Growing as a Saint

2020-11-01 – All Saint’s Day – The Rev. Carrie Klukas 

Lord Jesus come among us broken and needy and set our hearts upon you so that we might rise up to be the saints of God who strive after the things of you. Help us to live transformed lives and make us new and remind us we are not alone. In your name we pray. Amen

Happy All Saints Day!! Today is a great high and holy feast in our church calendar. It is the day when we are supposed to be baptizing people into the church and welcoming people into the kingdom family. It is a day to remember that our church family is not just who we see around us but rather those who came before us. It is a day to be reminded that there is a huge church in heaven full of people who have run the race and finished their time on earth. It is a day to remember that the veil between heaven and earth is very thin. If we can get quiet enough and calm down our inner chatter we might be able to feel the cheering on of those who now reside in glory. We are not alone. 

All Saints Day is meant to be an incredible shot in the arm to encourage us to carry on with loving Jesus in this fallen and broken world. You can kinda think of it as a cheerleader Sunday in which we are to experience encouragement in keeping on loving God, serving others, and bringing others into the kingdom of God. Remember all of us who are on the way to Jesus are called to live lives that point to our Savior and live for the glory of God.  

Our scripture passages today speak words of promise, words of hope, and vision for how our lives as they are supposed to be lived. Let’s first turn to our Ephesians passage. Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus and reminding them of the promise they have been given in Christ Jesus, these words were written for all time and to those who call upon Jesus as Lord. He speaks of us receiving or obtaining an inheritance for a purpose of His will. In our day in age what is an inheritance? We typically think of this as a sum of money or things that can quickly be turned into money received in the event of someone dying. But in the Jewish context an inheritance was usually land that could not be gotten rid of. One did not turn it into cash but rather sought to maintain, improve, and build upon in order to give away to your closest relative. 

The basic inheritance that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the land of Canaan. All the time that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, this was the hope that kept them going: the hope that, whatever the turns and twists of the plot in the long-running story, God himself would eventually give them the ‘inheritance’: not a gift of cash, but the ideal land, the land flowing with milk and honey. In order to get this land they had to wander in wilderness and desert for 40 years following the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The presence of God led them to their inheritance and they trusted and believed that He would do so despite grumbling, complaining, and the occasional rebelling. So Paul is referencing back to this time in history. As often in his writings, he sees the church in the present age as doing again what Israel did in the desert: coming out of the slavery of sin through God’s great action in Jesus the Messiah, and on the way to the new promised land.

So what is our promised inheritance these days if it is not land in Israel? The answer that we often hear is that our inheritance is the gift of heaven. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read Pilgrim’s Progress I would encourage you to find a copy and read it. It shows the main character finally making his way along his great journey to his final destination of the place of heaven. All the twists, turns, failures, good choices, and bad choices eventually lead him to the place of heaven. His story is very similar to our story of difficulty, needing trust, and learning from our mistakes. 

Paul however in Ephesians today is talking about a very different inheritance. The inheritance he has in mind, so it appears from the present passage and the whole chapter, is the whole world, when it’s been renewed by a fresh act of God’s power and love. Paul has already said in verse 10 that God’s plan in the Messiah is to sum up everything in heaven and earth. God, after all, is the creator; he has no interest in leaving earth to rot and making do for all eternity with only one half of the original creation. God intends to flood the whole cosmos, heaven and earth together, with his presence and grace, and when that happens the new world that results, in which Jesus himself will be the central figure, is to be the ‘inheritance’ for which Jesus’ people are longing. In the restoration of the whole world your broken mind and body will be renewed and restored. You will not be left with your broken situation but rather made new. What a gift of hope!!!

The people who long for this coming of the Messiah to correct all that is wrong with the world and restore it become the signposts to the rest of the world that Jesus will come and right all that is wrong. Our lives, your lives are meant to be lived in such a way that people stop and see something completely different from the world. Our lives are supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit such that we become guides to follow. The spirit is to the Christian and the church what the cloud and fire were in the wilderness: the powerful, personal presence of the living God, holy and not to be taken lightly, leading and guiding the often muddled and rebellious people to their inheritance. On our own we lack this kind of incredible, merciful, grace-filled power in our lives. We often rely on our own strength or ability to think up a situation. We often pick the wrong responses and motives to live by. Without the intervention, wisdom, and guidance of the Holy Spirit we become lost and choose the wrong way to go. 

Jesus is longing to bring about the restoration of His kingdom in the lives of his followers. When you come into a saving relationship with Jesus you will see your sin for what it is and be set free to run after the things of the kingdom. Your sin keeps you from having freedom, joy, and godly direction. But Jesus is in the business of restoration and freeing of slaves. Your life can be filled with the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And if you are a parent, grandparent, friend, neighbor, or a human you can become a sort of Holy Spirit ninja that responds at the prompting of the Spirit to help, correct, encourage, or rescue. Once I heard the Lord say to get up and cross the room at my in-laws house and all of a sudden a child came tumbling down the stairs and into my arms. Had I not listened I am certain they would have sustained much more serious injuries. When you listen to the Holy Spirit your life will take on such a different sense of mission and awareness or readiness to serve. Your eyes become lifted out of your own situation to the needs of others. This has been a saving grace in my own life. This past year with two very intensive hemorrhaging miscarriages having the mission of caring for my family has moved me forward through fear, sadness, and heartache. The Holy Spirit can take our real lives and move us forward in mission,in love for others, and able to extend grace to those around us. 

The spirit is more than just a leader and guide. The spirit is actually part of the promised inheritance, because the spirit is God’s own presence, which in the new world will be fully and personally with us forever. The spirit marks us out, stamps us with God’s official seal, as the people in the present who are guaranteed to inherit God’s new world. The promise of this inheritance is meant to give praise to the glory of God. We are to live lives that praise God for His work, blessing, and mercy. Praise should ever be on our lips.  God has taken the initiative; God has done what was necessary, at great cost to himself, to buy us back from the slavery of sin; God has given us the spirit as a sign and foretaste of the whole renewed cosmos which awaits us as our inheritance. In this season of a pandemic I hope you are all taking time to sing out to Jesus in your cars, or at the kitchen sink, in your garden, in the shower, or anywhere else in your own personal space to give Him praise for you will not be disappointed. No matter the condition of your voice singing to Jesus can release a multitude of emotions like fear, anger, disappointment, envy, or depression. Giving the God-head praise can change your life or your perspective on it for the good.

The power of the Holy Spirit is one of the themes of Paul’s letter to Ephesus. Partly because he was speaking to a church that was located in a powerful and influential city. Ephesus was a major center of business, trade, and flow of the economy. The Christians there would have been surrounded by powerful people, powerful government, and worldly standards of the day, much like our lives due to all the technology we have of televisions, computers, smart phones, and social media. However for Paul, the greatest display of power the world had ever seen took place when God raised Jesus from the dead. Nobody had ever been raised bodily from the dead, before or since. 

This power of the creator God at once sets itself apart from, and establishes itself as superior to, all the ‘powers’ that people might ever come across. The risen Jesus, in fact, is now enthroned, on the basis of this power of God, over the whole cosmos. And at the centre of Paul’s prayer for the church in the area, which he now reports, is his longing that they will come to realize that this same power, the power seen at Easter and now vested in Jesus, is available to them for their daily use. 

Did you get that? You have the same gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had to raise Him from the dead to instruct your life. You have access to the same power that changed all of world history to decide how to live your life and how to love others around you. You have access to the same power to inform your life and live free. All Saints Day is about remembering the great multitude of people who have run the race here on earth and who now stand in glory seeing the Lord face to face without their earthly suffering. You do not have to figure out every aspect of your life alone. You can have a great counselor in the Holy Spirit. Are you struggling in your business? Come to the Lord. Are you struggling in your marriage? Come to the Lord. Are you frustrated with your parents or those in authority above you? Come to the Lord. Are you longing for your suffering to end? Come to the Lord. 

The Holy Spirit longs to give you wisdom and to enlighten your heart. Many of the things which God’s power achieves in us, such as putting secret sins to death and becoming people of prayer, remain hidden from the world and even, sometimes, from other Christians. The power of the Holy Spirit is often seen in the quiet places of our hearts and souls. We are to be the Saints here on earth who struggle along living our messy lives and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit to change us for the good. Living in a community bumped up against others allows us to see in someone change. We are always supposed to give one another the benefit of the doubt to be able to change. Christians here and in heaven are to cheer one another on to grow to the glory of God. You have in your clergy here an eternal hope that you might find and be found in Christ in such a way as to bring about beautiful change in your life. Perhaps you struggled with anger and the Holy Spirit works in your life to have you think before you speak and act. Perhaps you struggled in judgement and critical thinking of others and now you try to stop that line of thinking and extend grace first. Perhaps you struggled living in the boundaries that scripture has set before you and over time you grow more peaceful in submission. If you allow the Holy Spirit into your life you can experience so much more peace and wisdom that will help you in your daily life. 

How do we allow the Holy Spirit into our life? When we pray to Jesus we do not need to have any fancy prayers or eloquent words just the desire of our heart to be changed and simple words. The other day the kids and I were doing a devotion for school and in it a missionary was traveling the countryside and teaching people about Jesus. Most of the people he met had no education and wanted to know how to pray. He told them it was simple all they needed was five little words that could be remembered with one hand. The words are, Oh Lord, show me yourself. He taught them to pray this every day and God would reveal himself to them to show them what they should be doing with their lives. If you pray this everyday and read your Bible your eyes will be open and your heart will be enlightened that you might see more clearly the things that need to go in your life and the things that need to change for his glory to be seen. For we are all running a race set before us in which we need to set our eyes upon the Lord to give us wisdom and hope in the time to come. Jesus is the author and perfecter of your lives trust him to make you new and bring you peace. 

What does a Holy Spirit filled life look like? The beatitudes found in the gospel today point the way towards the characteristics of a Holy Spirit life. Jesus is not just giving advice but rather he is saying something different. These ‘blessings’, the ‘wonderful news’ that he’s announcing, are not saying ‘try hard to live like this.’ They are saying that people who already are like that will experience joy. As you know from experiencing life we are not always comforted and the hungry in this world are often not filled and those that seek justice often do not experience it. Jesus is saying that in His kingdom these things are beginning to come true. We see moments of God’s grace breaking through our broken world and lives in such a way as to turn up-side down the way that things often work in this life. In Jesus’ economy the meek not the powerful inherit the riches of grace. The mournful are comforted into a sense of peace. The pure in heart who guard themselves and seek out holy inputs into their life will get to see God, instead of the savvy worldly individuals. When people mock you and persecute you for not doing the same things they do, cling to Jesus for your comfort. Remember it is worth it to struggle against the things of this world.  

For those of us who strive and long after the kingdom you will find peace in your hard situations. You can experience victory over sin, wisdom in impossible situations, and hope when everything seems dark and scary. Jesus is the way to eternal life and He is the way to a more simple and peaceful existence. So it is my prayer today that you feel encouraged to run the race that is set before you. That you feel encouraged by all the saints to live a life for Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen 

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