November 2, 2014: Sermon by The Rev. Jenna Strizak
The Rev. Jenna Strizak All Saints A (1 John 3:1-3) 11/2/14 HTP Decatur
It’s a part of our Wednesday morning ritual. Sixteen and a half minutes into our seventeen-minute preschool chapel—you’ve heard Fr. Greg and I say it’s the best seventeen minutes of our week, right?—just before we send kiddos and teachers and parents out into the day, one of us will stand at the front of the chapel and proclaim to them the truest thing we know how to say: “God loves us.” And the kids know what to say right back. They respond: “All the time.” (whisper) God loves us, we whisper. All the time. GOD LOVES US. ALL THE TIME.
And we’ve been doing this for two and a half years now, week in and week out. No matter the season, no matter the story we hear that day, no matter the color stoles we’re wearing or the feast we’re celebrating, these are always the words with which we want to leave them—God loves us. All the time.
And I wonder sometimes, in spite of what the prayer book says, I wonder sometimes if we shouldn’t end all our church services like this. I wonder if these shouldn’t always be the words left ringing in our ears.
In fact this is the very story John is telling us this morning: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” You see? God loves us. All the time. And if it sounds like I’m making it overly simple, only telling half the story… listen. See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. We want to make it more complicated than that, to add ifs, ands, buts; we think that there are caveats; that we have to strive or earn or be good or kind or responsible. But John tells us differently: God loves us first. Not because of what we do or think or say. God loves us, God calls us daughters and sons, and so we are.
Today as we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, Joey and Chase will receive the sacrament of Holy Baptism. By water and the Holy Spirit, Chase and Joey will be welcomed into Christ’s body, the Church: bound to Jesus, and to this family of God, a family of which we gathered here are just one tiny part: we share one Lord, one faith, one baptism—one God and father of all. And it means so much to me that our Episcopal tradition baptizes people of all ages; adults and youth; children and infants. Because when we see two babies—two people who can’t yet feed themselves, or speak, much less affirm any kind of faith proposition—two people who by the world’s standards can’t do or think or say very much of anything, yet—when we see Chase and Joey drawn into this new life—when we affirm that the bond God makes this morning is indissoluble—well, it reminds us of the truth of this story: See what love the Father has given us, first and freely: that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.
Beloved, John says, we are God’s children now. Listen to this story.
Beloved, we are God’s children now. Loved so much, so freely, by a God who creates us, calls us, comes to be with us not just as fire and cloud but as flesh, as body and blood, as breath. God loves us so much that in Christ God is one of us, knows us intimately from the inside out—the all powerful Holy One who brought all things into being now laughs and weeps, and knows even death. And we are so beloved by God that he refuses to abandon us, refuses to leave us to bear the weight of our own sin. God loves us so much that by Jesus’s cross and resurrection God draws each of us—draws the whole of creation into God’s own divine life. We are washed clean in the waters of baptism, delivered into freedom, and wrapped in this new clothing of Christ. When Joey and Chase come up from that water—when we come up from that water—we are made new. Beloved, we are God’s children now.
Beloved, we are God’s children now. Through Christ we are adopted in baptism, given this new identity as sons and daughters. We are doted on, held close with tenderness and care. We’re given all the standing and privileges of a descendent, of an heir. And all the saints that we celebrate today, all of them—the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, we are bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise. We are all God’s children, brothers and sisters, examples to one another, and companions on the way, and so we’re never Christians alone.
We feel it so potently today as we remember the saints of our own journey—saints known to the church throughout the centuries, or the saints we have known in our own lives. We get a glimpse of this when parents and godparents and gathered community promise—with God’s help—to support Joey and Chase in their life in Christ; when we promise to them and on their behalf. We get a foretaste of it every time we celebrate Holy Eucharist, when we gather around God’s altar together with all the company of heaven, fed by Christ himself. Beloved, we are God’s children now.
Beloved, we are God’s children now. I love John’s honesty this morning: the full picture of what we will be has not yet been revealed. I love that even on this day when we celebrate the saints in glory—those who have been perfected in Christ—there is still so much of the story we don’t know. John doesn’t mind a little mystery; John’s not overly worried about the details. Because God’s promises are not just about some far off future day: we belong to God now, already made a new creation and yet still somehow our painfully imperfect selves. We belong to God now, just as we are, right in this moment. We are God’s children at home and at school and at work, with friend and enemy alike, in the holy terrain of our every day lives. And slowly, slowly through practices of prayer and sacrament; through giving and forgiving, through repenting when we mess up, and strengthened by the examples and prayers and witness of all the saints, somehow we grow more and more into the full stature of Christ. We will see this now begin today for Chase and Joey at the font, and that now will go on forever, until we all see Christ as he is, and we all are made like him. Beloved, we are God’s children now.
See what love the Father has given us? God loves us, all the time.