November 1, 2020: All Saints Sunday – Celebrating Our Saints
Seed Sowers: Aged Sages to Us Now Surround
Scripture: Luke 8:4-15
- Prelude – “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” arr. by Hugh S. Livingston, Jr.; Pauline Olsen, organist
- Welcome – Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 712 – “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,” by Lesbia Scott; Dr. Jerry Wright, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Special Music -: Medley – “Something About That Name,” by Bill & Gloria Gaither, and “In the Garden,” by C. Austin Miles; Ken Lilligore, accordion
- Scripture – Luke 8: 4-15; Deacon Kathleen Charters
- Sermon – “Seed Sowers: Aged Sages to Us Now Surround,” Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 711 – “For All the Saints,” by William W. How; Dr. Jerry Wright, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Postlude – “Agnus Dei,” by Gabriel Faure, arr. by Joseph Prentiss; Pauline Olsen, organist
Note: “the table of light” refers to the altar in the sanctuary set up with 12 candles and 12 pictures of the saints of Trinity who died this past year. Those saints are: Joanne Branham • Anna Bush • Ines Cole • Lillian Elliott • Fred Gilchrist • Janice Kaler • Berneita Miles • Jean Morse • Bobby Oldenkamp • Dorothy Shreffler Ernie Snyder • James White
In as much as it may be the fall, and so many things around us are going into hibernation mode. Even the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. And, this is a time when we talk about harvest as crops like pumpkins ripen and the lavender was harvested long ago. This isn’t a time we talk about planting seeds or nourishing soil or even cultivating the soil. I mean, come on pastor, it’s not spring, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner.
I know, but as I look at this table of light, and think about the way these sages chose to live, I can’t help but think of planting, nourishing, and even cultivating. And by the way, right here I am constantly reminded that it is a part of who we are. Think about it. As any of us drive around our area we are constantly reminded that we live in a place of deep and rich agriculture; of barns and silos, of fields and crops, of arboreal forests and huge mountains; of abundant water and incredible wildlife, of the rhythms of life and light and beauty. It’s one of the things that sets us apart as a church – we take it all in and seek to share it in all of its splendor.
But let’s remember that we share this place, this church because someone, somewhere invited us to be planted here. There are those here who taught us, encouraged us, supported us, challenged us, and even lifted us up. A few of those are represented here, on this table.
They have entered into that great cloud of witnesses, yet in no way are they forgotten. In life, they offered an abundance of gifts, and now they offer us one more, the chance to celebrate and remember them. There is more, but we’ll get there in just a minute. Friends, these are aged sages. They may not have biblical renown, but they are sages none-the-less. Yes, it’s All Saints Sunday and to get where we need to go, I want to explore a few who have planted seeds and created growth in us. First, I want to talk about Jesus.
Jesus lived in a time of abundant and yet risky agriculture. Galilee had all the potential to be a rich and beautiful and perfect location for the growth of crops. At the same time, it was among the most risky areas when it came to that growth and those crops. Overwhelming heat coming out of the East could easily destroy what crops there were. Torrential rains could come off of the Great Sea and wash away what soil there was. The conditions of the soil often required patience, faith, and even nourishment. The farmers knew what they had, they knew the risks and the potential rewards, and so invested all they had in trying to produce all they could. They utilized every available soil, no matter its condition, with the simple trust and abundant hope that the seeds they planted would take root and grow.
Jesus understood all of this and utilized it as a consistent example and metaphor. He looked at the birds and the lilies, the mustard plant, and the fields in which they grew. He talked of soils and seeds, sowers and reapers, and like so many other parts of our scriptures, his use of all of it works as well today as it did back then.
As we look at the candles here on the altar, as we remember those who have gone before us, I think of the seeds they planted, the nourishment they provided, the light and warmth they exuded, and the precious fruit they helped produce. These twelve beautiful creations of God represent an immense amount of influence on an abundance of lives.
They have been among the seed planters of our lives. They have been sowers, cultivators, and even, in some cases, pruners. They have been examples and mentors, some in huge ways, and others were more subtle. Each caused those around them to grow. Each had their own way of doing that. Each utilized the gifts they had so that others might realize the gifts they had. But that’s not all.
Each saw themselves in the line of humanity, a part of a lineage; individuals who had been influenced, cultivated, and nurtured by those who came before them. Each chose to pass on the best of what they had learned, and there were times when each of them failed at what they sought to do. Yet even then, they taught; taught how to deal with every aspect of life. Each was a gift shared, a light offered, hope gained, hope given, and each with gifts that were hopefully and lovingly received.
Take a moment to look at their faces. Look into their eyes. Look at the smiles. Look at the lines in each of those faces; lines earned in the living of life every day. Think about the ways they served, the way they lived, and think about those around them whose lives became better because of each of them. Some of those affected are watching today. Some of you came and celebrated them yesterday. These lives are what we celebrate today. And like so many other elements I’ve dealt with throughout this series of sermons, each was aged sages of renown…each in their own way.
These pictures need to remind us that we, each of us, play both roles; of those giving ourselves and those receiving love and grace and hope into ourselves; of creating growth in others and receiving growth in our own souls; of growing and offering growth. Here’s what I mean.
We will celebrate my mom’s 95th birthday tomorrow. She continues to be an aged sage for me. It wasn’t just me, or even just my siblings. She has been a mom, a sage, and a voice for so many others, hundreds and hundreds of others. She chose, after a very challenging early life, to be a person who cultivated positive change. She made choices in her life that the challenging soil that was her life would be rebuilt, and re-nourished and become something that would cultivate growth, and health, and beauty; not just in herself, but in every life that came in contact with hers. She became the most positive, most influential, most inspiring, and yet continues to be the most humble person I’ve ever known. And as she would say, all because of simply the choices she made in her life. She is the most significant influence I’ve ever had, and no, she’s not gone, but I wanted to share that with you this morning. Why? Because, like those represented on this table, we all have those in our lives that have created something in us. Yet it can’t stop there. Each of us chooses, pretty much every moment of every day; to nurture or to tear down, to plant or to tear out, to create growth and health and love and care, or to do the opposite. So, what do you choose?
So today I need to ask you to consider something. I want to remind you that our day will come when it’s our picture that will sit on a table like this one. Our day will come when a sanctuary somewhere will open up for those we’ve influenced; who will come and spend time thinking about who and what and how we were. My question is: what do you want those closest to you saying on that day? Honestly, what do you hope they will remember? What do you hope they will talk about passing on to the next generation? In that crowd that day could be your children, your friends, those with whom you spent time, your business associates, your Rotary or Kiwanis or Lion’s club members, people at church, your siblings, or neighbors, your loved ones or friends. What will they be saying, and is it different than what you would want them saying? What do you need to do now, today, tomorrow, this week or next that will change that narrative?
If it’s different than what you would hope, then we have work to do, and this Sun-day reminds us of that work.
These candles remind us that now it’s up to us…absolutely, unapologetically, intentionally, and with deep responsibility, up to us. We are now influencers. So, how and who and toward what are we influencing others? My prayer is that in as much as this table helps us celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us, that it also will inspire us to live our lives in ways that nurture and love every person with whom we come in contact; that we can see our- selves as those who are next up as cultivators and planters; of healers and peace-bringers, of knowing that the choices we make will have influence, no matter what the choice may be. So, we covenant today to make sure that in everything we do, that Jesus is the aged sage we seek to follow. But he is not alone.
Alongside him are those like my mom who have been the positive, healthy, light-giving, loving influencers of our lives. It’s our turn. It’s our turn… Amen.