The Rev. Ian Emile Dunn
To be a Saint
A Homily for Trinity 21, the Sunday after All Saints Day
November 5, 2017
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Ephesians 6:10-20
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
Today is the Sunday after All Saints Day, hence why our frontal and pulpit hangings are white. We observe All Saints Day for an octave or eight days to avoid various superstitious holidays that distract us from the sufficiency of Christ and to intentionally remember the saints who have come before us, and that we too are called as Saints. If we are called to be Christian Saints how are we to live? We will start this morning with the Gospel lesson for All Saints Day which is the beatitudes we will then seek to understand the whole armor of God because the two go hand in hand. We must understand the posture of the beatitudes when we come to God. So, let us look at what Christ taught:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We learn that those of us who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, who strive for righteousness, that are merciful, pure in heart, who are peacemakers and who are persecuted are indeed blessed. But what does this mean?
It means that when we come to Christ it is not from a position of pride, but that of humility, it means that living in him is require that we flee from the worldly temptation glorify ourselves and seeking the humility to Glorify God. The man or woman who comes to Him recognizes the poverty of his spirit, and doesn’t attempt to build a ladder out of his weakness but gives his life to Christ. For, we are all poor in spirit, we have all chosen sin over a life with God, and that has robbed of the richness of a life spent in fellowship with God.
Just as we have come to Him in our poverty, we have all mourned. Adam’s curse haunts the world and so death has come in. Those whom we love die, we betray people who we are supposed to be kind to, and we are often betrayed by those we have trusted. Our hearts break and we cry out. How poor we are indeed?
We see in Babble they tried to reach God, but not in humility, not to know him, but so that they could say they did it. We too want to conquer, but God calls us in meekness, we come to Him through Christ in the weakness and poverty of our Soul and he welcomes us home. We come running home not as the son who has labored all the long years, but as the prodigal son who desperately needs to hear that we still have a home despite our wandering heart.
How then are we to live? We are called to be merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. These are the marks of a life lived in the spirit. It is a hard thing to be merciful to one who has hurt us, yet the world needs more mercy, more kindness in trauma and so when one has said evil things, upset us, don’t stand up to fight, turn the other cheek. When a friend has refused your kindness for too long when and he needs it again, smile and bear it with Christian kindness. Seek to be merciful in all things.
Likewise, don’t imagine evil against your neighbor, but flee from all evil and sin. Seeking to put on Christ’s pureness that we too may be pure of heart.
Seek to bring peace and kindness to all people. Not stirring up dissension between people, or between yourself and your neighbor, but always forgiving.
These tasks are hard, but they are the marks of a Christian life. When you live this way, the world will hate you. It will look at you and mock you. It will say “how foolish this person is, you don’t need to be kind to that awful neighbor of you.” “You fool, don’t you know that might is better than meekness?” But we know that Christ is found in our meekness not in our strength and so we humble ourselves.
This brings us to the whole armor of God, through the spirit of the Lord we put it on, not to make ourselves bigger, but to become smaller, that the Lord may grow stronger in us. We saw that the first step to coming to know the Lord is our meekness, for how can we take on the strength of the Lord if we are depending on our strength. Rather we learn to depend on Him for all our needs.
The attacks against the Christian occasionally come in physical form when the church in in oppressive lands. The ones that every Christian is to be concerned with are the spiritual ones, for we know that our bodies will inevitably fail, but our spirit belongs to God. We wrestle with the rulers of the darkness of the world the one who would snatch us away from God. Ultimately, this is what Christ warns us about in Matthew 10 - do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. How often we get this reversed and become afraid of him who might kill us, not caring for our soul?
We learn to care for our soul and we learn what it is to put on the whole armor of God that we may stand firm in the goodness of God. The armor is this: the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace as shoes, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and finally the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.
Each of these items play an important part in our life in Christ and help to protect us against the attacks and snares of the devil. The belt of truth holds the whole outfit together, without it, we would find ourselves naked in a fierce and cold world. We cannot venture out without knowing truth. Relativity says, truth is what you make it, but the Christian says, no Christ is truth. So, we are called to know Christ and know truth. Let Him hold you together in all that you go through.
The breastplate of righteousness protects our vital organs from the attacks and snares of the devil, for often our heart may wander into lustful or covetous sentiments, or we may think to ourselves, let me stuff my stomach with gluttonous glee. Seek righteousness and flee from lustful and youthful passions, and let Christ’s righteousness stand against these temptations through prayer and faith.
Our Christian shoes are the readiness of the Gospel of peace. This is twofold, first that we don’t seek conflict but peace, seeking to bring the peace that we know in Christ to all situations. We also strive to let Christ shine in all situations, that we would be ready and eager to make him know to all those whom we meet. For this is our call as Christians. This isn’t dependent upon our calling, for we may be called to live a peaceable life and do good as business men or retirees or we may be called to go overseas and make Him known in some foreign nation. The Christian is a shining light for Christ wherever she may go.
The shield of faith protects us from the snares of the world. The author of Hebrews describes faith as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It is the assurance that we trust in. We live in the assurance that God will protect us from the wickedness of the devil who will try to come at us. But if we battle him in our own strength we will fail, instead we trust in the Lord whom we cannot see to be our strength and our protection.
The helmet of salvation is the same idea. That we protect our mind, giving our mind to Christ that it may dwell in His goodness, contemplating goodness, truth and beautiful, not given to vain and silly thoughts. We read and study the word of God, that our minds may be steeped deeply in His knowledge. This doesn’t earn salvation but our minds returning time and again to Him who is our salvation, it tells us of His character, of his being and in that our minds flee from the pesky temptations of the devil.
Finally, we take up the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. We see when the devil tempts Christ in the desert that Christ defends himself with the word of God. It is the same for us, the devil may tempt us and if we are not steeped in the word then how will we find refuge in the Lord? If we do not know what God has called us to, it is easy to justify our actions as righteousness. The knowledge of our salvation protects our mind from temptation, and the word protects us from the devil’s attack.
Finally, having learned how to live in this, live as those who are ambassadors for the peace of Christ in a violent world we pray continuously. We pray for ourselves that we would be continually learning how to put on the armor, that we would be learning to live in Christ more deeply.
We pray for all the saints, starting with those at our own little church that they too would be putting on the armor. That they too would have all that they need, but we also pray for those Christians in our country who face hardship, and we pray for those overseas who face persecution. Remembering, that we are not an island, isolated from other believers, but that we are all one body, and we bear each other’s burdens in prayers.
As St Paul asked for prayers for himself, we pray for our leaders. We pray for our Bishops Robert and Walter, we pray for our vicar general Canon Robert, we pray for our priest and our vestry. That each of us would not only lead well, but that we would be ready to preach the Gospel, making Christ known, not only on Sunday morning, but every day. That we would be ambassadors to the world. But it is not leaders alone who have been called to be lights but all Christians.
Let us then, having the assurance of the whole armor of God, having put it on in our humility, live as shining lights for His glory. For this is the call of all Christian people, that we may live in righteousness, mercy, purity, and peaceably with all those whom we encounter.
Following the beatitudes there is a call to be Salt and Light in the world – so let us adopt the attitude of the beatitudes and put on the whole armor of God that we may be salt and light, living in the confidence we find in Christ, that others may see this light and want to dwell in it. Let us show the goodness that we know and enjoy to those who suffer and are sorrowful that they may come to have the same hope that we have.
In the name and of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.