Sermons

"Imperfection of the Saints": Sermon for All Saints Sunday, Year C

"Imperfection of the Saints": Sermon for All Saints Sunday, Year C

Nov 03, 2019

Passage:Luke 6:20-31

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Feast Day

Category: Love, Grace, Faithfulness

Keywords: love, hope, grace, saints, tension

Summary:

On the Sunday after All Saints we celebrate all the saints! But how are we supposed to "measure up" to the Saints? This sermon ponders this question.

Detail:

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints.

In my office I have a few icons of saints on my walls.

They inspire me and give me hope.

One icon, for instance, is of the Holy Family—Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. It sits right above my computer. I look up at it and see them together. I think about their love and their hardships.

Another icon is of St. Stephen. He was the first deacon. He is also considered the first Christian martyr after Jesus. As a deacon, Stephen was appointed by the apostles to organize getting food to widows and poorer members of the community. 

Stephen sets the stage for what being a deacon… being a CHRISTIAN… is supposed to be. But then he gets cross-ways with the temple authorities there in Jerusalem. They accuse him of blasphemy and cast him out to be executed by stoning by the crowd. Before the crowd starts throwing rocks, Stephen looks up and says: “I see heaven open up, and I see Jesus standing at the right hand of God!” The crowd ignores him. They close in and start pummeling him with stones. Just before he dies, Stephen, on his knees, cries out to God: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Every day, when I gaze at the icon of St. Stephen, I’m challenged to remember that no one is trying to kill me or even throw a single rock at me because I am a Christian. Perhaps I CAN think about those in need. Perhaps I CAN ask what God wants me to do in the world… and make effort to do it…

But, let’s be honest… sometimes when we hear about the wonderful exploits of the Saints of the Church, it can also be a little daunting. We ask ourselves, “how can I ever measure up to this?”

“I’m no saint!”

“I’ll never be able to do all the things she did!”

“Does God really expect me to be like that?!? I might as well give up now!!!”

Perhaps I’m only speaking for myself when I verbalize those thoughts… but perhaps some of you have had them as well.

So, let me tell you about another set of icons I have in my office that also give me great comfort and joy.

These icons were painted by my daughter Catherine. They are icons of the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

But there’s something unique about the way she painted these icons…

She painted them in the likeness of the main characters of a popular adult cartoon series that our family loves called “King of the Hill.”

If you’re familiar with the show, you’ll know these names. If not, let me describe the icons.

Matthew is “Bill Dautrive”—he is a bumbling, needy barber in the US Army. But Bill will do anything for his friends.

Mark is “Hank Hill”—He sells propane and propane accessories. He is married to Peggy and the father of Bobby. Hank loves Texas, his lawn, his bird-dog, his wife, and his son. But he also does what’s right.

Luke is “Dale Gribble,”—He is Hank’s chain-smoking, conspiracy-theory believing next-door neighbor.

John is “Boomhauer,”—who dates a lot, and is known for his confusing muttering of words that only his friends seem to understand.

SO, of course, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are true reminders of a Saintly life. They conveyed the Gospels to us.

We can a get a wonderful sense of God’s call in our lives to evangelize from the actual stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are Christian Saints we should revere.

But for me, seeing them through the lens of “Bill, Hank, Dale, and Boomhauer,” –all standing in an alley, saying, “yep, yep, yep, uh-huh”… reminds me that we are ALL made in God’s image. We can ALL bring the Gospel… the Good News…

And we can do it from our own places of brokenness. We can be vessels of God’s grace even when we do not feel whole or worthy or complete.

Being a saint is not about “living the perfect life.”

Being a saint is about allowing God’s grace to fill us and direct us to God’s purposes in our lives.

And we all have good days and bad days.

We live in this place of tension… We try to follow God’s will, but we also have to acknowledge that we often fall short.

Part of that tension is knowing that God is at work within us in both the good and the bad days.

This is what Jesus is trying to tell us.

For every blessing he mentions in this Luke version of the Beatitudes, he also mentions a “woe.”

And that’s the tension we hold. We try to live out the blessings… but we also know the “woes” too.

Jesus says, "don't worry about being poor, you will be blessed; BUT watch out when you're rich--especially if you are not paying attention to the poor!"

He says: "don't worry about being hungry, I'm with you--BUT you know if you are filling yourselves up, watch out!--especially if you aren't taking care of the hungry!"

Jesus says: "I'll be with you if you are crying--don't fret. BUT watch out if you're just sitting around laughing and not paying attention to those who are in need or doing the work of the kingdom."

He says: "It's going to be okay if people give you a hard time for doing the right thing! BUT, if you have a 'big head' from people's praise, and you don't use your influence to help those in need, you've missed the whole point!"

And in the midst of all this, he says, "love your enemies... do good... bless those who curse you... pray for those who hurt you... turn the other cheek... and give to those who are in need!

You see this is Jesus' approach throughout the Gospels. Even when there are “woes,” there will be blessings. God works through our successes and our challenges.

On this All Saints Sunday, we look to the examples of all the Saints to help us know we are enough. The Saints weren’t perfect either. When we hold them up as perfect, we take away the beauty and power of their examples.

We are called to remember them. We are also called to faithfully hold up the memory our loved ones who have died. And, let’s also look around us…look at your neighbor next to you. Let’s remember that none of the saints, past or present, are perfect. But we can still look to those who inspire and brighten our lives, because God works through all of us.

We celebrate the lives of saints. We know that God’s love makes us good enough. And we rejoice.

Amen.