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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
November 6, 2022
2 Kings 5:1-15a
Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day. Originally, this day was set to honor the Christian saints – specifically the martyrs and the saints who don’t have days named for them. The first All Saints celebration was in the year 610, and the commemoration was gradually expanded to include all of the saints. And what we celebrate is the faith that these people had in God.
For us, in the Lutheran church, we believe that we are at the same time saints and sinners. As human beings, we are sinners. And by the grace of God, we are forgiven sinners. And by definition, that makes each one of us a saint.
That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. And that’s good, because none of us is perfect. When we think of the people who’ve actually been canonized by the church, mostly we remember the wonderful things they did to receive that honor – and sometimes we hear about their personality quirks.
What’s important to keep in mind, though, is that they were human beings, too, just like we are, and I think sometimes we forget about that.
Before his conversion, St Augustine like to party – a lot. St Thomas Aquinas had family problems. St Ignatius of Loyola was thrown in jail several times because the inquisition was suspicious of his prayer methods. St Francis suffered from eye infections.
St Bernadette suffered from digestive problems, asthma, and tuberculosis. St Teresa of Calcutta doubted God for most of her life. St Oscar Romero was deemed a troublemaker by the church and the state.
And for a little bit of humor, St Teresa of Avila – who lived in the 1500s – was convinced that she was a horrible sinner because, as a teenager, she only cared about clothes and boys and flirting and rebelling.
The canonized saints were ordinary human beings who trusted God and God’s faithfulness. That’s what we draw strength from when we read about their lives. We wouldn’t remember them today if it weren’t for their faith and that they shared it with others. They didn’t keep it to themselves.
In a sense, they were messengers of God. And there are many other saints – other messengers – who are named and remembered on certain days of the year. But there are more who are known only by the people who loved them, and many whose names are lost to history and who are known only to God.
In our reading today, the servants who encourage Naaman to seek the prophet Elisha and listen to him are among the messengers and saints of God who are not named. But they had faith in God, the source of Elisha’s power.
They were not listened to by the official people, which made things more complicated for Naaman than they needed to be. All sorts of assumptions were made about human status and power. Instead of going directly to Elisha, Naaman’s king sent him to the other king, who thought the first king was trying to pick a fight.
When Naaman finally does go to Elisha, he’s offended that the healing ritual doesn’t look like what he’s expecting. There’s no flash or show, there’s no ceremony. There’s not even any attention from the prophet himself. Just instructions from another messenger to go bathe in the Jordan seven times.
And Naaman’s ego almost gets the best of him. It’s only when he listens to God’s messengers that he is healed and recognizes God’s presence in Israel. That there was something important about God’s connection to that place. And it transforms him in terms of his faith and as a person.
As human beings, we have a tendency to want our interactions with God to be a certain way – like we want them to be exciting and not mundane. But as I’ve said and, as we know, so much of our relationship with God happens in the day-to-day, boring stuff of life.
That’s where we’re shaped. That’s where we encounter and interact with the people who teach us about God, about trust and faith in God’s promises. It’s where our relationship with God is developed and deepened. It’s where we learn how to become messengers ourselves and share our trust in God with others.
It may not seem very exciting, but it is powerful. Think of the people in your life who have taught you what it means to live a life of faith. Especially the people who now rest with God. Who are they? Say their names out loud. At home, please put their names in the chat.
These people – our parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, friends – taught us how to pray, how to worship, how to learn about God and God’s word, how to lean on God when life seems impossible, how to show up for others when their life seems impossible.
They likely would say that they didn’t do anything special. That they were just being who they were. But for us, they were saints – they are saints.
To be a saint, to live as a saint, is about who we are in relationship with God. It means living into our faith every day and we know that doesn’t always come easily. During the times that it’s difficult, we call on the saints who are with us – the people who are physically in our lives – to help us through it. They walk with us and pray for us along the way, letting us draw on their strength. And we do the same for them.
And when we come to the table to receive Holy Communion, we join with the saints of every time and place. They surround us as we share that meal in remembrance of Jesus, just as they did.
During the final petition of the prayers this morning, we will name the saints of Saint Andrew’s that have died since last All Saints’ day. And as we do, my guess is that each of us will remember the saints in our own lives who also now rest with God. The people who taught us what it means to live a life of faith and to trust that God keeps God’s promises.
These loved ones of ours, these saints, helped bring us to this place, this faith community. We remember who they were and how they shaped us. They were simply ordinary human beings who trusted God and shared that trust with us, and taught us how to share it with others. And one day we will stand with them again. Thanks be to God! Amen.