Promise and practice

A sermon for All Saints’ Day, 2020. It is the Sunday before the close of the US elections, and we have reverted to online services because of the steep spike in COVID-19 cases locally, nationally, and globally. Still, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ…

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What a year. What a week. And here we are, at All Saints’ Day, when we promise that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God and of one another; and here we find ourselves still pulled apart.

We are pulled apart by good sense – the need for public health protocols – and by ugly arguments, anxieties, and frank fears as we head into the most uncertain and uncivil election week that many of us remember. We are pulled apart by grief, for those we have lost to such divisions, or to disease or distance, or to death.

But we are not alone if we suffer for it, this separation. Those who stand around the throne of God have come through great ordeal, and they sing songs of praise to their Saviour and their Sanctuary.

We are not alone in our separation. There are children whose parents are lost to our tracking systems, such as they are, whom we have separated from their fathers and mothers. There are hundreds of them.

There are families who have lost loved ones to this coronavirus – more than 5000 in Ohio alone since March.

There are so many people who have been separated from economic security, marriage security, health security, who are still segregated in health outcomes and judicial outcomes, if you look at the statistics and their stories.

Yet at All Saints’, we pray the promise that nothing can divide us from God’s mercy, Christ’s redemption, the new and unbroken life of the Spirit.

We promise the kingdom of heaven to the poor in spirit and the persecuted. We promise comfort to the grieving, mercy to the selfless. We promise that the great ordeal will not last forever.

Promises require practice. It is our call and our promise to bring comfort to the broken-hearted, to make peace without sacrificing justice, or mercy, for peace cannot survive without them. It is our call and our promise to hunger and fast for righteousness, to be fierce in our pursuit of the kingdom of heaven for all of God’s children, all who are made in the divine image. It is our call, and our promise not to overlook the meek, or the weak, nor to let their inheritance be stolen from them. It is our call, and our promise, to resist evil, to proclaim the gospel by word and practice, to serve our neighbour as Christ himself, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

And God promises us eternal life and an end to this separation, this wrenching of the spirit, not because we do these things, but because Christ does these things.

Because Jesus resisted evil even unto the Cross, because he defeated even death, and comforted his friends who were in mourning; because Christ by his word and action made God’s love manifest in the world and in our history; because he had such love for sinners, and defended the dignity of most maligned, and promised paradise to the bandit executed alongside him; because he has done such things for us, we can trust his promises to us.

For there is nothing on heaven or on earth or under the earth, in life or in death, angels or principalities, no rulers, no history, past, present, or future: nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing (Upper Room Books, 2020). She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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