Spread the Word…A Conversation With Saints
By the Rev. Liam Muller
Author’s note: What follows was my sermon for November 5, which was the day we at Trinity Rutland celebrated All Saints Day AND the day we kicked off our 2018 stewardship campaign. What do these things have to do with evangelism? Good question! Now see if you can determine the answer…
So there I was, sitting in my office pondering what I was going to preach about on this, the Sunday we’re celebrating All Saints Day. I was deeply entranced when out of nowhere a heavenly host of Saints appeared in my office. I was terrified. Me being me, however, I got past my fear and struck up a conversation. Nope: Not even being scared by a host of saints could shut me up. What follows is a somewhat reasonable facsimile of a transcript of our conversation:
ME: Wh-who are y-you and wh-what are you doing in m-my office?
SAINTS: W-we are the s-saints who’ve come b-before you!
M: Why are you talking like that?
S: We thought you wanted to…suit yourself.
M: So why have you chosen to visit me? And why are there so many of you? And how did you get here? And where did you come from? And…
S: Questions, questions. You always ask sooo many questions. (Pause…to the congregation) Episcopalians…am I right people?
M: Alright, alright: Why are you here?
S: Well, you were praying to the Holy Spirit for help this week, and she decided to send us here to help. Potentially, it may have also been because we were showing off the results of our recent yodeling lessons, though we doubt the two incidents are related.
M: Hmm, so what can you teach me about all those of you who have walked the Earth before us?
“You are not walking your journey alone, we—all of us and so, so many more—are walking with you.”
S: Well, the first thing we can teach you is fairly obvious, to us anyway, though you tend to forget this on a regular basis.
M: And that is…?
S: That you are not walking your journey alone, we—all of us and so, so many more—are walking with you.
M: Huh. We do speak of the communion of saints and we do celebrate saints’ days on Thursdays and All Saints Day. But I suppose that’s pretty far removed from being completely aware that you are always walking with us.
S: I know, right? And you also have this tendency to think that you all are the first people to have walked this path. You think that your problems are the worst problems ever; you think that you’re the first to have ever faced difficulty. What a joke! Have you even heard of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the war in Viet Nam or September 11th? My goodness, we survived the Great Depression and outbreaks of incurable diseases. For heaven’s sake, we made it through disco!
M: That’s all well and fine but our problems are different…
S: Oh, boo hoo. Your problems are different than ours. Cry me a river. Your problems are just like our problems and you can face them in the same way we faced ours.
M: And that was how exactly?
S: We faced them together, as one. We realized as you must now realize that we are so much stronger together than we are as individuals. We realized that if we all pulled together we could do anything. We realized that we owed it to you to do so.
M: You owed it to me?
S: Not you in particular but you as the members of the Body of Christ known as Trinity Church in Rutland. And not just the you now, but the you no one even knows: The you to come in future generations.
“We’re walking with you because we—all of us, including you—are working for the same exact purpose.”
M: But didn’t you say earlier that you were walking with us, right now, and that we need to be more aware of this?
S: Boy you’re thick, aren’t you? Yes, we’re walking with you because we—all of us, including you—are working for the same exact purpose.
M: Which is..?
S: Nothing less than the future of our beloved Trinity Church.
M: You sound like you’re making some kind of a stewardship pitch.
S: Well, duh! Everything about us was and is all about stewardship. That’s how it was long before us and that’s how it will always be. That’s why we did what we did throughout the history of this place and that’s what we’re calling on you to do as well.
M: How did you all go about being good stewards? What advice could you give us to not just maintain our parish, but to make it better than it was when we got here?
S: Finally, a good question! And here’s the answer: Love.
S: Love! Love is all you need. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done: All you need is love…
M: That sounds like a song.
S: There are no copyrights in heaven, dude. Anyway, you need to let everyone know that the secret to successful stewardship is love and that without love stewardship of anything is impossible, let alone something as important as our part in the Body of Christ.
M: And how does this love manifest itself?
S: Good question: You must be jelly, cause you’re on a roll. Anyway, this love can be manifested in many ways but here are three—and we bet even you know them…
M: Let me guess: Our time, our talent and our treasure. That sounds so cliché.
S: Well, yes it is a cliché but it also happens to be true. But remember what we said before: All three must be done with love. If you give of your time but you do so without love it will not be sustained. If you give of your talent but do so without love it will be just an empty gesture. And if you give of your treasure without love you will do the minimum, at best, or nothing at all.
M: Now this definitely sounds like a stewardship pitch.
S: Why? Because we mentioned money? Do you people really think you’re the first ones to face financial difficulties? Seriously? I remember during the Great Depression, when we wondered how we would ever make ends meet: both at home and here at church. And yet, even through all of that we made it. And do you want to know why?
S: Exactly! Even in our darkest days we maintained our love for those who will come after us. You, in other words, and all those who will come after you.
M: So it was and is your love of us and all those who will come after us that sustained you through those tough times. Huh. Can I ask you another question?
S: It’s your dime.
“We all became very aware of the fact that it was through our struggles that we were being blessed by God Almighty.”
M: How exactly did you come to convey to one another your love of Trinity Church?
S: Oh, that was easy. We all became very aware of the fact that it was through our struggles that we were being blessed by God Almighty.
M: Say what?
S: Do you even listen to what you read when you read the Gospel? Remember this from just a few minutes ago? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Believe you me; it wasn’t just our bank accounts that were poor in those days. Our spirits were fairly destitute. We didn’t know what our future would be nor if we even had a future. Times were tough, but we made it.
M: And you felt blessed in doing so. How amazing is that?
S: Not so amazing at all, really. We simply did what we had to do, just as you’re doing now.
M: Well, thanks for that. I just wish I knew that we’re on the right path; that we’re making the right decisions not just for ourselves but for those to come, Can you help me with that?
S: If we weren’t ethereal entities we’d probably smack you right upside the head. Of course we can help you. That’s what you prayed for, wasn’t it?
M: So how…
S: Patience grasshopper, we’re getting there. Let us turn the tables by asking you a question, hotshot. Do you have faith?
M: Well of course I do, how could you ask such a question. My whole life is predicated on living out my faith.
S: It doesn’t sound like it to us. After all, do you believe you are doing God’s will?
S: Do you believe you are doing what is best for this parish and these people?
M: You know I do.
“Have faith and believe in the power of God’s love to transform and renew God’s world.”
S: Then have faith and believe in the power of God’s love to transform and renew God’s world—even or especially the part of God’s world that is Rutland, Vermont. Also, and this is important, make sure to get the word out about the love that God Almighty has for the children of God—that has not and will not ever change.
M: So the answer to how you survived all of your travails is through love and faith. I get that and I think I know how to relay that.
S: Way to go! There’s just one more thing.
M: What’s that?
S: Make sure you tell them to be proactive. Tell them that no one ever gets through difficult times sitting around and doing nothing. When times get tough the only way to bring forth positive results is by being proactive. And while you’re at it, be positive about what you tell them. Give them hope. Encourage them. Believe in them. And know that we are walking with you all on this journey.
M: Thanks. Wow. You sure have given me a lot to think about—hey, what’s happening where are you going?
S: We have to return to heaven, we’ve spent way too much time already answering your questions.
M: Well, thank you so much you have been incredibly helpful. I will do what I can to get this message out.
S: So long for now, remember to keep up with your prayers, remember our presence and always trust in the love of God to help you whenever and wherever you need it. If there’s nothing else…
M: Well I have one more question on a completely different topic. Can you tell me…
S: No, we don’t know when the Mets will ever win another World Series. After all we’re saints not miracle workers.
And with that they departed, leaving with me my memories of the conversation and a renewed dedication to the furtherance of what they began.