All Saints – November 3, 2019

17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. Ephesians 1:17-19

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul writes that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God will give the church wisdom and revelation, enlightened hearts, hope, the immeasurable greatness of his power and his glorious inheritance among the saints. These five gifts empower us to practice resurrection. Today we remember nine saints, brothers and sister in Christ, who by faith practiced resurrection with us and now by grace have joined the saints triumphant.

Let us sing the first verse of Give Thanks for Saints, ELW 428:

Give thanks for those who faith is firm when all around seems bleak:
On God’s good promise they relay, so while they live and when they die how forcefully they speak — the strong, who once were weak.

Michael Merroth, by all accounts, was weak. He never grew beyond four feet, experience significant health issues, and had terrible eye sight.  And yet, Michael’s faith was firm, especially in the midst of crisis. He was a volunteer member of the Ridge Fire Company in Spring City for over 20 years and served as the Fire Police President for 11 years. He was there when all around seemed bleak and while he could not see clearly, he practiced resurrection, listening to the sorrow of others, feeling compassion and concern, speaking words of consolation, planting seeds of hope and through it all, with kindness and good humor, sharing God’s strong and persistent love.

Robert Momyer was so many things: Sandi’s beloved husband, a brother, brother-in-law, uncle, deeply loved friend, community leader, artist, magician, teacher, principal, producer, business owner, traveler, clown…a true Renaissance man…but mostly he was child of God, our dear brother in Christ who at our noon service on Good Friday always read part of the Passion of our Lord with such depth of faith, we knew that we were there when they crucified our Lord.  With the cross as his rock, Bob practiced resurrection by embracing life including a pet monkey, pulling rabbits out of his magician’s hat, an elephant in the driveway, captaining a river boat on the Rhine, an Amazon adventure and delighting in the gift of each new day.

Clarence Carl laid in the hospital’s ICU the day of his son’s Doug’s funeral and just 2 ½ months later, he too died, both of bone cancer.  So much grief and sorrow but also so much faith.  Clarence would not have used that “church word”, he would have said “you do what you need to do.”  You get up, go to work, pay your bills, care for your family, and when there are struggles, you do your best. All of which takes faith, faith in family especially his beloved Joan, faith in what’s right, faith enough for life. Such faith, given by God, enabled Clarence, even on the day of his son’s funeral, to practice resurrection.

Give thanks for those who hope is clear, beyond mere mortal sight:
who see the city God has planned, the true eternal promised land,
and steer on towards that light, a beacon ever bright.

David W. Allen, Sr. grew up in a wealthy family where things had to be just so.  When he married Carol, a PA Dutch woman and an artist, someone different, eyebrows were raised, but Carol was up to it. Together they had two sons and lived well with kindness and generosity. So, imagine my surprise when at his graveside service next to his family’s elegant mausoleum in the exclusive Laurel Hill Cemetery, instead of the expected mahogany and brass casket, he was buried in a plain wooden box. His choice to practice resurrection.

George Mansur grew up in Phoenixville and in retirement he and his beloved wife Jean moved back to practice resurrection in our community and congregation.  It’s what they did their whole lives and what George continued to do after Jean’s death from cancer. After 9/11, George worked for peace and understanding – starting an Interfaith prayer breakfast, working on refugee resettlement, developing the Kiwanis’s Children’s Plaza, being a founding member of Alianzas, the Firebird Theater and The House. He was instrumental in the creation of our Columbarium as a place for peace and healing.  George was our prophet, always asking what God would have him, have us, do. When he met Peg Groening, he embraced God’s gift of unexpected love and continue to practice resurrection every day of his blessed life.

Esther White lived in Phoenixville her whole life.  She and her husband Fred were married for 63 years.  He worked at B.F. Goodrich, she at a number of banks.  She was a Phoenixville Woman – a hard worker with tenacity and determination, always seeking to do what is right. When Fred’s dementia made caring for him beyond her ability, he moved to Park House. Esther visited every day, practicing resurrection over and over again. 

Give thanks for those whose love is pure, a sparkling precious stone:
they show by what they say and do and inward beauty, warm and true,
for God’s concerns they own – God’s love through them is known.

John and Helen Manney were married for 67 years and died within three months of each other. John was in the Battle of the Bulge, serving in the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion, during World War II.  Two of his buddies, right next to him, were killed, but he made it home to Phoenixville. Helen and her friend Jean chased him and his buddy Grant all over town. One Sunday morning when John and Grant showed up in the back pew at St. John’s on Church Street, the persistent women knew they were caught. Even though John and Helen were married for 67 years, raising three daughters, grandparents to six, great-grands to seven, Helen would declare that they were still on their honeymoon, still in love, still practicing resurrection.  That is simply what they did as they raised their family, went to work, served in the community and here at St. John’s where Helen taught Sunday School for 62 years.  We were so lucky, so blessed, to be their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, Mae Moore who lived to be 100 years old. By all accounts she had a hard life – a child of the depression, a struggling marriage that after three children resulted in divorce, a mill worker with a very limited income.  Through it all she practiced resurrection, trusting that the steadfast of God endures forever and sharing that trust with others.  She never drove and walked just about everywhere which might be her secret of living a century. When her friends weren’t in church, she’d notice, picked up bulletins and sermons and then during the week walk all over town delivering them, bringing Church, bringing the Gospel, so that they too might practice resurrection, too.

Practicing resurrection – that’s what saints do, including you and me.  Amen

Give thanks for saints of ages past and saints alive today:
though often by this world despised,
their hearts by God are richly prized.
Give thanks that we may say we share their pilgrim way.

St John’s Lutheran Church Phoenixville