“To the church of God that is in [Winnipeg], to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1.2-3)
It’s a full day we have; on the liturgical calendar it’s All Saints Sunday. We used to gather for Eucharist on All Saints Day itself, but, our lives being what they are (Too busy? Too full?), we don’t do that anymore. But, thanks be to God, we do remember and give thanks for all the saints on the Sunday following, and this year that’s November 4th.
Many will have noticed also that this year Remembrance Day – always November 11th, an immoveable ‘feast’ – falls on a Sunday. Since the very beginnings of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles in 1883, the Regiment has been associated with this Anglican Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist. This year, since the band and members have to be at their Minto Armoury on the 11th itself, they have asked to join us a week earlier. So we welcome them into our All Saints celebration, and join them in giving thanks and remembering all those who have fallen for Canada, for our freedom and the freedom of others. We will remember them.
But the primary focus of our liturgy is always on our freedom in Christ and the freedom promised for the whole creation. In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, in the waters of death and life, God creates saints (people ‘made holy,’ or sanctified) by putting sinners to death, joining us to the death of Christ, and raising us to new life as disciples, risen with Christ. The primary vocation, or calling, of every saint, every person ‘made holy’ (sanctified has the same root as saint), is the baptismal vocation. Although we are all sinners, God has, in Christ Jesus, made us all to be saints. The Lutheran phrase is simul justus et peccator (at the same time both saint and sinner). In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist God regularly forgives the sins of all the saints. We do not justify ourselves, make ourselves to be holy. That is God’s mysterious work of grace, a gift of the most amazing and wonderful kind which we receive at the Lord’s Table, given in his own body and blood. We will remember Him.
We give thanks for members of the Canadian Forces who have given of themselves in service to our country, in death and in life, including the members of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles with us in worship. While we also give thanks for the unique privilege of being Canadian, we are members of an eternal Dominion (Cf. Psalm 72.8), the Reign of God, and we give thanks for all who have gone before in the faith, including the millions who have been martyred through all the centuries and millennia, and who are martyred still even in this twenty-first century.
We give thanks to God always for extraordinary grace shining in the lives of ordinary people, the light of Christ which shines in all of us, but somehow more brightly yet in those sisters and brothers through the ages whom we have traditionally called saints, as in Saint John the Evangelist, for example. Through the light of Christ shining so clearly in them, others have seen their good works and given glory to the Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5.16) May that same light shine always in us. God will remember us.
“Greet every saint in Christ Jesus… All the saints greet you… The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Philippians 4.21-23)