Luke 6: 20-31
Do you know any saints? Anybody? Do you know any? I sometimes think of my parents. They were saints. Not because they were perfect. They weren’t. And not because they had to put up with me when I was growing up as a child. My mother had stories she could tell. Could tell and did tell.
Well, both of my parents are gone now. But both of them are saints. And you know why I can say that? Because they were both people of faith.
Today we celebrate All Saints Day. This is a day that the church has celebrated for centuries. Now the actual date is November the 1st, but since this is the first weekend after that date, we celebrate it today.
On the one hand, it is a day in which we honor and remember the departed saints – those who have gone on before us. And in just a little while, during communion, we will project onto the front wall up here the names of all those among us who have departed this life in the last 12 months. Their names are printed in your Mission Minutes as well.
But I want to suggest to you that today is a good day to remember – not just those who have gone home to be with the Lord in the past 12 months – but also anyone who has been an impact Christian – an impact saint – in your life. And to that end, it is a day to celebrate the lives of all the saints who have impacted our lives – whether living or dead.
Now I know that some of you come from other faith traditions that hold that the saints are those who led exemplary, sacrificial Christian lives – and that a saint is someone whom the church has declared to be a saint. And that’s okay. That’s okay.
But just so you know – in the tradition of the Lutheran Church, we declare that all Christians – all the baptized – can rightly be called the saints of God. And our model for doing so is from the Scriptures themselves.
When the Apostle Paul wrote letters to various churches, he would often say, “To the saints who are at Philippi,” or “to the saints or at Colossae.” Or he would put it this, way, “To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints…”
By the way – the word saint comes from the Latin word “Sanctus,” which means holy. At the beginning of our worship service – at the confession and forgiveness – you heard that your sins are forgiven. What happens to your sins when you are forgiven? They’re gone, right? They’re gone! And when are sins are gone we are – what? Holy, right? So how many holy people do we have in this room? And if you are holy, that makes you a – what? Saint! That’s right! So how many saints do we have in this room? Yeah – every hand ought to go up.
So you dear friend – are a saint. Whether you feel like one or not. And even though we use this to remember the saints among us and those who have gone before us – it really is a day that honors God because He is the One who declares that you are a saint. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – a life, death and resurrection into which you are baptized – you are a saint. You didn’t earn it. You aren’t a saint because you’re a really, really, really good person. No. You are a saint because of what Christ has done for you.
So today we remember the saints, but we honor and give thanks to God.
So my parents were saints. They impacted my life and shared their faith with me. And I could say the same thing about all four of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, Sunday School teachers, and pastors. They were all saints. They taught me. They shared their faith with me. They were saints who had an impact on my life.
In the book of Acts, we read about a disciple whose name was Joseph. But the disciples gave him the nickname of Barnabas which in the Hebrew language means “Son of Encouragement.” He was given this name because he was a man who was generous – he served others – and who – well – he encouraged others to remain faithful.
Now don’t let your minds wander away too far, but I just want you to think about this. Who is your Barnabas? Who are the saints who have made or are making a difference in your life? Who is that impact person – your impact saint – who told you about Jesus – who encouraged you in your walk with the Lord? I am sure that there is more than one. I hope and I trust and I pray that you will offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for those people in your lives, and if you still have the opportunity – to tell them thank you for impacting your life in the name of Jesus Christ.
And then, we also read in the Book of Acts about a young man named Timothy. Two books in the New Testament bear his name. I and II Timothy. Yeah, I know. Reall origina, right! Timothy was introduced to the Christian faith through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. And all through the Scriptures – as you read through the books of I and II Timothy – you find that Paul is mentoring young Timothy in the faith – and in the position of leadership in the church.
Let me ask you. Who is your Timothy? Who is it that you are mentoring? Who are you talking to about Jesus? Who are you encouraging?
We all have a Barnabas in our lives. And we all have a Timothy. If you are a person of faith – then you have had at least one Barnabas – and probably more. If you are a person of faith – it is my hope that you have at least one Timothy – and hopefully more.
You see – as a disciple of Jesus Christ – as one of God’s own saints – you cannot help but be a person of influence. You cannot not be a person of influence. One way or the other.
Next weekend is our Consecration Weekend celebration. You’re going to have an opportunity to show that you are a person of influence. For those of you who are new to the church, Consecration Weekend is a once-a-year event when we consecrate a portion of the financial resources that God has given to us – in the form of a pledge – for the work of the Lord here in this place for the coming year.
And we do this for a lot of reasons, but I’ll just mention three today. More than anything else, it is a way of saying “Thank you,” to the Lord for all that the Lord has done for you – and for the blessings that He has given you.
Number two is that – well – I firmly believe that the Christian just has a need to give. If you don’t feel this need – if you’re giving nothing – I’d like to check your pulse. One of the marks of discipleship that we practice around here – one of the marks of a saint – is that we give to the work of the Lord from our financial resources. We do this not because we have to, but because we want to. We are saints – and saints just feel this internal need to give to something good.
And that need to give leads to the third reason. When you fulfill that need to give – you become an impact person – an impact saint. As a person of impact you are making a difference in the Timothy’s in your life.
A number of years ago I said that a saint is a person who belongs, believes, and becomes. I thought it was time that I remind you of that. We not only belong to the church, but we believe in the Lord of the church. His name is Jesus Christ.
And then a saint is someone who is becoming. We are always becoming the person that God wants us to be. It is something that we are all called to be. You – are called – to be – a saint!
And that’s more than a title – like St. Paul or St. Ann – or even St. Randy! No. It is a way of life. It is a way of living.
So during the coming week, I want you to think about what your financial commitment to the work of the Lord here in this place in the year 2017 will be. If you’re a part of a family – talk about it – pray about it as a family – and then come here next weekend ready to make that commitment.
Because that’s what saints do. Remember the Barnabas’s in your life. And do this as a way of giving thanks to God for them. Think about the Timothy’s in your life. What kind of an impact will you make on them?
Last weekend nineteen 15 and 16 year olds were confirmed here. We have 150+ children between the ages of 3 and 18 registered in our Sunday School. Listen! Our Sunday school classes are full! We’ve got Spark! We’ve got Ignite! We’ve got Refuel! And if you don’t know what those are – they are weekly and monthly ministries to those same kids between ages 3 and 18. This weekend we celebrated with our 3rd graders the milestone of receiving their first Bibles. You contributions helped pay for those Bibles! Your gifts – your financial gifts – make these ministries to children and youth possible.
We have ministries to our retired folks, Pastor Becca is in process of starting a ministry targeting young adults. We have a men’s ministry and a newly formed women’s ministry called Women on Wednesday or WOW. Those are just some of the things happening here.
Then when you throw in mission support to Haiti – the food pantry at Resurrection Lutheran in the inner city of Buffalo – Lutheran Charities – World Hunger – Disaster Relief – the work of the broader church of the ELCA – the church body that we are a part of. And how could I forget Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center – LCLC – affectionately known as Zion South around here. We send a lot of our youth there every summer – and they come back and can’t wait to go back the next summer. LCLC is a faith building place. So when you give – what you’re doing – is investing in what God is doing in and through this place – right here – AND beyond our four walls.
Ultimately, it’s an issue of trust. Trusting God with your finances, and your church to use those gifts wisely.
We’ve learned a lot about trust issues through this presidential campaign, haven’t we! Can we trust this candidate or that candidate to be honest – to be a person of respect and integrity? Can we trust these candidates with our social programs – the economy – national defense – and all those other things that our president is responsible for? It’s a matter of trust, isn’t it! By the way – no matter what the results of Tuesday’s election turns out to be – we’re going to be all right.
Well, let me start a campaign today. No – not for me. I’m not running for anything. I am here today to campaign for God. I want you to vote for God. When you give financial gifts to the work of the Lord here at Zion – you’re casting a vote for God. You’re investing in what the Lord is doing in and through this place.
Again – ultimately it’s an issue of trust. I am asking you to trust God to provide for you even as you give to what God is doing in and through this place.
That’s what saints do. That’s who saints are. I firmly believe that you want to be a person of impact – acting as a Barnabas – making a difference in the lives of so many Timothy’s.
Hey! We’re all in this together. We are partners in this great ministry together. And that’s why you’ll never hear me get tired of saying – that we are, “Touching hearts. Changing lives. Making a difference. In the name of Jesus Christ.”