Sermon-November 7, 2010

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Due to technical difficulties the sermon for November 7, 2010 is posted as a document only (no audio).  Mrs. Linda Shipman’s sermon for All Saints Sunday.  Gospel reference: Luke 6:20-31 (NRSV).  Associted readings:  Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 (NRSV), Psalm 149 and Ephesians 1:11-23 (NRSV).

There is an old story about 2 brothers who lived in a particular town where they were involved in corruption, deceit and every manner of vice. It was rumored that they were affiliated with some very famous organized crime families as well. Whatever the case, both brothers had accumulated much wealth through their dishonest means.

There was little grief in the town when the older brother died. But his younger brother, wanting to honor his elder sibling, went all out in planning the funeral. The problem was finding a minister willing to do the service – given that neither of them had ever graced the steps of a church. Knowing that one of the local churches was in the midst of a capital campaign for some much needed repairs, the younger brother called upon the minister.

“Reverend,” he said, “I know my brother and I never attended your church – as a matter of fact we never attended any church. I also know that you’ve probably heard a lot of things about my brother and I, this being a small town and all, but I’d like you to do my brother’s funeral. And if you’ll say he was a saint, I’ll write you a check for $50,000. That’ll go a long way to fixing up the church.”

After some thought, the pastor agreed to have the service. The pastor, however, also had a condition. The $50,000 had to be paid in advance. And so it was.

On the day of the funeral, the church was crowded. Curiosity brought dozens of people in, who were certainly not there to honor the rich man, but to see what the minister would actually say. The remainder of the crowd was made up of mobsters and women the brothers associated with.

The service began with the usual scriptures, hymns and prayers – and then the homily began. The minister began slowly, but then step by step launched into a litany of the horrible things the rich man had done, how he had been selfish, greedy, corrupt, caring about no one but himself, carousing with women, drinking excessively, and on and on.

The younger brother, sitting up in the front pew, was getting hot under thecollar about how the minister was not fulfilling his promise, but during the service there was not much he could do about it. He could only wait and hope that the minister would keep his end of the bargain. Finally, after about 10 minutes of outlining the rich man’s flaws, the minister concluded his sermon.

“Yes my friends, this man was a no-good, dirty, rotten scoundrel! But, compared to his brother, he was a saint!” So have any of you been called a saint? People often say I’m a saint – for living with Steve!

But seriously – what is a saint? When people think of saints, they most often think of people like Paul or John or James and the other apostles. I immediately think of Mother Teresa. Some people think of those in the church and those that they have long declared to be saints – those people whose faith and vision and moral integrity have been thoroughly examined and widely known; those normally long dead folk who have been judged to have advanced the cause of Jesus Christ in this world; those folks who have been deemed to be worthy of imitation and of praise by both church bureaucrats and popular opinion.

How many of you watched the Penn State Game yesterday. It was nice that the game was aired on the regular TV channels so that those who don’t have the pleasure of cable could have the opportunity to see Joe Pa win #400.

Whether you are or are not a Penn State Fan, I’m sure you can answer this phrase: “WE ARE…”

This morning I’d like us to remember that: WE ARE…SAINTS!

Yes, truly! We are called to be saints…
A saint is someone who is set apart because of their faith.

A saint is someone whose life is dedicated to the worship of God and doing of God’s will.

A saint is someone who inspires in us the desire to know and follow Christ Jesus.

A saint is a person who is an example of faithfulness; a person who because of their faith in Christ, shows forth something of his light in their lives.

I’d like us to think for a minute or two people who you think to be saints – not the famous saints like Peter or Paul or even Mother Teresa. But rather I was you to think of the saints…

…who have touched your lives

…those who have inspired in you a deeper faith in God,

…those who have made you want to bless the God they believe in…of those whose love and whose testimony have awakened something in your soul.

In today’s Gospel for this All Saints Sunday Luke 6 describes what it is that he calls us to be as his followers. Jesus is telling us what the qualifications for a saint are. Jesus is reminding us of what it means to be a child of God and we have a description of what a child of God looks like; here we have qualifications if we are interested in taking that on in our lives.

These qualifications aren’t just for a few; they are for all saints, all Christians.

Jesus didn’t just preach this, he lived it. He lived a life of suffering. Jesus could have come to earth as a king. He could have ruled from a palace with many servants. But he chose the life of a homeless man during his 3 year ministry. He chose to travel from town to town and learn to rely on those around him to meet his needs. He could encourage his disciples to ask God for their daily bread because that is the way that he lived. So he wasn’t looking down at the poor when he told them they would be blessed. He wasn’t giving platitudes from on high. He was speaking from among them.

Jesus knew what hunger was as well, he knew what it was to weep. These were real things to him. And Jesus knew what it meant to suffer for his message. For, he suffered in the ultimate way as he headed to the cross. These were real things to him. This is the way that he lived. And he told his disciples, and I believe, us as well, that this is the way that the child of God is to live.

Being a saint, which we all are, means that we are called to a difficult life. It means that life can and often will be difficult. It means a life of sacrifice. It means that you can’t always put your own needs first. Often we forget about the work involved in being a saint, and yet, there it is. There aren’t levels of Christianity. There aren’t normal Christians, and then Super Christians who really have to work at it. We are all called to work at it in our own way in our own lives.

When I asked you to think of those we considered to be saints, I think of my Grandparents, aunts and uncles and my father – all who had a tremendous influence of me from early childhood thru to adulthood. They led me on my faith’s journey through their example of their godly lives. Because they read the Bible daily, they placed the Holy Scriptures in my hands at a very early age and taught me the importance of prayer; they taught me the importance of attending church each and every Sunday to become involved in the life of the congregation.

Through their example I especially learned the importance of doing to others as I wanted them to do to me.

Amazing things happen when people trust this blessed promise. A new kind of life happens. These beatitudes are not marching orders, conditions to be met or obligations to be fulfilled. They are gifts and blessings, the consequences of the new kind of life made possible because Jesus is who He says He is.

These beatitudes describe Jesus’ life. Because He had the courage of his conviction, because He trusted the promise of His baptism, this is the way he lived. He brought blessings to the cursed. He cursed those infatuated with their blessings. He defied a world imprisoned by the Law of retribution and trapped in the gridlock of “get back and get even.” Freed by His Father’s promise, he was able to subvert and sabotage this old world of grudges and pay-backs by loving his enemies, blessing those who cursed him and giving himself away to those who needed help expecting no thing in return.

We “get to” live this same kind of life. Jesus on the highest authority declares that we are blessed in spite of appearances to the contrary. Therefore, we too can dare to subvert and sabotage the old order. We can live lives freely giving ourselves way not only to those in need but even to those who hate us. We can live selflessly offering ourselves to all declaring to the world that there is a blessing loose in this world. Through us God Himself is at work making a new creation. Even we, as cursed and inept as we often appear to be, can begin to do what so many have given up on: changing the world.

I challenge you this day live your life like the saints that have gone before you – may you be an inspiration to those around you.

And as you go about your work this week – shout the battle cry:WE ARE…SAINTS!

Because yes, we are saints. In the waters of Baptism God declared once and for all that we are His blessed Sons and Daughters in spite of evidence to the contrary.

And I thank God every day that I – and all of you – are indeed set apart by God and made holy because they have encouraged us to live towards our high calling as a Child of God.

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