The Feast of All Saints…Series C
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (November 5th, 2016)
Title: Silk Purses and Sow’s Ears…
Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Today we join Christian churches around the world in celebration of the feast of All Saints, which is one of the seven “principal feasts” celebrated each year, and one of the four Sundays recommended in the BCP for the administration of Holy Baptism. I love All Saints and for a couple of reasons. First, my #2 son Tim was born on Nov. 1st in 1982. The second reason I love All Saints is that we usually sing my favorite hymn, For All the Saints (and, if I have anything to say about it, we sing all 8 verses). And now I will have another wonderful reason for loving the Feast of All Saints- the anniversary of the baptism of my 8th grandchild, CARRINGTON GLENN SNYDER!!
Whenever I think about the wonderful Feast of All Saints, I am reminded of an expression my step-grandmother used with astonishing regularity- one of my most enduring memories of her is how she used to say, “but you know: You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. Have you ever heard that expression? “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear “. And, of course, there is a great deal of practical truth communicated in this expression. If you start with inferior ingredients, you can’t expect outstanding results. If you start with sour milk and bug-infested flour chances are you will end up with an uneatable loaf of bread. If you start with twisted and knotted lumber you will probably end up with a crooked house. My step grandmother was right-if you begin with inferior ingredients you can’t expect outstanding results…you really can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!
But, my friends, in a wonderful and mysterious way, the Feast of All Saints is a denial…a repudiation of my step grandmother’s favorite expression…the Feast of All Saints is the annual celebration of the truth that the God of the Christian vision…the God who spoke a word into the chaos of nothingness and created the universe…the God we worship and serve, can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear…in fact one of God’s all time favorite things is making beautiful Saints out of filthy, disgraceful sinners…folks exactly like you and me!!!
The process of making beautiful saints out of disgraceful sinners is called SANCTIFICATION…a word which is not often heard in modern Episcopal churches! But actually Sanctification is one of the main purposes of the Church and its ministry…the manufacturing and equipping of SAINTS to do the work of proclaiming the Good News of God’s relentless love in the world. And the church…Corpus Christi…the visible, tangible “Body of Christ” in the world is the FACTORY where SAINTS are manufactured.
You see, my friends, the primary purpose of the church and its ministry is NOT to make people moral or to make people ethical or even to make people religious…the primary purpose of the church and it’s ministry is to make people SAINTS.
And it is at this point where the Feast of All Saints, and wonderfully mysterious process of SANCTIFICATION, intersects with what we are about to do in a few moments…to welcome into the fellowship and the full communion of Christ’s church thru the sacrament of holy baptism, two perfectly lovely…absolutely adorable…but disgraceful sinners…CARRINGTON GLENN SNYDER! Now I know it is difficult to think of this beautiful little boy as a “disgraceful sinner”…but don’t be decieved…that is exactly what he is…and he needs the grace which will be extended to him in Baptism as much as any human being who has ever lived…he is a disgraceful sinner and, as Lady Gaga’s most recent hit affirms…”He was born this Way”. But…in the water of their baptism he will be reborn a child of God and heir of eternal life…in the waters of baptism he will be rescued from sin and death…in the waters of their baptism he will be washed and blessed and forgiven and saved and the wonderfully mysterious process of sanctification will begin today…for CARRINGTON GLENN SNYDER…in the waters of their Baptism!
And as we celebrate this great feast of All Saints, and as we consider the wonderfully mystery of sanctification and as we witness the baptism of Carrington Glenn and as we renew our own Baptismal covenant, we are reminded of three important truths about our life in faith…our life in the church. First, we are reminded that we are ALL SAINTS by God’s grace. In the waters of our Baptism we were washed…forgiven…marked with the cross of Jesus forever. You see, a saint is not a spiritual super hero…we and all of the Baptised (including Carrington) are, by God’s amazing grace, ALL SAINTS. Second, we are reminded that we are all in the process of becoming SAINTS. We are not there yet…we have not ARRIVED. We are all pilgrims on the great highway of holiness…we are all at different places in the journey (Chloe and Lucy are today beginning the journey), but we are all on the journey of becoming what, in the waters of our Baptism, God created each of us to be. The third and final truth is that one day….one great and glorious day, we will be Saints in a complete, perfect and finished sense…one day we will join that great “Cloud of Witnesses”…today we see thru a glass darkly./a mirror dimply, but one day we will see “up close and personal”…today we know only in part, but one day we will know even as we are known…one day we will be SAINTS!!
My friends, the Good News on this Feast of All Saints is this…the great Good News for Carrington and for all of the Baptized children of God, is that God the Holy Spirit, is working, thru the Holy Catholic church and thru the Word and Holy Sacrament, to complete what was begun in the waters of their baptism… (pause) and I am here this evening as a representative of God and of the church and as a friend and fellow pilgrim on the “Highway to Holiness” to remind you… that God absolutely delights in making Silk Purses out of Sows Ears…in fact, making beautiful SAINTS out of disgraceful sinners…(just like Carrington and you and me)…. making beautiful SAINTS out of disgraceful SINNERS…is one of God’s favorite things to do!