Those Saintly Ones

Those Saintly Ones

This morning as we gather for worship, we might come feeling a little tired, a little sluggish, maybe even a little slow moving after the busy-ness of the last few days.

Some of us might come feeling slightly discombobulated from the movement back to Standard Time from Pacific Daylight’s Saving Time.

Others here might come only too aware of the recent change in the weather.

It’s a change moving us farther and farther away from the warm days of a long summer this year and the brilliant display of fall colours we are treated to annually here in the north Okanagan valley.

This morning as we gather for Sunday worship we acknowledge that this morning, along with hundreds of thousands of Protestants around the world, we also gather to celebrate All Saints Day.

It’s the day when many churches celebrate the communion of saints who have graced and informed our lives in more ways than we can say and who now reside among the cloud of witnesses surrounding us.

This morning, as we gather, we also do so knowing your representative, Maxine Coffey brings a final report from Kamloops Okanagan presbytery and then David Green, chair of the Trinity search team brings news of their work.

Often the case at Trinity, we gather this morning knowing there is much to celebrate, much to attend to, and much to be thankful for as the days unfold and we celebrate endings and new beginnings.

How timely, then, is this story from our Hebrew Scriptures, also a story about endings and new beginnings!

This morning’s story from the book of Ruth brings us face to face, not only with the pathos and drama of death and dying, but also of the need to let go of the past so as to make space for an unfolding future.

All of that said, this morning’s text is also underscores the interplay between  courage, hope, and passion for new life and new ways of being in relationship.

Like the Christian story and our own story as a church family, the text for this morning is also a story about courage, commitment, or extreme loyalty in the face of threat.

Last but never least, this story about three widows connected by marriage is also a story about relationship that deftly defies all mother in law jokes.

This morning’s text from Hebrew Scripture is also a foundational story.

It’s one that sets the scene for the birth of the Naomi’s future great grandson, Jesus.  Or so our canon from scripture tells us.

That being a story for the season of Advent, this morning we are invited to just stay present to the pivotal nature of this story from the first chapter of the book of Ruth.

For, what if Naomi had not risked returning to her roots?

What if her daughter-in-law, Ruth had not insisted on accompanying her and had chosen instead to go back to Moab with her sister, Orpah?

What if, indeed!

This emphasis on ‘What if” reminds me of a wise elder named David I met in my first pastoral charge in the Creston valley some years ago.

David’s advice was to not stress too much about the ‘What if’s’ of life.   

For David, you see, if you change one ‘if’ and you change them ‘all’.    

For me, David K. was something of a saint of a man-a man short on words but long on wisdom.

For me, David ranks amongst those saints whose thoughts and actions, whose courage and whose hope blessed my life my life then and continues to bless my life now.

David K. ranks amongst those saints, who, in their passing from this life continue to bless my memories and continue to shape and inform many of my decisions and my actions.

Perhaps there’s a David K, or a Ruth or a Naomi, or an Orpah in your life, or another person you might feel compelled to lift up silently or aloud in prayer and thanksgiving this morning?

You know the ones I mean?

Those saintly ones whose incisive honesty, whose wisdom, whose pragmatism, whose courage and commitment, and whose loyalty in all situations and all circumstances give us courage for the important work of letting go that which is no longer life giving so that we might seek instead that which is life giving.

When I think of some of those I would call saints, I am also reminded that though many of their actions or decisions might have seems quite ordinary in the moment, in retrospect, I’ve come to understand their lives as being thoroughly shot through with the holy.

We don’t have to look far to see that holiness.

It’s available to us in so many different ways-through social or electronic media or even on our TV screens.

It occurs to me, even as I bear witness to those long lines of asylum seekers trudging along the borderlands between Mexico and the U.S., I am bearing witness to saints in the making-the ones, whose courage and commitment, whose extreme loyalty, and hope for new life buoys them up, no matter how hopelessly displaced and uncertain their lives in the present moment may seem.

Or perhaps the faces of other saints will spring to mind for you this day as we share in the singing of some beloved favourite hymns or as we share together in the symbolic breaking of bread and pouring of wine in the sacrament of communion.

But before we go there, we have another holy story to receive this morning.

It’s also a story about letting go and letting die that which is no longer life giving and choosing instead to bring courage, hope, commitment, and extreme loyalty to the work of new beginnings.

It’s as story about being open to new ways of being relationship as communities of faith seeking sustenance and life in a time of rapid change in our denomination.

As we receive it, may we, know the blessing of the Holy Spirit alive and at work in the letting go of that which is no longer life giving and in so doing making space for new life in this and the wider community of the north Okanagan region.

May it be so, amen.

Rev. Elizabeth Bowyer reserves all rights © 2018.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.

Some aspects of this sermon were informed by:

Wishful Thinking, A Seeker’s ABC, Revised and Expanded, Harper One, 1993 by Frederick Buechner

“Living Generously: Relationships” Podcast by the Reverend Dr. Amy Butler at Riverside Church, New York City, November 3, 2014

“Wherever You May Go”, a sermon given by the Rev. Dr. Jeff Seaton, Trinity United Church, Vernon, November 4, 2012