- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. M. Davies Kirkland at Dulin United Methodist Church in Falls Church:

I have a small book in my office called "Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC," written by acclaimed novelist, essayist and preacher Frederick Buechner. Thinking about All Saint's Sunday coming up, I took my little Theological ABC book out to see if it happened to define the word "saint." To my surprise, there was this simple, witty definition:
"Saint: In His holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints." Isn't that clever? Think for a moment the image of a handkerchief being dropped through an act of flirtation. The handkerchief, before it is dropped, is simply a piece of ordinary cloth to wipe the nose or mouth. But once it is dropped, the handkerchief takes on a new meaning. It becomes an object of much greater significance. It is no longer a simple piece of cloth, but a gesture of love for the recipient to pick up. The handkerchief becomes "special."
In the Scripture today from Ephesians 1:11-23, we see where God has dropped handkerchiefs. Saints are mentioned nine times in the letter to the Ephesians, by which the Pauline writer means the baptized members of the church. The writer says, "I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason, I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers."
It is obvious that God is at work creating saints in the early church by dropping handkerchiefs. For the church at Ephesus, the handkerchiefs have become so "special" that their acts of mercy, kindness and love and sacrifice are known throughout the journeys of Paul and early missionaries. Paul prays that the believers at Ephesus will continue to experience God's hope, glory and power. He looks to the risen and ascended Christ for the power to foster the growth of the church.
Handkerchief saints have ministered to the world in the name of Jesus Christ through acts of kindness, love, peace, faithfulness, goodness and sacrifice from the time of this writing to today, Nov. 4, 2001. Here at Dulin church, right in this place, God has dropped handkerchiefs. Each of us here is no longer a plain ordinary human being. But through God's "flirtation" with us, we have been changed to handkerchief saints. We have become saints because of our baptism. We have become saints because of the power of the Holy Spirit to help us live out our lives following the teachings of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.
We have become saints because we extend the love of God to others in the world, that they too may become "handkerchief saints." We have become saints because we take seriously the beatitudes in Luke 6:20-31. We are not saints because we are rich or powerful, but because we love our enemies, pray for those who hurt us, give to those who beg from us and 'Do to others as you would have them do to you.'

Next week: A sermon by the Rev. C.J. Mahaney of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg

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