic to becoming a Lutheran pastor and helping others know God and follow Christ, especially those who you would least expect to see in church today, much less that great multitude we see in Revelation.  Sometimes, we have people in our lives who become saints through their ordinary actions despite how they may appear on the surface.    
            As we come to the communion table shortly and join in Holy Communion with the saints among us and lift up the saints in our own lives,
We can speak of what they have done.  Probably all of us know some saints, people who have entered into the great sufferings of others and have plunged their lives so fully into Jesus that they became clothed with him.  We can name some of them now, people we know who are walking the way of Jesus among us, as well as those who are walking among us no more.  It does us good to remember them.[vii]
            As we sing “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” we know we have many saints in different ways, as I know I look forward to the day when I get to join that multitude, or continue walking along the living saints of today.  I mean to be one too.  Do you?  Let us sing together from page ___ of The United Methodist Hymnal, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.”
(After Song)
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Let the Church Say AMEN!! 




[i] Ministries, Discipleship. 2017. "Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Preaching Notes - Umcdiscipleship.Org". Umcdiscipleship.Org. Accessed November 2 2017. https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/twenty-second-sunday-after-pentecost-2017-preaching-notes.


[ii] "Commentary On Revelation 7:9-17 By Eric Mathis". 2017. Workingpreacher.Org. Accessed November 2 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2182.

[iii] Ministries, Discipleship, 2017. 

[iv] Ministries, Discipleship. 2017.

[v] Ibid. 
[vi] Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People (New York: Convergent Books, 2015), 7
[vii] Ministries, Discipleship, 2017.  

"Sky - Dominion & Exploitation" from "Season of Creation," Sermon, September 16, 2018

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