All Saint’s Day Sermon: The Greatest Among Us

11.06.22 | by Jennifer Parks-Snyder

All Saint’s Day Sermon: The Greatest Among Us by Pastor Jenn
Scripture: Matthew 23:1-12
Here’s the background to that Matthew text. Jesus is upset with some religious leaders. This has been
building for sometime. In fact if we go back a few chapters, we see who he is fighting with. Like in Matthew 21
begins with Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and he is praised as a Savior, by the people mind
you, not the rabbis. Following that parade, he goes to the Temple and throws out the money changers and
corrects the teachers who allowed this act by reminding them of the Scripture that says:13 “It is written,” he
said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ and it is not be a den of robbers.
Then he is drawn to heal those in need. But he also continues to be challenged by some religious leaders,
including in the next chapter when he is asked the greatest commandment and he responds Matthew 22: 37
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first
and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Now, in Matthew 23, Jesus warns against hypocrisy: that is saying one thing and doing another. And he
points out there were some current Temple leaders that were doing that. He says, 2“The scribes and the
Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3
therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for
they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of
others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. Jesus even adds: 5They do all their deeds
to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. A phylactery (fəˈlaktərē)
was a small leather box containing Hebrew texts on parchment paper, worn by Jewish men at morning prayer as
a reminder to keep the law. Jesus says these particular leaders are all about show- showing off their importance.
He then adds, 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7
and to be
greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.
Jesus is obviously upset with the current Temple leaders. And so Jesus will give a warning for his
disciples then and now, he ends this part of the passage with verse 11,
11The greatest among you will be your
servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
What Matthew gets at with this text is, Jesus doesn’t have much time left, and he wants his disciples to
know religion needs to be different for his disciples. It needs to be about service and support. It needs to be
about love and honor. It needs to be about humility and faithfulness. By doing so, provides an example of
Christianity for the world to see and witness. What God has done in Jesus through humility and service is to be
proclaimed by the followers of Jesus, through our own service and humility.
Today is All Saint’s Day. This is the day we recall those who have passed from this life into the next.
And in particular, we want to lift up the names of those connected to our church family that have departed us
this past year. And as I was reviewing that list today, I recognized that each and everyone of them were humble
servants. Servants to their families, their communities, and their church.
Like Wilma Etchberger who not only loved her family, she liked them too! They were her joy, her and
when she wasn’t working, or serving at the church, which she did often, with her sister, Ginny, she was
spending time with, encouraging them, love them. We give thanks for her today.
We give thanks as well for Helen Farnsler who loved this town, this community because Helen was a
people person. She enjoyed people and connected with them. More than that she had a special bond with her
daughter, loving and inspiring her in her faith and life. We give thanks for Helen.
Ronald Goodman is another saint we remember today. I confess I only had the opportunity to meet Ron
once at our church, but I heard the wonderful ways he blessed the church. From serving as the church’s
treasurer, to an usher who was always friendly and welcoming, to his portrayal of Bartholomew in the church’s
Last Supper portrayal. And beyond the church, I have heard how he blessed the lives of his family and this
community, with his kindness, laughter, and dedication to the local hockey leagues. He left a mark and we give
thanks for him today.
Lynne Brenneman. A woman who gave of herself to bless others with her acts of mercy and kindness.
She did this with her family and with the Church. She was so inspiring, that many of us value and cherish the
times we had with her. To this day I keep a prayer request Lynn gave me to remember the people of Ukraine.
Lynne’s heart was good and right, and we give thanks for her influence on us.
We also give thanks for Gladys Chestnut who loved family trips to the cabin or to Ocean City, New
Jersey. She also could play the piano, offering inspiration through playing hymns and the classics. She gave of
herself to share that gift, she gave of herself to praise the Lord heart, mind, body, and soul.
Another saint we recall today is John Hoerner. When I think of John, I recall the texts from Ecclesiastes
3 telling us that for everything there is a season. And in learning about John, I heard how he had some amazing
seasons that included teaching, mentoring, coaching. But also seasons of loving friends, loving family, loving
his God and his church. We give thanks for John and those seasons.
We give thanks for Meredith Cravener who had such faith that she once told me: “I know where I am
going, and I hope my family and friends know too.” She lived a life encouraging that revelation, and we thank
God for her witness.
Today we also celebrate Earlene Deal. One Saturday afternoon I received a call from her asking for a
visit. When I met with her she confessed she was struggling with some pain, but she believed that God could
help her, therefore she called on me, and together we prayed for God’s comfort in her life. The pain was not
taken away quickly, but when I checked in on her a few days later, she said the comfort of our prayer time
together helped her, as it reminded her to let her worries and fears go, and trust in God’s abiding presence.
Another saint we lift up today is the Rev. Luke Carlson. When I think about Luke, I think about the
legacy he gave. Did you know he began his ministry at age 16, driving his 1937 Ford to fill pulpit vacancies for
his older college classmates? And then he went on to serve 8 different appointments for the UM church. When
he did retire, he served here, teaching, counseling, ministering to us. We give thanks for Luke’s wisdom and his
deep sense of compassion and mercy for all.
And the final saint from our congregation that we give thanks for is Fay Faust. I was told whenever there
was a need, you could rely on Fay to help in any way. She did that with her family and her church. And even
though in the end she suffered from Alzheimer’s, not always remembering things from one minute to the next,
she remembered her faith, including the words to the Lord’s Prayer.
Friends, these saints need to be celebrated today because of their service to their families, their
community, their Church. They weren’t outspoken, they didn’t parade themselves around, they quietly did their
work as a portrayal of their faith, and we, along with many others were blessed for their actions.
And I can just imagine that as Jesus welcomed them to their next life, he did so with open arms that
claimed them as the greatest among us.
Let us pray: We come before you today, O God, remembering those who have gone before us as
ancestors in the faith. We know that, like them, we too are called to be your witnesses in every part of our lives.
Teach us to walk humbly in the light of your presence and help us to live faithfully and joyously in our own
day. Amen.