The Sunday Sermon: November 1, 2020 – 22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Joshua 4:1-7
The Stones that Are Ours
Week three of four in our Stewardship season 2020. How will we be encouraged to give of our time and talents in the ways we’ve done in the past when we are so incredibly limited in what we can do that takes our time and utilizes our talent? How will we encourage ourselves to faithfully consider our pledge for next year, how much money we will set aside for our church, when we may feel like the church hasn’t really given us much for our money this year (and how long will it be into next year until it’s much different)?
Every year in the middle of our time spent considering how we will give back to the church, this congregation, our faith community we celebrate a special Sunday. It’s not one of the big events that is preceded by a longer period of preparation or waiting. But it’s one that we have ritualized here for at least as long as I’ve been your Pastor. It’s All Saints’ Sunday. And this year, All Saints’ Sunday and All Saints’ Day are one and the same – November 1st. Curious that our season of giving always includes this Sunday of remembrance.
Pray with me …
All Saints’ Day, All Hallows Day, Hallowmas, the Feast of All Saints, or Solemnity of All Saints. A “solemnity” is a feast day that celebrates a mystery of faith. The celebration usually begins on the evening before the day, in the case of All Saints’ Day, that’s All Hallows Eve – which should sound familiar … Halloween. The mystery that is celebrated on this day stems from our belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between believers in heaven, the “Church triumphant,” and those on earth, the “Church militant” – being careful to understand that phraseology properly in our world of violence and aggression. On earth we are “at war against”, or militant, with Evil, not one another. Protestants generally commemorate all Christians, living and deceased, on All Saints’ Day, and if they observe All Saints Day at all (and we do), it is a time to remember all Christians both past and present. Curious that our season of giving always includes this Sunday of Saints. Which brings us to our scripture reading this morning from the early chapters of Joshua.
The first two chapters of the book of Joshua document Joshua’s commission from God after the death of Moses and describe the preparation taken by the ancient Israelites for entering the promised land. In chapter three the Israelites come to the River Jordan and cross over the River, with memories of the Red Sea crossing forty years earlier as the “waters flowing from above stood still, rising in a single heap far off” when the priests dipped into the edge of the water. Joshua 3:15-16 After all had crossed and stood once again on the dry land of the Western banks of the river, God asked Joshua to do a strange thing.
Listen for the Word of God. Read Joshua 4:1-7. The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
The “crowded details” found in Joshua make it nearly impossible to follow a consistent “plot line” in the book. If we’re just trying to follow the major story in this narrative, we will get confused. But if rather than just trying to follow a story, we read this book and passages like these trying to learn something about God, about ourselves, and about how we supposed to live with both God and humanity, then maybe we will realize that events like this one are not supposed to entertain us, but to instruct us in our own community. Our attention this morning, then, focusses on a particular detail that looms large on a Sunday like this one, where we not only celebrate the Lord’s Supper, our Communion, but on which we remember the “Saints” in our lives, living and past. Our attention is drawn to those stones … and to the question our children will ask us .. are asking us: What do those stones mean to you?
For the ancient Israelites, those twelve stones most likely became part of the first sanctuary circle in this new land. But, seeking always to find meaning and direction in ancient words for modern times, we must ask, “What might those stones mean to us?
As Pewee Valley Presbyterian church, we are surrounded by stones pulled from the river of Life that has flowed through this community for the past one hundred and fifty-four years. Those stones are the women, men, and children whose lives of faith have shaped our own, though we may never have met them. Those stones are the leadership of the past: Elders and lay folks, Pastors, missionaries, teachers, spiritual guides, everyone who has ever brought us here and those who kept us coming. Those stones are symbols of the love of God in Christ, himself. A love so powerful it can sustain a community of faith, transform a world, and change the lives of those who remember … Those stones.
Our stones are legion – those of this church community and those in each of our individual lives.. They stand within us, among us, and around us – reminding all of us of where we’ve been and where, if our future in this place is to continue, we must go.
Next week is our Dedication Sunday. You will receive your annual Stewardship Letter that will include not only inspiration and motivation for your giving this year, but also a pledge card so you can set down in ink that inspiration and motivation (Right?!). That simple piece of paper may become a stone from the river of your own life, “laid down in the place where we worship” and pray and live together as we journey with one another toward a promise.
This week, however, we remember the saints who have come before us in this place and how their giving has sustained and grown this beloved community we are a part of: Ann Stoess, Sarah Copley, Beverly Pierce, and Sis Marker have joined the church triumphant this past year, since our last celebration of All Saints. The time, the talent, the tithes – including an estate bequest that is a gift beyond time spent here – all that they have offered to all of us in the combined years that they served in the Church “militant” in Pewee Valley are measures that we may fell we can’t live up to (just hearing the name Sis Marker makes us all realize we could be doing more!). But their “stones” still here, now, mean that we remember and that we pledge to do our part in ensuring the future of Pewee Valley Presbyterian.
Curious that our season of giving always includes this Sunday of remembrance.
There is something else we remember on this first Sunday of the month. Our table is set and it is to it that we now turn. As this sermon message ends and we listen to the familiar words of our Saints’ Day hymn, For All the Saints find a pen and a piece of paper (part of your bulletin or the back of a candy bar wrapper!) and as you listen or sing along, write down the names of the saints in your life who first brought you to a church somewhere, who helped you come back week after week, and who inspire you still to believe in the transformative power of Love through the humble congregation of this church and the millions like it around the world. After remembering our faith and our faithful together, we will gather at the tables we have prepared to remember the promise of our Christ, which is the firmest foundation for our future.
More than anything else we do, certainly more than anything else I (or anyone else) say(s), these stones – our memories of Christ and the Saints in our lives – call us to the future of this community and the rest of our lives. Our song is being prepared and our table is set. Let us eat, drink, sing, prepare for next week, remembering … what these stones mean to us.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / November 1, 2020