Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
During the month of November, we will be switching gears a bit from difficult questions to talking about balancing our lives. We will be talking about what is enough for us and where our generosity comes from. You may recognize this as the launch of our stewardship campaign and you would be right although we are hoping that it is more than just talking about money and the church. We will be looking at money and our lives during November.
We begin this series by talking about the generous saints in our lives. These are the people who have gone before us who have modeled generosity, love, grace, and a deep connection to God throughout their lives. In the church worldwide, this Sunday is known as All Saints Day to take a moment and reflect on the people who have paved a way for us.
When I think about the people I would call “saint” in my life, I think about how they probably would not have called themselves saint while still walking with us. I think of people in my life who exuded a passion to love people and people who didn’t have it right all of the time but still lived life fully. I think about people in my life who were generous with time, energy and their money. None of the saints in my mind were stingy with anything. These are people that went the extra mile to have a deep conversation, or help people move without being asked, or made the meal for the family that needed it or who gave to organizations that helped them keep balance. It was never a discussion about how much they “should” give in time, effort or money but it was how they lived what it all meant to them. The world is better because I got to interact with these people and saw how day to day generosity happened.
Our Revelation passage is an interesting commentary on what the church could be like. In this commentary to the church, we see that Jesus is still roaming around with us even though he is exalted mightily. Jesus promises the church that the world will be better and tears will be wiped away. There will be a new world that comes from God. We are promised that what makes God’s people holy and saintlike is because God is present with us. We are holy and have the potential to live fully because God is incarnate with us and dwells with God’s people. What a fantastic promise! Death is not the last word.
How appropriate then that our Gospel lesson tells us that death is not the last word for Lazarus. He comes back to life out of the cave and out of despair. There is complicated human relationship at play and no one is perfect but this man lives on because of his relationship with Jesus. These two passages shape how we understand death and how we recognize those who have gone on before us. Death isn’t the last word. God’s presence is the last word. Those that live on in memory and the lasting impression of their life, win out. Love wins. Grace wins. Generosity certainly leaves a mark. Today we recognize those generous saints before us.
Quotes for the Week “[Saint Anthony] said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
“In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints.” – Frederick Buechner
“Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”- Dorothy Day
Revelation 21:1-6a (NRSV)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
John 11:32-44 (NRSV)
When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Questions for the Week
Who have been the saints in your life?
What makes a saint a saint?
Where do you try to be generous in your life?