Back in 2005, my cousin Chris and I were touring Italy hitting all the major cities, which, up to this point, had been merely places on a map and scenes from our grandparents’ stories about their homeland. We loved Italy, the grandeur of the churches, the stone paved roads, the olive groves and vineyards. It was all so beautiful.
Though we stayed in rather luxurious accommodations for most of the trip, the place, which held the greatest interest for me was our small, rather quaint room in the town of Assisi with its keyhole window looking out at a roughly paved road in the center of the small town. It had the qualities of a monk’s quarters…very simple with no frills and well suited to the life of the man we know as St. Francis. Assisi is the hometown of this famous and beloved saint. At the end of the long road through the quiet little town is a church dedicated to his life and ministry. He was a simple man, who was known as a patron saint of animals and nature but he was much more.
St. Francis touched many lives both in his own time and he continues to do so in ours. After a tumultuous childhood and youth, having been jailed during a war between Assisi and the neighboring town Perugia, Francis had an awakening. He believed God was calling him to a simpler life and so he gave away all he had, which was considerable since he had been born into wealth. Answering God’s call, Francis began to preach a gospel of peace and compassion. Perhaps one of his most famous quotes is this one: “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.”
The various books purported to be the words of John, a disciple of Jesus talk frequently about the attribute of love and they also remind us, as the scripture this morning from I John, we are children of God. There is more than a hint in these few words we’ve read as today’s scripture indicating we are both God’s children in the here and now and yet, there is more to be revealed to those of us who live the preached word of God. As St. Francis noted, our lives should be a lived response to the love and compassion God has showered on us as his beloved children. We speak words, which express God’s love and compassion but for St. Francis and for John also, words alone are not satisfactory. Our lives should be reflections of what God has done within us. They should reflect what God calls us to do for others while we are here on earth and always in God’s name, for God’s purposes and by God’s grace.
In many ways, I see this reading today as a perfect reminder to us that we are called to be saints in the here and now but more than this, we are assured of our place with God in the hereafter…the life, which follows this one and is eternal and everlasting. One of the key verses in John points directly to this understanding. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (Verse 2) It is an appropriate and pertinent verse to remind us of our place in God’s kingdom and to assure us our loved ones are already reaping the blessings of the resurrection and eternal life. As we come together, a community of faith gathered to worship our loving and compassionate God, we name those important persons in our lives aloud and in our hearts that have by their lives touched us in significant ways. These saints have given us, through their lives and in their passing, a glimpse into the future, our future. Like them, we are called to remember our place as God’s children and with them we give thanks for God’s promise eternal, everlasting and fulfilled. Amen.