Sunday, November 6, 2011

All Saints Sunday

Today we celebrate All Saints day.  The day we remember the lives of the saints and martyrs who have gone before us.  A day in which we are reminded that we are connected to a timeless group of people who have shared their love of God and life of faith to transform our world.  We are reminded that not all saints are St. Teresa’s or St. Paul’s.  Some are doctors, some are soldiers, and some are even priests.  We meet them in schools, and shops, and streets, and sometimes even in church.  Saints are people like you and me.

Jerry was a frumpy looking man.  He always had a smile on his face, a boisterous voice that always had a “how ‘r you?” for everyone he met, he never failed to tip his cap to the ladies.  Jerry spent most of his life in a state hospital because of his broken mind and broken body.  His last ten years were spent in a home in a small farming town in central California.  During those years, Jerry was able to live the life he was called to.  From his front porch, he changed a rushed and crazy morning into one of joy and hope.  He was able to stroll around the neighborhood and chat with his neighbors and pet their dogs (they were all Daisy).   Jerry was even able to have his own dog, his own room, and know each day that his cap would be right where he placed before retiring the previous night.  In those ten years Jerry was a beacon of joy, of hope, and of love.  Oh he was still in a broken body and had a broken mind, but he changed lives and hearts with his lust for life.  Sadly Jerry was taken too soon.  His broken body broke even more as cancer ate away at him.  Yet even in his pain, he called “how ‘r you?” to everyone who passed his hospital room.  Until the very end, he never knew a stranger, had a beatific toothless grin for all he met, and never had a truly bad day.  Jerry was called to new life.  His body is broken no more.  Some where he is sitting on a porch with his dog Daisy, tipping his cap to the ladies, and wishing all a good day.  He has been called to new life. 

Hope was the result of a one night stand in a time that didn’t happen.  She spent her early years dodging the hits from her mom and the unwanted advances of her “uncles.”  By the time she was 13 she was using heroin and drinking whatever came her way.  She used her body to support the habits that allowed her to escape her reality.  By the time she was 16 she was passed from guy to guy in her adopted family, the San Francisco chapter of the Hell’s Angels.   She cooked for her man of the month, kept his apartment in the government housing complex relatively clean, and dreamed of leaving the dreary, dreamless place for something more.  She met a preacher man who she thought had pretty words and a pretty smile.  He looked past her body, aged beyond her years from the brokenness of her life.  He shared about this Jesus guy who supposedly was a way out.  A guy she knew who would never have time for her.  A life changing weekend resulted in her man being arrested for murder.  In fact the entire gang was arrested.  She was left homeless and addicted to things she could no longer trade for.  She remembered that pretty preacher man and tracked him down.  He helped her get clean and sober.  Now she spends her days walking the streets of the Tenderloin sharing about that guy Jesus to hookers, junkies, and the homeless.  She now has a pretty smile and pretty words.  Hope has been called to new life.  She was transformed by that Jesus guy who is her one true love.  The only one who never lets her down and loves her even when she feels unlovable. 

Frank was a poor farm boy who worked hard to become a success.  He sacrificed time with his family to become a financial success and provide for them in material ways he had only dreamed of.  They had the nicest of houses, cars, and all the latest toys.  They did all the expected things, including attending and giving generously to their neighborhood Episcopal Church.  Frank ended up an alcoholic who no longer knew his wife or children.  Unable to get a grasp on unrelenting headaches, he finally made an appointment to see his doctor.  He thought some medication would take care of the problem.  Instead he went through a battery of tests and was asked to return to the doctor’s office with his wife.  During that visit Frank was given a death sentence.  He had brain cancer and was expected to live 3 to 6 months.  He needed to put his life in order and begin saying goodbye to his family and friends.  The following Sunday at church frank’s wife shared their news with a friend.  This friend had seen the transforming power of Jesus and asked Mick if they could lay hands on Frank.  She was able to talk frank into giving it a try.  After church a group of those radical charismaniacs laid hands on Frank and Mick.  They prayed for strength and for comfort and for peace.  Frank felt really warm and a feeling he had never experienced before came over him.  He knew suddenly that everything would be fine.  He returned the following week to the doctor for one final round of tests before surgery.  After the tests frank was asked to return to the doctor’s office with Mick.  The doctor said he didn’t know what had happened, but the cancer was gone.  He showed them the tests.  The first scan showed a huge mass, the second, nothing.  Frank had been healed, called into new life.  He was so grateful that he let himself be talked into attending Cursillo.  It was at Cursillo frank first heard a call to ordained ministry.  He sold his business, spent time getting to know his wife and children, and became a priest.  At 65 years of age he began ministering to business men who had hit bottom in a bottle and showed them how to find a way out of it.  In the next 20 years frank touched the lives of others and was God’s agent of transformation.  He finally “retired” two years ago.  He now lives in Florida where he shares every chance he gets about being called from death into life.  Today, he remains cancer free.

Each of these folks is a saint.  They may not be celebrated on any church calendar, yet they each modeled Jesus’ call from death to new life.  They responded to the love of Christ by helping call others from death into new life.  Not one of them is known by many and yet they have touched many lives by their call to share Christ’s love with others. 

In a little while, we will come to the table with a timeless prayer of remembrance.  As we do may we let Jesus call us again into new life as we remember those saints who have touched our lives.  May we remember that we too called to be saints.

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