The Feast of All Saints…Series A
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (November 5th, 2017)
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…a feast which we know the church has been celebrating since the middle of the 9th century, and one of the seven principle feasts of the church year.
Whenever I think about the wonderful Feast of All Saints, I am reminded of an expression my step-grandmother used with astonishing regularity- my step grandmother lived with us when my brother and I were growing up and one of my most enduring memories of her is how so frequently something would happen in our family life ort in the world that would inspire her 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 are baking or building or growing things…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 Bible…the God of the Christian vision…the God we worship and serve, can, and routinely does make silk purses out of 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 as we celebrate this great feast of All Saints, and as we consider the wonderful mystery of sanctification, 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; blessed; forgiven; redeemed and saved. We were marked with the cross of Jesus forever. And that’s what it means to be a Saint! You see, a saint is not a spiritual super hero…a person of heroic sanctity…no…a Saint is an ordinary person who believes and trusts and has placed his future in the hands of Jesus, the Christ…friends, we and all of the Baptised are, by God’s amazing grace, ALL SAINTS. Second, we are reminded that we are all in the process of becoming SAINTS, by God’s Grace. 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, 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 dimly, 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…the great Good News for all of the Baptized children of God: at this moment God is at work…God the Holy Spirit is working, thru the Holy Catholic church and thru the Word of the Gospel of Grace and thru the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist…God the Holy Spirit is working to complete what was begun in the waters of baptism… (pause) and I am here this morning 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 making beautiful SAINTS out of disgraceful sinners…in fact, I have it on the highest authority that making beautiful SAINTS out of disgraceful SINNERS…is one of God’s favorite things to do!