Sermon for All Saints Sunday 1995
Saints = the Holy Ones of God, those who sought out God’s will in their lives. They didn’t just think about doing God’s will, or hope they did God’s will, nor wish they could do God’s will. They fought to do it, strived to do it, consciously and conscientiously struggled to do God’s will.
It was not a matter of just doing what they wanted to do anyway and then saying, “I hope this was God’s will.” NO! First and foremost they prayed, and studied God’s Word to understand the will of the Lord, and then they acted upon what they understood.
When we look at the icons around us, we are looking at some of the saints whom we honor today. I know there is a tendency to somehow think these people were different from us, that they spent their whole life as professional Christians and because of the Grace of God they never sinned nor made mistakes and so life was simple for them to become saints. This is a false image. These people are saints because they overcame their limitations, they overcame great obstacles and problems to follow the will of the Lord.
Consider a few of the people in the icons of our church:
St. Peter was a married man. He had all the problems that any husband has. St. Paul was a single male. His profession was a tentmaker – he was a skilled laborer, but he had to work hard and had to struggle with all the problems that any single person has to face. The Virgin Mary came from a very poor background, her husband was a carpenter. They had to face all the problems of the working class of their day. Our Lord himself was raised in a working class family. They faced all the pressures of any family. St. Nina was a slave, a women with no rank nor money and she too faced all the problems of a single women with no rights.
If we look around the church we know the occupation of some of the saints, there is a doctor in St. Luke, a fisherman in St. Peter and St. John (working class folks), and there are other married and single men and women, some poor some of the educated class who all aimed to serve God in their lives.
These my friends are the saints of God. May you and I be faithful enough to join them in the pursuit of God’s will in our own lives, in our jobs, in our families and in our homes and neighborhoods. For that is how we can best honor the Saints throughout the year is by imitating their lives and upholding their examples and their values in our daily lives.
Yes, there also are many mystical and ascetical saints in our church. Some of us are called to follow their examples as well. But my main contention to you is that you can take up your cross and follow Christ today in your life. The only thing you need to change is your heart and mind in repentance. All other circumstances, married or single, working class or middle class, etc, are simply means for you to honor the Lord.
And I would tell you to start your pursuit of holiness by prayer, first and foremost. Then by studying God’s Word to learn the will of the Lord our God. I especially encourage you to follow the Beatitudes, be humble, merciful, seeking righteousness, mourning, pure in heart and peacemakers. This is the way to holiness my friends.
A final note to you if you think about the Saints of America that we have recognized in our country, what do you notice that is different about them then the saints that I have mentioned from earlier times in Christian history?
Yes, all of them so far were “professional” Christians, clergymen and monks. I believe the one gift the American Orthodox Church is going to give back to Orthodoxy is the gift of hundreds of saints from the ranks of the laity, from you, from common people who struggle with doing God’s will in their homes, in their families, on their jobs. The true flowering and bearing of fruit in Orthodoxy in America will come when we again realize that the struggle to do God’s will is not the exclusive right of professional clergy, but is the call of each and every one of us, whether we be a father, mother, single, child, working class or filthy rich.
May the Holy Spirit indeed descend upon each of us and help us to realize our high calling in America.