Fr. Bill Carroll – All Saints Sunday, November 5, 2023
Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: When he appears, we will be like him.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, we celebrate the feast of all the saints. And we remember the “great multitude…from every nation” who have followed Jesus and become “the light of the world in their generation.” We thank God for the saints of this parish. We stand on their shoulders, as we strive to see Jesus and continue his mission today.
We remember those people, named and unnamed, who have shown us God’s love at work in the world. For that is what a saint really is–someone who lets God make us holy, and then shows God’s love to others. God calls us to let Jesus change us, until the world looks more like him. Today, we confess the victory of Jesus, who brings us “out of death into life.” And so, we imagine our ancestors in the Faith–alive in Jesus and set free from every bond.
One of the saints I’m remembering today is Father Jack Whitehouse. Jack was eighty-three years old when I met him. And he gave me an example of how to follow Jesus faithfully. Jack served as our interim rector, and then an assisting priest, in Tracey’s home parish He was a sergeant in the army during the Second World War. In fact, he was given the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation’s second highest military honor, for “intrepid actions, personal bravery, and zealous devotion to duty.” After he single-handedly charged one machine gun nest and took six German prisoners, Jack was shot in the face at close range, while he captured another.
When he came back from Europe, he was a changed man. He was already a Christian, but he rededicated his life to Jesus and his love. Having witnessed the evils of fascism, Jack wanted to do whatever was the opposite. And so, he enlisted in full-time Christian service.
When he was a young parish priest in Chicago, in order to feed his large family, Jack unloaded bags at O’Hare. In the 1960’s, while he was serving a church on the city’s west side, God called him to establish a choir school for neighborhood children. The children were mostly Black. Jack’s Vestry was opposed to the plan. So he swapped parishes with a neighboring rector and told the Bishop the next day.
Jack died in 2014. I thought about him the other day, when I reread some words from Bishop Michael Curry.
We need some Christians (our Presiding Bishop wrote) who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, [and] walk humbly with [our] God (like Jesus). [We need some Christians who are] crazy enough to dare to change the world…
Today, we hear from the Sermon on the Mount. Some have compared this sermon to an inaugural address. In it, Jesus is laying out the agenda of God’s Kingdom.
He begins his sermon with the beatitudes. It’s important to remember that the beatitudes are not commandments for us to obey, so much as they are blessings for us to get in on. Jesus is blessing those who are seldom blessed in this world. Like the prophets before him, he is speaking God’s creative Word–and thereby bringing about God’s New Reality.
Blessed are the poor (he says). Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. (Blessed indeed are those who work and suffer for peace in a world filled with violence. And blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled for their faith–and for loving other people.
Jesus is preaching Good News for any of us who have ever found ourselves on the outside looking in. He is announcing God’s blessings for little children and those who have no helper. He is telling us all that God’s love has broken out among us, so that we can never be the same.
Today is our Stewardship Ingathering Sunday. And so, we are offering our financial pledges to further God’s mission in the world. Every single week, we offer up the bread and the wine, gifts of food to feed the hungry, and our monetary gifts. These are signs of our commitment to “work, pray, and give for the spread of the Kingdom of God.”
This year, our Stewardship Committee chose the theme, “Come, labor on–sharing God’s love at Trinity.” As Jesus once said, “Others have labored and [we] have entered into their labor.” This church and all of our ministries exist because of the faithfulness of past generations. With the arrival of Mother Vivian and Rachel White, we are embracing a vision that puts Christian formation for all at the center–and sharing the Good News of Jesus with our children and youth as our single, highest priority.
With leadership from our Vestry and many other lay members of this parish, we are also enhancing our ministries of worship, fellowship, pastoral care, and outreach. Many of you have already made a prayerful commitment to God’s mission at Trinity. The committee will be reaching out to thank you personally. And I would like, in God’s Name, to join my thanks to theirs.
We are asking everyone to pray about what part we might play. As Tracey and I considered our pledges to the two churches we serve, we were blessed to be able to increase our giving significantly, thanks to a second job she got. As we prayed for God’s guidance, we sought to give in ways that reflect God’s many blessings, and put God first in our lives.
We can all see what is going on in our world today. There is too much self-centered behavior, too much violence, and far too many divisions. Too often, love and human decency and truth-telling are in short supply today. And so, like our old friend, Fr. Jack, we want to do all we can to spread the Good News of Jesus.
For what the world needs now are some “crazy Christians.” Christians who are as crazy as Jesus. Crazy enough to love like him, give like him, and forgive like him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now…and, when he appears, we will be like him.