All Saint’s C—November 3, 2013
Preached at Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
You probably have noticed lately that I have been mixing up where I preach from, switching back and forth between preaching from up here in the pulpit or from down there in the aisle. Just so you know, it is not a random decision. Certain scriptures and sermons strike me as grand proclamation, which I do better from the pulpit, while others are more conversational or personal, so I move to the aisle.
But those are not the only two places I peach from. I also preach sitting during the youth message.
This is the posture Jesus uses during the Sermon on the Mount, contained in the Gospel of Matthew. He goes up on the mountain, sits down, and talks. This is the posture of a teacher.
But today we read, not from Matthew, but from the Sermon on the Plain, contained in the Gospel of Luke.
You are probably more familiar with Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes, but today we read Luke’s Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor” (not poor in spirit as in Matthew)
“Blessed are the hunger” (not those who hunger and thirst for righteousness)
And on top of the un-spiritualized list of those who are blessed, in Luke, a second section is heaped on…
“Woe to the rich”
Jesus, in Matthew, sits on a mountain and teaches about discipleship.
Jesus, in Luke, stands on a level plain, as a prophet, declaring what the kingdom according to God looks like.
It is not the normal “winners” who are blessed when God is involoved. Those who have nice things, enough to eat, good full-time salaried jobs might be considered the winners by society, but God’s vision turned that upside down and makes them the losers, and the losers, the least, the lowly are the winners—the blessed ones. God speaks promise to them that they will be filled; they will be given enough.
Jesus, as a prophet, does not just bring warm fuzzies, but first drives many of us to our knees, convicts us of measuring worth unjustly, of creating hierarchy where God has made none.
Most of the time when we speak about Saints, we are talking about great names in the church, who did something over the top, miraculous, uber pious. But that in a way is creating those hierarchies that we tend towards all over again. The poor are not less than the rich, the hungry are not below the pious—for in God, valleys are raised up and mountains are brought low. The land is made a level plain—just like the plain that Jesus stands on as he makes promises to those who have been called less, convicts those who have been called better—makes the losers, winners, and the winners, losers, so that they can see that Jesus wins for them—reminds us that in God’s eyes we are all equal, and then therefore declares the promises to all of us.
It seems totally backwards, but it is in being declared ultimate losers, not good enough, not capable, lacking, that we can see the ultimate proof of God’s mercy. It is on a Roman torture device, through death, that God gives life to all.
And so the book of Daniel declares “the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever.” And Jesus makes sure that we know that “the holy ones” includes all of us, not just the rich, or the beautiful, or the smart, or the “normal”, but everyone! We are all made equally losers, and therefore are equally winners with Christ.
Saints are not just perfect people to be celebrated, they are all of us, our loved ones who have died, who messed up as much as we did, and that is why there was no application process or background check necessary to add a name and bell to the banner. We are all sinners, but through Jesus’ inheritance we are all equally saints as well. The great cloud of witnesses that surround us and continue to make a joyful noise remind us that we are both sinners, convicted by our bad behavior, and saints, washed clean by the promises of God through the blood of Jesus Christ.
We are all the same: we will all die, we will all be brought to new life, so why not try to make this world look a little more like that? And that is what Jesus is doing on the plain. He is simultaneously blessing us all, declaring promising that are to come, but also commissioning us to go out make the promise come to life. Cause why wait if we, with God’s help, can make the world now look a little more level, a little more like the kingdom to come? And so I stand on a level plain with you today too. To declare us corporately convicted and forgiven, blessed with promises and commissioned to enact those God given promises for others (not in order to earn our blessing, but out of gratitude for it).
So if you have not heard anything else I have said or have already forgotten it or think what I have to say does not apply to you, as so many have in the presence of the prophets over the centuries, hear this: you are not as special as you think you ( you are not any better than anyone else)…you are a Saint, if you will, who will die.
But also know with certainty: you are as special as everyone else, because God says so…you are a saint, who will be brought to new life now and in the future, and the kingdom has a place for you to live and to work, to be filled and to fill, to receive and to give, to see Jesus and to be Jesus for others. Amen.