All Saints

Sunday of All Saints

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST !!

   Today is the Sunday of All Saints — ALL Saints, whether known or unknown. We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. Today’s Gospel starts with Jesus telling us that if we acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge us; if we deny Him, He will deny us. 

How do we acknowledge or deny Jesus before men? Sometimes we see this as a manipulative meme on social media to get us to copy and past someone else’s post. How do we acknowledge Christ? We must do so with our heart, mind, words, and deeds. For if we only think about God, but do nothing about what we think, then we are engaging in mental manipulation. If we do nothing about our thoughts about God, it means nothing that we think of God. This is the trap of the “spiritual but not religious”. I understand why some must say that — some have been traumatized by religious people; but it has become the number one cop-out (yes, I’m old enough to say “cop out”) The number one cop-out for not following God. We must acknowledge Christ in deeds, words, mind and heart. We cannot leave part of that out without turning our faith into an obscure meaningless mental exercise. 

   And how do we put our thoughts into action? We must realize that everyone is our neighbour, even those who we find annoying. Every human is created in God’s Image — how we treat them is how we treat God. St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris said: At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked if I fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and the prisoners. 

   Jesus tells us that He has come not to bring peace but a sword. How do we understand this when so many other places He has said “Peace”?

   What is this Peace that Jesus brings us? It is not like what the world offers. We Orthodox, above all, are rightfully wary of making a peace that betrays our faith. This is not the peace that Jesus offers us; yet it is often the peace the world offers. And such is a peace that Jeremiah warns us against: “They have healed the wounds of my people lightly, saying: ‘Peace, peace’ And there is no peace. Were they ashamed to commit their sin? No, not ashamed at all; they did not know how to blush.” Such a peace puts a band-aid over a gushing wound and ignores it for as long as it can until it erupts. Then we wonder, “What happened?”

   Christ offers us a peace that heals our soul and body and mind and heart. How can we have peace if disease ravages our body, our soul? Yet what our culture offers us often is full of noise and disquietness, and disease. 

   Peace — We hear among our society that we should respect peace above our faith. “Don’t make audacious claims for Christ.” To them it is better to get along. And we also see the actions of some who claim to be of faith, but their actions reveal envy, jealousy, strife, anger. They seek to use religion to justify greed, murder, slander, lies and ultimately IDOLATRY. But that some abuse religion doesn’t mean that our faith must be watered down to accommodate the fears of others. Peace with righteousness is a good thing. Being at Peace with evil is a horrible thing. We regularly see people insisting on peace with a system of bigotry, racism, and inhumanity. There are many things that are going on in our society today that are an abomination: things like abortion, the traumatizing the children of immigrants, the deliberate making of the lives of the poor more difficult, the cold blooded murder of people of colour.  . . These are the sorts of things that the Kingdom of God overturns. These are the things that Jesus tells us He has come to address. We cannot make peace with the evils of our society in order to “get along”. 

   Our loyalty to God must come before our loyalty to jobs, friends, even to family. God created us. God is saving us. Our friends and family can be part of that, or they can stand against it. 

   This is the choice that the saints made time and time again. They chose Christ over getting along. They chose Christ over their own family. They chose Christ over the temporal gains of greed and the other passions. They chose Christ over monetizing their own Life. We are invited by our culture to monetize our life, to chose the right career path, to accumulate the right stuff. It is slavery. We cannot allow this — we must not let anything come before Christ. The millions of new-Martyrs of Russia would not betray the Faith to a godless government. The betrayals our culture asks of us are much more subtle. 

   This is the choice that the saints of the Old Testament made without even being able to see the result of the promise —  as the epistle said “of whom the world was not worthy”, Yet without us, their witness is not complete. In the reading last night from Isaiah, God invites us to be His witnesses. In Christ, the promise they hoped for comes to fruition. This is the choice that a disciple of Christ makes. 

   As we celebrate ALL the saints today, whether known or unknown, yet known unto God, God calls us to become saints, to become holy ones. You; me; all of us: God calls us to follow Him and become His saints — become more than we are comfortable with — become the humans that God created us to be. 

   And there is a sense that we owe it to the Church and to the world to strive to be saints. Our faith came to these parts through the work of God’s saints: St. Herman of Alaska, St. Innocent of Moscow (our patron), St. Sebastian of Jackson, who was the founding priest of many parishes in the Pacific NorthWest (who is our spiritual great-grandfather), St. Tikhon of Moscow who laboured in this vineyard before he went back to become Patriarch during the beginning of the Soviet era in Russia, St. John of Shanghai and San Fransisco who reposed at the Cathedral in Seattle escorting the Kursk Root Icon from that very place in Russia that has blessed our mission so richly. These saints brought us the Holy Orthodox faith.  We owe it to them, and to our children to work to plant the cross here in Kitsap County, and in our own hearts. 

To Him be all glory honour and worship, now and ever and unto ages of ages.