Living Testimony

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A homily preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli at Foundry United Methodist Church November 6, 2016, All Saints Sunday.

Text:  Rev. 7:9-17 


The vision we have just received from Revelation is of those who remained faithful in the face of persecution—who have lived through and “come out of the great ordeal.”  Now they live in the light, love, and care of the Lamb of God, Jesus.  This vision is a reflection of what Jesus promises in the Beatitudes:  namely that “those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” will enter the kin-dom of heaven— that kin-dom in which the Lamb of God, Jesus, sits on the throne, and in which there is no more hunger…no more getting burned for carrying the light, no more thirst for righteousness—because the Lamb is also the shepherd, guiding the blessed faithful to springs of the water of life.  And, as it says so powerfully in verse 17:  “and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”


Friends, through the ages there are many we call saints, official and unofficial, living and dead.  These are folks who persevered through trial and tribulation and didn’t lose their faith, who continued to love and hope even in the face of challenge and violence and outright evil.  Those who sat down because they were tired…Those who stood up because they were tired…Those who spoke out because they were tired…Those who acted up because they were tired…Because they were tired of 2nd class citizenship, tired of being denied their own humanity, tired of having to hide and pretend and be careful and fearful—even for their very lives.  And some were tired of living in a world that not only allowed, but systematically and institutionally fed and approved oppression.  Some of these saints we could name—famous ones like Mother Teresa and Sojourner Truth and lesser known ones like Sandra Bland and Greg Dell.  Thousands of others are known only to God.  Those we could name have done extraordinary things, putting their very lives on the line for the sake of others, for the sake of justice, for the sake of the Gospel.  Some have accomplished great feats of thought or ministry that have furthered God’s reign of peace on earth.


Still other saints of God persevered in their faith in different and perhaps more quiet ways. They have hung in there and been willing to do the hard thing for a loved one caught in the snares of addiction.  Some have sacrificed much of their own lives to care for mentally or physically ill partners, children, or parents.  Some have delivered meals, visited the sick and lonely, shared words of love and comfort with those who truly needed it, offered healing hands and prayers to the suffering, been on-call to fix things for those who needed help, and a myriad other acts of loving service.  Some have suffered debilitating illness, persevering with grace and good humor. Some have persevered with dignity and strength in the midst of poverty and neglect. Some saints have spent their lives in prayer.  Some saints have prayerfully and lovingly shared not only their lives but their resources, making sacrificial gifts to further God’s kin-dom of peace and love on earth. 


In all the forms their lives take, saints, past and present, live their hope and their faith.  They act with courage in the face of prejudice and fear and despair and cynicism and apathy and self-interest—those things in human life that can so easily get the better of us.  The saints are a testimony to God’s presence and power and love and justice and grace.  In the face of all that would do them harm, the saints of God stand firm in their faith and in their hope that God’s future WILL come to pass.  It’s not that they never doubt or struggle; but they hold on and ultimately they keep the faith. They not only believe, but act out their faith and Jesus promises that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


On this day, we give thanks for the saints who have gone before and whose example and courage and love inspire and challenge us.  We give thanks for the saints of God we have been blessed to know and whom we see no more, for all the ways that they continue to walk with us and give us strength.  We give thanks for those around us who stand as living testimonies to the goodness and love and glory of God, whose witness gives us courage and inspiration to stand firm and to persevere with faith, hope, and love. //  But we miss the point if we leave here thinking that this day is only about some extraordinary persons.  Saints—regular people like you and me—show us that we can follow in their footsteps and live our faith in concrete acts of love and care.   We are ALL called to be living testimonies to the God who loves us so much that we are called children of God, sisters and brothers of Jesus who came into the world as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.  In the face of the trials and struggles of this world you are called to be a living testimony to the hope that you have been given as a gift in Christ Jesus.  The promise is that, as you stand firm in faith, hope, and love, you’ll be in very good company.