Bulletin: 11-6 Bulletin
Sermon: 11-6 Sermon
What is a Saint?
November 6, 2016
Rev. David Goode
See selected readings found at the end of this sermon.
Today is All Saints Sunday. It is a day to remember those in our family and in our church family who have died in the past year. The Bible has a lot to say about the saints. Not the New Orleans Saints, but the saints in heaven and the saints on earth.
What is a saint? The definition of a saint has changed over the years, so let me start by giving a brief history. In the first three hundred years of the church, a saint was someone who died for Christ’s sake, the martyrs of the church. St. Ignatius said that the “blood of the martyrs were the seeds of the church.” Therefore, to qualify for sainthood in the first three hundred years of the church, you had to die for Jesus’ sake. Christians died by lions in the coliseum, by being burned at the stake or crucified. That was how you became a saint.
Then, things changed around the year 313. In 313 AD, Constantine became emperor of the Roman Empire and he made it a law that everybody had to be a Christian. It was not that Constantine was religious; but he was a smart politician and was using Christianity to be the glue which held his empire together. So, what was a saint now? A saint was a famous person who died and the Roman Catholic Church said that they were now a saint. The church built a chapel in honor of that saint and you could go into that chapel and pray to that saint. These saints would then have a talk with God up in heaven, because they believed that the saints had God’s ear. This was an important part of the medieval Christian religion. For around thirteen hundred years, saints were the dead religious heroes who were up in heaven, who heard our prayers and then talked them over with God.
Then the Reformation came, which we celebrated last week. Martin Luther and all the other reformers did not like the idea of praying to and through the saints. The new idea was that we do not have to talk to a saint who would then talk with God on our behalf. The Reformation taught that we could pray directly to God, without a saint, without a priest and even without the church. Therefore, during the Reformation, the meaning of a saint changes again. Christians began to refer to loved ones who had died as saints.
Well, about a hundred years ago, things began to change again in the church. They started making lists of people who died in the past year and published those names in the bulletin, as we have in our morning bulletin. A saint then is a person in the congregation who died this past year.
However, do you need to be dead to be a saint? No. When we were putting together the bulletin this week, our church office administrator Kaliane asked me “what is a saint?” Saints are people of great holiness, virtue and benevolence. Saints are good, kind, and patient. Saints are people who live with unbearable circumstances, or with people who are miserable to live with. We have considered two thousand years of history of the word saint.
Now let us look at what the Bible has to say about saints. We read several of the passages in the Bible that talks about saints. The word, saint it seems, is never singular – It is always plural. The word, “saints” means “God’s holy ones”. We are God’s holy people.
The first scripture verse in our reading this morning says: As for the saints in the land, they are excellent in God’s sight. God’s greatest pleasure is to be with them. (Psalm 16:3). My greatest pleasure is to be with my wife, family, friends, and church family. They like me. They love me. They enjoy being with me. I like them, I love them and I enjoy being with them. There is no greater pleasure in life for me than to be with these people. It is the same with God. According to the Bible, God’s greatest pleasure is to be with his people; who walk with him and talk with him and simply enjoy being with God.
What is a saint? A saint is a person who was killed for Christ in the first three centuries. What is a saint? Those people who were religious heroes of the church, had chapels and churches built in honor of them and they are now up in heaven interceding with God for us. What is a saint? Our grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends, and those who have died and gone before us into heaven.
What is a saint? I think Jesus has the best answer to this question: Those who love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Those who love their neighbor as they love themselves. That makes you and you and you a saint. You are all saints. You are the living saints of God. In addition, we are saints bound for the Promised Land (anthem title that follows).
Bulletin: 10-30 Bulletin
Sermon: 10-30 Sermon
Up a Tree and Wanted
Rev. David Goode
October 30, 2016
Jesus singled out Zacchaeus, calling Zacchaeus to spend time with him. Despite Zacchaeus’ reputation, Jesus affirms him as being worthy of his special attention. Jesus wants Zacchaeus to be part of his life and ministry. Do you hear Jesus calling to you today? Do you hear Jesus calling to Hamilton Park United Church of Christ to be part of bringing salvation to all? Even if we do not feel worthy, Jesus calls us. Jesus even calls people with criminal records in Lancaster County through the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization, which we will learn more about from Melanie Snyder a little later in the service. Jesus is calling, are we listening?
Zacchaeus was a man who lived in the city of Jericho. We heard that Zacchaeus “was one of the most influential Jews in the Roman tax collecting business; and he had become very rich.” To become a tax collector, you had to bribe a Roman official. Rome told you how much to collect and if you could collect more, you would keep the extra. Zacchaeus was good at gouging his fellow Jews, so he ended up being quite wealthy.
For a Jewish man to become a Roman tax collector was unthinkable. It was high treason. It was like going over to Syria and joining ISIS. You would be hated for being a traitor. If you became a Roman tax collector as a Jew; your family would disown you, you would never be allowed to worship in the synagogue and you would be looked at as bad as a murderer. As a result, Zacchaeus was miserable on the inside.
If you are feeling a little down, you came to the right place today, because this is a place of hope. This is a place of Jesus Christ. How do we know that we can have hope even when things do not look like they are going well in our lives or in our church? Because we know that God notices us and we matter to God.
Jesus noticed Zacchaeus up a tree. He said to him: “Zacchaeus!” Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today.” Why do you think Jesus did that? I think it was because Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ heart, just as He knows your heart today. You might be up a tree today, or maybe even out on a limb. You may think God has forgotten you, but there has never been a time when God took His eyes off you. God notices you and sees every breath you take.
God notices us and lifts us up. All his life, Zacchaeus had been ridiculed and rejected. He was a corrupt tax collector. Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus in front of this huge crowd and called him by name, which probably shocked everybody because Jesus knew the name of the biggest crook in town. Nevertheless, despite Zacchaeus’ sin, Jesus lifts him up while everybody else is putting him down.
You have probably heard it said that God loves you so much that he carries your picture in his wallet. Can you imagine, on God’s refrigerator is a picture of you and Hamilton Park United Church of Christ. Isaiah 49:16 God says; “See, I have written your name on my hand….” God lifts us up and believes that we are worthy of being in mission and ministry with Christ today. No matter who we are or where we are along life’s journey; God wants us today.
People made Zacchaeus feel unloved because he was a cheat. So, Jesus did something about it. He did not just walk up to the tree and look up and noticed Zacchaeus. In addition, He did not just call him by name and affirm him in front of those who hated him. He invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner. We read in verse 7, “All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
We are all a bit like Zacchaeus. We have done things that have hurt others. We have made some poor choices in life. Hamilton Park Church has hurt others and made some poor choices. However, Jesus is far more interested in changing us than He is in condemning us. He looks at you and says, “I know you, I love you and I want you to be part of my service of salvation to all.”
God has called you and Hamilton Park United Church of Christ for a purpose. What are you going to do? Zacchaeus’ response was to quickly climbed down from the tree and bring Jesus to his home with great excitement and joy. He took Jesus up on His offer for a relationship and seemed to be changed instantly. Verses 8-9, says: “Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone, I will pay back four times as much.” Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.” Something had happened in his heart, because the most selfish man in the city suddenly became the most generous man in the city. Jesus Christ and the love of God changed him. Jesus says, that is why I came, to seek out and save the lost. That is our purpose and mission today.