All Saints Sunday and United Thank Offering Sunday

November 2, 2008

Today is All Saints Sunday and United Thank Offering Sunday. As I read the scripture, I struggled to pull a sermon together. I got my words down on paper and still I felt-the scripture was not speaking to me, I didn’t understand what it was saying. So I let the sermon simmer like a pot of soup. After awhile, I returned to the sermon and the scripture and realized that the main theme is God’s Love for us. Through God’s love, we are changed. In God’s love, we can grow and reach our full potential. Through Him, we can become agents of change. Through our faith, God is asking us to commit to something new that may be different than culture’s norm. I and you, like many, may struggle with new things and change.

Today, I will talk about change. Change takes many forms, like creatures of habit change is a bit hard for many of us to adjust to. We can be reminded that the saints too, were changed and created change.

God was at work in the Saints. Through their faith, the Saints thought differently and acted differently. They changed the people around them. God worked in them. Some of them may not have had much to start with yet they succeeded because God gave them the tools that they needed to do His work. Perhaps, at first, they may have said “Not me, God,” “Not now,” “Not interested.” Yet, God persisted. The saints made a commitment to God.

It was the saints’ faith in God, their love for doing God’s work that inspired them to think differently and act differently than the cultural norms of their society. It was their actions that impacted people and affected them. The saints lived a life transparent to others; they walked their talk. Their every day lives involved prayer, meditation and doing for others. God asked them to commit to the work and they stepped forward affirmatively.

Our Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori asks us to look for the saints who minister all around us every day. Saints "come in all shapes, ages, colors, and theological stripes."

God calls us all to be saints as He sees our potential. God wants to do his work through us. God sees our goodness under layers of stubbornness and in spite of our persistence of trying it on our own. He would like us to commit to Him. Leave our uncertainty and insecurities behind. We are asked to step out and make ourselves known to God. As stated in today’s Psalm, God hears our thanks, our prayers, and our worries. He may not answer them in the big dramatic way that we may expect. Yet, God is listening. God can cast away our fears and we can find refuge in his love. God is love, and provides us what we need. Like children who turn to their parents for comfort, we can turn to God.

In John 3:1-3, John states that we are God’s children. We are God’s beloved. Through God’s love for us, we can have hope and we can open ourselves up to new and good things. Through our prayers, through God’s grace, pureness and peace, we will be changed. Our change will impact others. Further along in the John 3, John states “…let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

At every turn and in God’s word, we are called to action. We called to commit ourselves to God’s work. In our baptismal ministry we are called to transform our communities. We can do that, if we commit to change, put our faith into God like the Saints did.

At the recent Diocesan convention, Bishop Stephen Lane asked us to make the Circle bigger. Through God’s love and his work in us, we can do just that. One of the ways we can make the circle bigger and transform our communities is our support of the United Thank Offering. God is at work through the United Thank Offering (UTO), a ministry of the Episcopal Church. God is at work in us, throughout the church, and in the world.

Through our coins, dollars and checks of support and thanksgiving, God is the agent of change. Through our gifts of money and through our graditude, we can do God’s good work and we can be the agents of change. Through UTO grants, we have given accessibility to those with physical impairments through St. James’ lift. Additionally, UTO monies have made a difference in the Diocese of Maine, through a new food pantry in Calais as well as at a refugee center in Lewiston . We have affected change and are transforming the world through UTO. A quote from Ghandi really stuck with me he said “be the change you want to see in the world” we need to be the change in the world. The work UTO and Saints are different forms of change in the world.

Although, our lives and times, and work differ from the saints of long ago, we are similar because God sees our goodness and wants to work in us. God is at work in us when we are making meatloaf at Ronald McDonald House, painting a room at MAPS, setting the table and sharing a meal at the community supper, holding a Mother’s Day baby shower or collecting school supplies for Crossroads Ministries. God is at work in us through the new youth group and Godly play programs we have at St. James’. God gives us the tools we need to do God’s work in the world. Through God’s love we can be agents of change so we can be the change in the world.

Through UTO, we can make the circle bigger and wider. We can transform our communities. We can be the change that our church needs, that our communities need and that the world needs. AMEN.