Sermons 2003-2004

All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36
Home | Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004 | "Finally! Well, almost...." Advent 4A , 19 December 2004, Matthew 1:18-25 | Faith and Doubts, Advent 3A, 12 December 2004, Matthew 11:2-11 | John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12 | Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44 | Some King of kings! Proper 29C, 21 November 2004, Luke 23:35-43 | "Not one thrown down", Proper 28C, 14 November 2004, Luke 21:5-19 | All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36 | The Lambeth Commission Windsor Report, the Pharisee, and the tax collector, Proper 25C, 24 Oct 2004 | "Lord, teach us to pray." Proper 20C, 17 October 2004, Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30; Luke 18:1-8a | "It's all in the choosing", Proper 23C, 10 October 2004, Ruth 1:1-19a; Luke 17:11-19 | "Increase our faith", Proper 22C, Luke 17:5-10, 3 October 2004 | Proper 21C 2004, 26 September 2004, "R&R: Response and Relationships", Luke 16:19-31 | Proper 19C 2004, 12 September 2004, "Lost and Found", Luke 15:1-10 | Proper 18C 2004, 5 September 2004, "Preaching or Meddling", Luke 14:25-33 | Proper 16C 2004, 22 August 2004, "The Narrow Gate ", Luke 13:22-30 | Proper 15C, 15 August 2004 | Proper 14C, 8 August 2004 | Proper 13C, 1 August 2004 | Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004 | "Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13 | The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004 | Independence Day 2004. "The Creative Tension of the Church: Who is to be included?" | "Now! Now! Now!", Proper 8C, 27 June 2004, Luke 9:51-62 | "Star Throwers", Proper 7C, 20 June 2004, Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24 | The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004 | "O Holy Triune God, most Holy Trinity; here are we. Send us." Trinity C, 6 June 2004 | "Come, Holy Spirit", Pentecost C , 30 May 2004 | "That they all may be one", Easter 7C, 23 May 2004 | The Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Pneuma, Ruach, Easter 6C 2004 | Agapate Allelous: Love beyond each other, Easter 5C 2004, 9 May 2004 | The Good Shepherd and the five people you meet in heaven, Easter 4C 2004 | "The God of the Second Chance -- and of many chances", Easter 3C, 25 April 2004 | Baptizatus Sum: I am baptized, Easter 2C 2004 | It is NOT an Idle Tale: Easter Sunday, 18 April 2004 | Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday Roller Coaster: What We Want or What We Need? | Who are the Wicked Tenants, Lent 5C 2004 | The Prodigal Son -- and so much more | God, the Gardener, and the Fig Tree | "The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C | The Comfortable Rut of Ordinary Temptation | "Getting from Uh-oh to Aha", Luke 9:28-36, Epiphany Last C, 22 February 2004 | Jesus, Jeremiah, and the Beatitudes: What to Make of it All | The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon: God working in the world | Jesus, the Archbishop, and Annual Council The Dark Abyss of Schism | The Nature of Revelation: Jesus' Sermon at Nazareth | The Miracle at the Wedding in Cana | The King of kings and the Lion King | "The Magnificat, Watching, and Waiting" | "Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always" | A Voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord." | "Standing in the Day of Battle: Isabel and the Gospel" | Dogma, Doctrine, and the Theological Enterprise | The Little Apocalypse | Jesus and theWidow's Mite | One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson | The Great Commandment: Jesus Meant What He said | Who is blind? | Eyes on Jesus and minds on mission! | Tradition or Traditionalism? | Credo: Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." | Who do YOU say that I am? | "It's about Power and Winning" | Contact Wicomico Parish Church

All Saints 2004C Luke 6:20-36

Imagine four Army chaplains during an icy storm at sea; four men in uniform holding hands as they gaze over the rail of their sinking vessel. They are watching lifeboats pulling away from their reeling ship, the U.S. transport Dorchester. The story of these chaplains is a remarkable account of love and sacrifice.

The scene takes place February 3, 1943, off the southern tip of Greenland. The winter night covers the ship like a blanket. Most of the 909 aboard ship are asleep below the decks.

Suddenly the Dorchester jerks and shudders. A German torpedo has smashed through her starboard side! In a raging torrent, the sea gushes through the gaping wound. The Dorchester has been dealt a mortal blow. She is sinking.

The order is given to abandon ship. Aboard the dying vessel, men -- many of them injured -- search frantically for life jackets. Some stand in shock, not knowing how to react to the catastrophe.

Amidst the chaos stand four pillars of strength, four Army chaplains:
George L. Fox, is a Methodist; Alexander Goode is Jewish; Clark V. Poling is Reformed; and John P. Washington is Roman Catholic. They calm the panic-stricken, help the confused search for life jackets, and aid the soldiers into the lifeboats swinging out from the tilting deck.

When no more jackets can be found, each chaplain takes off his own and straps it onto a soldier who has none. The lifeboats pull slowly away from the doomed vessel. Only 299 will finally survive this night.

As the Dorchester slides beneath the icy water, some can see the four chaplains, hand in hand, praying to the God of them all. The chaplains' different theological opinions did not seem to matter much on a sinking ship. All that mattered was that, at a time of crisis, they lived the love of God. (1)

Today is All Saints Sunday and surely these four chaplains are among the saints we remember this day.

What makes a saint? One dictionary defines it this way beginning with “a holy person”. I wonder how many of us ordinary saints could measure up to that definition. Certainly not I. There’s the sort of theological definition: “in certain churches, a person officially recognized as having lived an exceptionally holy life, and thus as being in heaven and capable of interceding for sinners; a canonized person.” And finally a working definition: “a person who is exceptionally meek, charitable, patient, etc.” Well, depending on what is inside the et cetera, we’re getting closer to a definition of some of the saints that we know. But even that is a very high standard.

When the New Testament speaks of the saints, it refers to all Christians. And on All Saints we celebrate and commemorate the witness of all Christians of every time and place. We experience the reality of God's resurrection power in the community called the church. Acknowledging the dissolution of the barrier between the living and the dead, we become the communion of saints.

Jesus describes the Christian witness in the latter half of the gospel lesson. Christians can be identified because of the radical nature of their love. It is precisely this powerful love which binds together Christians who are part of the church on earth and Christians for whom the battle is over and the victory is won.

Modern day saints like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr., warts and all, come to mind when we All Saints. The story of their lives or any of the saints from past history would make wonderful sermons. But what of the saints in your own congregation? Who are the Christians in our community who have lived lives of radical love? Start with the poor among us and recognize how great is the generosity of the poor. Blessed are the poor. Their acts of radical love are for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. (2)

On Wednesdays at the healing service the lections and brief homily reading cover someone in our own Prayer Book Calendar of Saints. Come join us and learn more about them.

One of my favorite definitions of a saint comes from this story I’ve heard and told through the years:
A little boy was asking his Sunday School teacher all about All Saints Sunday. It was the first time he was old enough to be curious about it. The teacher explained that it was the Sunday we celebrated the saints of the church.
“Well, what’s a saint? I don’t understand what a saint is,” he protested.
So the Sunday School teacher took him into the parish church which had glorious stained glass windows depicting many of the saints of the church. She explained that each saint had been really good and the people of the church had recognized that God had made these men and women into saints.
He looked puzzled for a moment and then he brightened up. “I’ve got it,” he declared happily. Saints are the people that God’s light shines through!” Now that’s a definition hard to beat and it includes both capital S Saints and little s saints like most of us.

It is true that it’s hard to see a saint among us. Personalities and egos often get in the way. One of the earliest television shows for families, a forerunner of the Waltons and Little House on the Prairie, was about a first generation Norwegian family. Some of us who are my age and older may remember it. It was titled “I remember Mama”. It would be a little too saccharine sweet for our contemporary sophisticated tastes, I fear.

By near common consent in that staunchly religious family, Mama’s Uncle Chris was the black sheep. By common consent of all his sisters he cursed and drank whiskey. Oh dear. And he had sold several of the family heirlooms to start his business of buying rundown farms to work them back to profitable productivity and selling them.

Also by near common consent, when word came that he was very ill and dying on one of his farms, there was agreement with his sister Marta that Uncle Chris was too mean to die. But they were interested in the money he surely must have made selling those farms.

They were shocked and angry when he died and they discovered that he had no money. They were angry until they earned what had happened to it. The black sheep Uncle Chris had spent it all on surgeons and hospitals and braces for crippled children so that they could at least walk if they could not run and play like other children. The black sheep was a shining saint. (3)

Uncle Chris and the Dorchester chaplains fit exactly my other working definition of a saint: “someone who makes a difference in the lives of others.” Modesty is usually a hallmark of these saints. They are publicity shy and do not care that takes credit for what they do. And they possess a profound and powerful spirituality. They just don’t talk about it much.

Each one of us have saints who make a difference in our lives because God’s light shines into them and through them. In my particular case it was grandparents, teachers, senior Army officers and sergeants, priests and chaplains, graduate school and seminary professors, and many people right here in this parish over the past eleven years. Each of us has our own particular set. I would not be who I am or where I am without them. I try to thank God for them every day in my morning prayers of thanksgiving. Do you?


1. Adapted from the reading, “Live Your Love”, found in Steve Goodier, ONE MINUTE CAN CHANGE A LIFE: 60-second readings of hope and encouragement, pp. 146-147
2. Karla M. Kincannon, “For All the Saints”, at Cokesbury’s
3. Kathryn Forbes, “Mama’s Uncle Chris” in Mama’s Bank Account, Chicago 1943, pp. 19-24