All Saints, 2016
Paul wrote, “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.”
May such be our epitaph.
No one ever said that it was easy to be a saint.
“Woe to you who are rich, and full, when all speak well of you,” proclaims Jesus. Woe to those who find their own satisfaction and do not worry themselves about the welfare of others, who will not trouble themselves to find out who could use a share in their comfort, nor to care about those whose lives are unsecured, untethered, uncertain.
Sainthood is hard to find in satisfaction. Sainthood is not satisfied with its own holiness, nor with its own comfort, nor with its own certainty. Instead, it seeks others to serve. It follows the undeserving. It washes the feet of the betrayer and shares a cup of wine with the enemy.
Sainthood is not for the faint of heart.
Jesus has turned the blessings we crave into woes, and the misfortunes that we avoid into blessings. Sainthood is less, after all, about keeping a clean halo than it is about living in the dirt and ashes of the world and finding God, shaken and pressed down, a rough diamond in the heart of it.
Blessed are you who are poor, because this inequity, the injustice which holds one person in higher value than another will not stand in the kingdom of God, and those who had the power and the privilege to hold it in place will fall from their pedestals, while the poor will receive an inheritance beyond their imagining.
Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, revile you. When they mock you for your physical appearance or hate you for your race. When they revile the traditions of your ancestors and exclude you because of your gender. When they ridicule you for your faith, your naïve trust in the Son of God.
For it has happened before, to the prophets. It has happened before, when the slave ships were in full sail. It has happened before, at the Holocaust. It has happened before, on the cross, such condemnation.
But never has it prevailed in the face of God’s grace, the echoing thunder of the empty tomb, the stark, stone cold reality of the resurrection.
Jesus has turned woe into blessing, weeping to relief, wailing into songs of praise. The resurrection has restored justice where there was formerly only order; comfort, where there was formerly only woe; life where they was formerly only death; deep joy where there was formerly only deeper grief.
That is the hope of the kingdom of God. It is the promise of the resurrection. It is the witness of the communion of saints, whom we celebrate today.
Nevertheless. I am weary of woes. I am weary of the stones cast.
I do not expect that casting a vote in this election will bring about the kingdom of God – although I think that prayer and a long, hard consideration of the values of the gospel, and the beatitudes of Jesus will bring us closer through the exercise, if we are faithful. I do expect that in the aftermath of this Tuesday and all of the woes that have brought us here, with far too few blessings heard among them – I do expect that we as people of faith, as people of love, may be part of a new resolution to work together, raising blessings instead of casting woes.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
Someone has to give way.
He said, “Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.”
Someone has to forgive the debt.
Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Because that way sainthood lies.
We may not be able to vote in the kingdom of God, but we can live it.
We can live as those too poor not to need one another.
We can live as those too hungry not to thirst for mercy for all of God’s children.
We can live as those who weep with hard laughter at life’s woes, knowing that joy is restored in the morning.
We can bear the ridicule of believing, naively enough, that God is with us, that the Holy Spirit blesses us, and that Jesus will not leave us to bear our woes alone.
“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.”
May we be worthy of such an epitaph.