Sermon – The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers
Sunday, November 3, All Saints Sunday
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever. Daniel 7:18
My family went to church every Sunday. As a teenager, I had come to love church, not only because I saw my friends, but also because I believed in God and in the church. One Sunday in 1971 or so, we got snowed in at home. There was lots of snow, probably 10-12 inches, and even though we had a powerful snowblower on our little tractor, the roads weren’t plowed enough to get to church. In fact, church had been cancelled.
But my father gathered us around our dining room table. It was a formal dining room with a built-in corner cabinet. Red wallpaper on the top part of the walls, with a chair rail and painted white below. High ceilings and big windows with long white curtains with red trim. We only ate in the dining room on special occasions, usually eating in the kitchen.
We were having church, so we gathered around the table. The only thing I remember about the service is my father’s sermon. He pulled out my mother’s hymnal, given to her in 1966 when she became a Lutheran. A red leather hymnal trimmed in gold with her name on it. My father turned to hymn number 547 – Once to Every Man and Nation, the words of a poem by James Russell Lowell… We will sing this hymn later in the service, so the words are printed in your bulletin.
In Harrisburg in 1971, as in much of the nation, there was great turmoil…turmoil between generations…turmoil over civil rights…turmoil over the Vietnam War…and turmoil over what it meant to be a patriot and whether true patriots criticized the government.
My father picked this hymn for us his children….to teach us, his children.
- Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
- In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
- Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
- And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.
- Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
- Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
- Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
- Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
- By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
- Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
- New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
- They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.
- Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
- Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
- Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
- Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
My father was telling us his children that we always had a choice about where to stand. Would we stand with God’s truth only when it was easy and prosperous or would we be brave and stand with God’s truth no matter what? .
And my father’s point to us his children…the thing he wanted us to remember, and which I always have remembered and that guides my life… the thing the good steward always remembers…is the utmost importance of standing up for God’s truth, no matter the cost. AND the corollary that God’s truth ALWAYS wins. God’s justice ALWAYS comes into being…
The passage we read from Daniel this morning was written about 200 years before the birth of Christ…over 2,000 years ago. Daniel has a terrifying vision of four beasts arising out of the sea. It is believed these represent four kingdoms that would besiege Israel and nearly destroy the country. They most likely represent Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Greek empires. Did you hear that? Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Greek empires. Those empires are not even on our maps today. Except for Greece, if you don’t study ancient history, you don’t know where they are. They were powerful enough to be terrifying over 2,000 years ago.
And that is the point…. Human kingdoms rise and fall. There is the continual strife of truth and falsehood. There is ever the choice ‘twixt that darkness and that light. Just like in Daniel’s time, it appears that the cause of evil prospers.
But did you catch the last verse of the Daniel passage we read today? “But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.” No matter the turmoil or the destroying beasts that arise…no matter. The kingdom of God is never destroyed… never destroyed.
This passage is both frightening and comforting, isn’t it? Frightening because sometimes we side with the beasts. We aren’t always eager to side with God’s truth. We may be cast out from our friends, family or community. We may lose our employment. Some may even die. We want the easy way…to side with God’s truth only when it is prosperous or easy.
Yet when we are brave…brave like the saints before us who died for the truth…we follow the bleeding feet of Jesus up to calvary…follow that cross we carry in and out every Sunday…the cross that does not turn back, we are bound to Jesus. We are bound to God. We are carried by the Holy Spirit to live in God’s truth. We are given courage and hope because of our unshakeable belief that God’s truth always wins.
The world as we know it will change and will end. Our beloved country…our lovely state of Kentucky…this city of Corbin…will anyone remember 2,000 years from now? The only thing that has stood the test of time…the ONLY thing that will continue is God’s kingdom.
Once to every person and nation comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side… which will be your choice?