November 6, 2016
Introduction: Today we celebrate All Saints Day. This is one of my favorite Holy Days! I think back on all those who have been important to me. My friends and relatives who have died but despite their death leave behind a lasting legacy. Who, living or dead, has made a lasting difference in your life? What made them someone you wanted to model your own life after? Jesus tells us something about what it means to be a saint as he gives his sermon on the plain.
I) Jesus begins his teaching by giving four characteristics of what it means to be a saint. To be poor, to be hungry, to weep, and to be excluded by society. These are not the kind of attributes most of us think of when we hold people in high regard. Many of us may think the attributes of saints to be extra-worldly. They are individuals who have left the world behind no longer bothered by its cares and concerns, not so, at least according to Jesus.
II) Jesus goes on to share about what to be wary of in life that might lead us away from the love of God. Riches, changing our focus to having enough and sharing with others to hoarding for ourselves. Those who have enough to eat, and forget those who are in need. Or those who laugh shunning compassion for those who are hurting. Finally, those who are respected, not because of their depth of compassion, but for what others can gain from them. At first blush one might have thought this is what we think saints are supposed to be like! Instead Jesus warns us that a life of physical ease may well lead to a life of spiritual devastation.
III) What seems even more incredible, just when one thought Jesus could not get any more confusing, he tells us to love our enemies, to care for those who hate us, and even if they hit or steal from us we should let them! Indeed that no matter how others may treat us we should treat others as we would want to be treated! As we are willing to attempt to follow this command I believe it does change us and how we see the world around us. No longer are we so interested in getting ahead at any cost or winning at any cost. Something more important has now been presented to us as being more fulfilling. We are to look to the interest of others as we would look to our own interest. This, if done with an empathy for even those who hate us and then invite our hatred of them in return. This is not how we are to live. Instead we are to find our hope somewhere else. Our rising in the kingdom of God does not depend on our having wealth and the esteem of others. Instead our rising in God’s kingdom is predicated on how we love the other. Knowing, that God loves both the good and the evil. We are not to even to try and determine which are which, instead leaving that to God. Our task is to become spiritually whole and in so doing inviting those around us to become complete spiritually as well.