Sermons

"Saints: And I Mean to Be 1-2!": Sunday After All Saints

"Saints: And I Mean to Be 1-2!": Sunday After All Saints

Nov 05, 2017

Passage:Matthew 5:1-12

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Pentecost

Category: Discipleship, Kingdom of God

Keywords: beatitudes, love, saints

Summary:

Today we celebrate All Saints' Sunday. It is a day we remember the faithful who have gone before us. But we also have to remember that we are saints today. We are recipients of God's grace and we bestow God's love upon others. So, we don't just wait until we're dead to be saints. And we don't have to make the news or be canonized to be saints. We are saints everyday every time we share God's love with others.

Detail:

May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

 When our daughter, Catherine, was in school, her favorite hymn was “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.”  This song is one of the most popular and well-known songs in Episcopal Schools.  Throughout school, she and her friends loved the verse when they could shout “SLAIN BY A FIERCE WILD BEAST!”

And in their senior year, when you’d think they might be too cool to think about hymns, they found a way to insert their senior year into the song.  You know how seniors incorporate their graduation year into just about everything during their senior year.  The seniors of such-and-such-a-date rule!  Seniors of such-and-such-a-year are the best. 

Well, she was a member of the class of 2012—2-0-1-2.  So, they began shouting out “1-2” when they sang this song.  So when it came to the line, “they were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one, too (1-2)...and there's not any reason, no, not the least, why I shouldn't be one too (1-2).”  And finally, “for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too. (1-2)” Even though they were having fun with the song, they were communicating a truth:  the Seniors of 2012 were saints of God, too.

This song conveys so well the theology of sainthood that we celebrate today.  Yes, saints are those who have gone before and are no longer with us.  And, yes, some saints did incredible, history-worthy things to merit their remembrance.  Today, we’ll read the names of the dead who are especially meaningful to us in this parish.  Most of them won’t be remembered in history books or on Wikipedia, but they made a significant impact on the world while they were here. 

But, as the song says, “they lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds and thousands still.”  The saints of God are living today.  We don’t just wait until we die to become saints.  We’re saints now.  Sainthood describes our lives in the future, but it also describes our lives now. 

This tension between the present and the future lies at the heart of today’s gospel reading.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount starts with the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes is one of the most well-known pieces of scripture in the New Testament. 

There have been many books written about the Beatitudes.  In the 70s, there was a very popular book called the The Be (Happy) Attitudes by Robert Schuller, a well-known television preacher.  It claimed to use the Beatitudes to “transform your life.”

The Beatitudes can transform our lives, but not in a self-help kind of way. Jesus is talking about something much more profound in his sermon.  Jesus is showing us what God is like...and what God’s kingdom is like and what it will be like.  Jesus depicts a tension between how things will be, and how things already are...with how we will be and how we already are

The Beatitudes isn’t a set of moral instructions in how to live the perfect Christian life.  Instead, Jesus is proclaiming blessings upon the people.  In Matthew’s version, there are no “woes” or warnings in the Beatitudes, only blessings.  When we hear them, we feel reassured, not burdened by moral obligation or fear of “woes” or curses.

The Beatitudes are wonderful news to all of us.  Each line isn’t just addressing a “kind of person,” a meek person, a peaceful person, and so forth.  These blessings are speaking to the conditions that we all find ourselves in at one time or another. 

Sometimes we’re the “meek,” or the “peacemakers” or the “mournful.”  We may not be each of these all the time, but we most likely find ourselves in some of these conditions at different times in our lives. 

And what if these Beatitudes not only tell us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, but assure us of God’s response and the responses of God’s people?  What if they help us to receive and be the agent of God’s grace on earth?

As we hear this paraphrased version of the Beatitudes, listen to these blessings with our minds on both the present and the future.  Listen to these blessings with an ear for God and the saints.

Wonderful news to those who are feeling sad or overwhelmed because God and God’s people are here with you right now.

Wonderful news to those who feel grief or have lost someone they love—God and God’s people are here to comfort you.

Wonderful news to those who are gentle—God and God’s people will protect your loving hearts.

Wonderful news to those who worry about injustice and unfairness—God and God’s people are seeking justice.

Wonderful news for those who show compassion and kindness—God and God’s people will show you the same care when you need it.

Wonderful news for those who try to keep your hearts focused on good things—God and God’s people value your ability to see God’s goodness when others can’t.

Wonderful news for those who are hurt or who have been wrongly blamed—God and God’s people are here for you and will not abandon you. 

No wonder, Jesus tells us to “rejoice and be glad!”  Yes, we may have to wait to for the day when our burdens are completely lifted.  But we also get glimpses of that life now.  We receive God’s blessings.  And, as God’s people, we help bestow those blessings on others.

This is what it means to be a saint.  We don’t have to do newsworthy things.  We just have to share the good news, the wonderful news.  Jesus came to show us how much God loves each and every one of us. 

Jesus teaches us that we’re partners with God in sharing this love.  And when we do, we look not only to the future, but we see saints all around us.  As the song says:  “The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus' will.”  Amen.