All Saints

November 6, 2016

Bible Text: Luke 6:20-31 |

Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day.  It is the feast day set aside in the church year when we remember those members of the body of Christ who have died—people like:  St. John and all the apostles, or like Oscar Romero and all the martyrs.  It is also a day when we remember those whose influence on us has been a little more immediate, a little more intimate.  Those whose names we have written on today’s altar cloth; those whom we name before God during the service.

There may not be any particular holy days set aside for the veneration of these, our beloved, no day to mark on the liturgical calendar, or particular collects to pray in remembrance of them; but in many, many ways, their influence in our lives—their holiness, if you will—is much more tangible than the sainted ones acknowledged in the formal calendar of the church.

I am inspired by the witness of St. Francis of Assisi; I yearn for the faith of Julian of Norwich and the conviction of Perpetua, but when it comes to true influence on my life as a Christian, as a human being, I name in my first ring of influence, my father, my spiritual directors, various colleagues, friends and companions.  Next, come those who inspire me today—those who are standing with the Sioux nation as protectors of their land, The Rev. Becca Stevens whose work with women who were once in the sex trade has resulted in new life, in resurrection and redemption.  And, the many various stories of real people, living real lives, who are modeling true reconciliation, compassion, and generosity.

People like you—the saints.

You see, you don’t have to be perfect to be a saint.  Even many of the officially canonized saints were deeply flawed human beings.  St. Francis was a wealthy, indulgent young man before God opened his eyes; St. Ignatius was warrior.  What makes people saintly isn’t the piety and perfection of their lives; rather, when they encounter turmoil, when they are wounded and their hearts have been broken open, saintly people don’t allow the bitterness and the hatred and the pain to consume them.  They don’t allow the myriad disappointments of life to obliterate the Christ light within.

The saints understand that God is greater than the darkness in the world, that forgiveness and true relationship are far sweeter than division and resentment.  The saints know that it is only through their broken hearts that Christ’s light and compassion can truly shine.

I can tell by the number of names on the frontal that we have all known these saints among us.  I know we’ve all been inspired by another’s ability to shine the light of Christ in our world.  But All Saints’ Day isn’t solely about sentimental remembrance of those no longer in this realm.  It is also a call and a reminder to those of us still living to take up the mantle of those who have gone before.

Luke’s version of the beatitudes in today’s gospel reading may not be the one with which you are most familiar.  We’re more accustomed, I believe to Matthew’s version, which contains nine “blessed are those…” and not a single “but woe to you…” Matthew’s version is spiritual and encouraging; it speaks of the poor in spirit, the merciful, the peacemakers, and the pure in heart.  By contrast, Luke speaks to us today of the actual poor, the truly hungry, the weeping.  Luke has less than half the “Blessed are you..” as Matthew and instead, pronounces woe on the rich, the sated, the merry, and honored.

 

Luke’s beatitudes, the blesseds as well as the woes, provide a roadmap for would-be saints no less today than when Jesus spoke to the crowd on the plain.

If you are looking for sainthood, if you are wondering how to live and what to do--give to the poor, feed the hungry, comfort the weeping, don’t hoard your riches, but share your bounty.  Enter into the pain of those around you and let your life reflect God’s honor rather than your own.

Oh, and one other tiny little thing---love your enemies.

And who are our enemies?  At one time, it seemed easier to identify who our enemies were—the Nazis, the North Vietnamese, Osama Bin Laden.  These were certainly classified as the enemies of the United States, but today, two days away from the presidential election in one of the most contentious political seasons I have ever witnessed; it feels as if we have enemies springing up right and left.

Our emotions are heightened, we are all suffering from campaign fatigue, and the rhetoric on both sides has become hateful, and wicked.  Perhaps, you have lost friendships in the last eighteen months, or maybe there are people with whom you just don’t talk politics any longer.  Maybe your heart has been, if not broken, at least a little bruised in the process.  Perchance you’re a little anxious.

We are followers of the risen Christ, my friends, the one whom, as we just heard in Ephesians, God placed

“…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

My brothers and sisters, remember to whom you belong and remember the charge that has been given you.  Be kind on Wednesday morning—whomever our next president turns out to be.  Love one another—you are saints of the Most High God, members of the mystical body of Christ, part of the vast communion of saints stretching back to the very beginning.

In a few moments we are going to baptize Walker Arthur Allen Samuelson into this communion—I am going to be the one scooping water onto his head, but don’t for a moment think you’re not as much a part of this as I am.  You are the community in which Walker will grow, and learn; you are his first experience with church, with the mystical body of Christ, you are the ones through whom he will begin to learn what it means to be part of a community—to be loved.  You get to be his very first saints.  Teach him well—show him what it means to love your enemies; model for him what generosity, reconciliation and compassion looks like.

Be a person he will want to remember on an All Saints’ Day decades from now.

In the meantime, join with St. John, with Francis, and Ignatius.  Come kneel next to Teresa of Avila, Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr.; find your place with Mona and Fred and Julian of Norwich, and my dad.  There is space for all the saints at the table.  The work you are called to is not easy and you will need nourishment; come to the table of the Lord and receive consolation, come and receive peace and blessing; come to the table and be filled.

 

 

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