Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Who me? A Saint?

A sermon for All Saints based upon Luke 6:20-31.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word "saint?" Many of you probably think of a statue of some famous Christian of the distant past like St. Patrick or St. Francis of Assisi. When we call someone a "saint," they often have a reputation for being exceptionally good, decent, righteous people. We think of a "saint" as being someone who always does the right thing. But, of course, you could never be a "saint."

Or could you?

All Saints is the day we remember all the people who have touched our lives, inspired and helped to form our faith.

Saints, according to Scripture, are people God has made holy. Saints are people whose lives were lived in harmony with the life of Jesus Christ. Saints are people whose lives were directed and committed to the cause of Jesus Christ in the world. Their lives were good news to the poor, the broken, the hungry, the oppressed and the prisoner. A saint is a person whose life became, by grace, an extension of Jesus' life in the world. They were Jesus' hands, feet, arms, and voice to the people of their world.

The Bible is filled with stories of saints: Abraham and Sarah believed God and, at nearly 100 years of age, gave birth to a son named Isaac. Because of their faith, God made them the ancestors of many nations. Moses and Miriam believed God and led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. Joshua and Deborah lead the new nation of Israel in times of crisis. Ruth and David were examples of faithfulness. Mary and Joseph trusted God and gave birth to God's son, Jesus. They raised him and taught him the trade of a carpenter. Because of them, Jesus became a builder in a world that wears down. Jesus' disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Martha, Mary, Mary Magdalene and others are all examples of the people we call saints.

When you read the stories about these people you see what they have in common. First, they all have faith in God. Second, they are willing to struggle with the world and with God to be faithful. Third, they are imperfect, ordinary folk who make mistakes just like you and me. Finally, they are saints because they were willing to become who God made them to be. In other words, it's God's love, God's justice, God's righteousness, and God's grace that made them saints. They are people who surrendered themselves to God; who allowed God's love, justice, righteousness, and grace to flow through them. They are God's lights against the darkness of sin, injustice, poverty, oppression, hate and selfishness that fill the world. They are beacons of hope in a world that often seems hopeless.

In Luke 6:20-31, Jesus gives us a description of a saint.
He begins:

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man."

Jesus is saying saints live among the poor, the hungry, and those who weep now for the victims of the violence and the oppression of poverty and hunger. The saints are those who stand with Jesus. When you stand with Jesus, you stand with the poor, the hungry, the prisoner, the sick, the outcast and the despised people of the world. Often, when you stand with and for these people, you become a target of hatred and slander.

Jesus says a saint is one who loves his or her enemies. A saint is one who refuses to respond to violence with violence. A saint is generous and merciful.

A saint is an ordinary person who is willing to walk faithfully with Jesus.

Saints are found in every age. Can you think of some modern day saints? I can think of several famous saints of the 20th century: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and teacher who stood against Hitler and the Nazis. Ellie Wiesel, the Jewish writer and poet, who survived the Holocaust and devotes his life to helping others resist evil and hatred. Mahatma Ghandi, the Indian leader who gave his life to the cause of justice and non-violence for his people and all the world. Rosa Parks, the African American woman who resisted the forces of racism and helped to make justice accessible to all people in the U.S. And Mother Theresa who served Jesus as she served the sick and dieing poor of Calcutta, India.

But there are many more anonymous saints among us today. One that comes to my mind is my grandfather, John Henry Tallakson. His love for me helped me to understand God's love. He taught me to fish and showed me that being a man means being patient, compassionate and kind. I'm sure that all of you can think of saints in your lives.

A saint is a person whose faith in God is lived out through their love for others.

A saint is anyone who does their best to live out their faith in God through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion. A saint is anyone who serves and gives of themselves for others. A saint is a person whose life is good news to their world; especially those who are poor, broken, and outcast.

There are saints among us today. I invite you to look around you at the faces in you meet on the street, in your workplace, school, church, and home. What makes y’all saints is your faith in God and willingness to act on God's call to live out your faith through loving, self-giving service; to be good news to the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the despised people of the world.

In baptism, Christ chooses and calls us to be saints. In baptism, we are incorporated into the communion of saints. As we live and grow and mature in the faith Christ gives, as the community of the church nurtures and teaches us, we are empowered by Christ's spirit to become saints. Whenever the community gathers around the Lord’s table to break bread and share the cup, we gather with all the saints who have gone before us, all those who are among us now and all those who are yet to come.

The celebration of All Saints is meant to remind us that we are not alone, we come from a long line of saints who have lived, served, struggled, suffered, rejoiced, and died as people chosen and called by God to be good news for the world and light shining in the darkness. We stand on their shoulders. Let us remember and celebrate the saints who have touched and inspired our lives. Let us give thanks and praise to God for all God has given us through their lives. And, let us re-commit our lives to becoming the saints Christ calls us to become. Amen.


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