Sunday, November 4, 2018

Father Riley's homily from November 4th, 2018

News for YOU:
...Pledge letters for 2019 have been mailed out.  If you have already responded--THANK YOU.  Please turn in your pledge for 2019 in time for Thanksgiving Sunday service, Nov 18th.  If you did not receive a pledge letter and wish to, please contact Mrs. Brenda Funderburg at

...The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays November 11th and 18th.  We will have Morning Prayer Sunday, November 25th.

...Our 2018 Thanksgiving Service will be at 10am Sunday November 18th. 

...The Tensas Community Thanksgiving service will be November 18th at First United Methodist at 5:30pm. 

...Saint Joseph Orchestra Chamber Christmas Concert will be in our church Sunday, December 16th at 3pm.  Please invite others to join us.
Today the church throughout the world celebrates All Saint’s Day and All Faithful Departed as transferred from Thursday and Friday. The collect for the day paints the wonderful image of God knitting all the faithful together.
What God uses to bring us together in one communion and fellowship is His Love. “Those who trust in him will understand truth, the author of Hebrews writes, “and the faithful will abide with him in love…”
Today we “sing a song of the saints of God,” to borrow from the first verse of Hymn # 293. We remember in our thoughts and prayers those who now rest from their earthly labors, as well as those we call saints who walk as yet by faith - the Church triumphant and the church militant.
What kind of person do you think of when you use the word ‘saint” to describe them? My grandmother, on my mother’s side always comes to my mind. She was like a second mother to me. I spent many a happy day with her in her home in Mississippi when I was child. I loved to go there.
She raised six children after having lost an infant daughter. She never held a paying job. Her work was making a home for her family, being a mother and a wife. I remember my mother telling me that she almost died one Christmas Day when her dress caught fire as she stood too close to an open fireplace warming herself.
Her hands, arms and face bore the scars from that day as did my grandfather’s hands that picked her up and carried her outside and rolled her in the snow to extinguish the flames. She never complained. I can still hear her singing hymns as she did her housework or prepared a meal.
If she had a vice it was her love of chewing gum. I can still see her taking off her shoes after her daily chores were done. Then she would sit down on the front porch swing and slowly glide back and forth on a warm summer afternoon and fan herself with one of those funeral home give-a ways.
I loved to sit and listen to her tell family history and how things were when she was growing up. I never heard her say a bad word about anyone. She was a faithful Christian who tired to live her life according to God’s commandments and would blush if she heard me refer to her as a saint. Grandmother was a friend of God and God was a friend of hers.
Too often we think of saints in terms of heroes and heroines of the early church, the ones we commemorate throughout the year on the church’s calendar; the ones who sacrificed much and in many cases gave their lives as a witness to their faith.
These are the early saints in the traditional sense of the word, the virgins and the martyrs. I like to refer to them as saints with a capitol “S. “ But as Hymn# 293 reminds us they were just ordinary people, some were “doctors, some were queens, and another was a shepherdess on the green.”
They were people you “can meet in school, in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, in shops, or at tea, as the song says. For the saints of God are just folk like you and me. It is hard to think of ourselves as such, even with a small “s.”   Besides the early church’s saints there are those we have all known. Some are living still.
They are members of our families, friends, and acquaintances. Those who have gone on to their greater reward. We take time to remember before God today. They continue to live in our hearts and our minds. We remember them in our prayers and they remember us before God.
We don’t see our selves in their company, yet we belong to this great cloud of witnesses and fellowship we call the communion of saints both living and departed. It is not that they all did anything extraordinary that admitted them into this fellowship, but because they all had one thing in common - their faith, love, and trust in God. That is what stood out, and stands out.
It made them and makes them who they are - saints of God. They weren’t perfect. Their lives and their faith were tested. Sometimes they questioned God. Their “saintliness,” however, manifested itself with a faith that never wavered and the love and grace of God that never failed them. They had and have an awareness that God is ever present to them and they strive to make themselves present to Him.
They never complained about life. They had and live with no regrets. They lived day in and day out in witness to their love and devotion to God. They were faithful to the church, said their prayers, praying for others as well as their own needs. They never hesitated to reach out to those in need, never shied away from opportunities to serve.
Their lives have and continue to have influence on our own. The world was and is a better place because they lived. “They loved their lord, and his love made them strong.”
St. John’s Revelation speaks of their home, our home in the New Jerusalem “where death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” Where by God’s grace we will one day be as they are, at home with God enjoying those ineffable joys and in the greater company of all the saints in light.
Can you imagine sitting down at table in the presence of the great heroes and heroines of the faith and with all those we have known and loved in this life that have gone on before us. Here the elect of God, the capitol “s” and the small “s” saints sit side by side in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of Christ our Lord.
We may not see ourselves as saints, or being worthy to be counted among their company, and we are not, but through the merits of Him who died and rose again, and our faithful response to God’s love, mercy and grace, we can as the hymn ends, “God helping, to be one too.”
On this day we give thanks for all the saints, those early saints and martyrs whose blood was the seed of the church. We give thanks for those we have known as well as those who walk among us still. We give thanks for their love, their witness to their faith, love and trust in God, and for their influence on our lives that has brought us to this place today. AMEN+

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