November 6, 2016 (All Saint’s Day)
Let us pray: Dear gracious Lord, we give thanks for the saints that have gone before us and the ones that walk alongside us today. May your gospel that has been spoken and read for centuries to the saints before us guide and lead us. Amen.
Going back to school can be very intimidating when you have been away from it for some time. I was a little intimidated when I started seminary when I was in my early thirties, but in a way, was relieved when I had some classmates twice my age. It is true that we never stop learning. We begin learning from the time that we are born. We enter school so that we can become knowledgeable on many topics and have the foundation to go on to college or find a job. When we start attending school we are surrounded by other people our age and learn from the teacher as well as from our peers.
Just a couple of weeks ago I was excited to sit down and learn from Peter Rollins, an Irish theologian and philosopher. In an intimate setting with about 100 people we sat down to listen to a discussion on the parables while enjoying pints of cold beverages! We ventured into the topic of the parables and death and darkness. I had the opportunity to meet Peter when he visited Trinity Lutheran Seminary while I was a student and was excited to see him again.
This morning in our gospel, the learning is just beginning for the disciples Jesus has called. I am sure that they were just as excited to hear Jesus and his words as I was to sit and listen to Peter. I am sure that each of you can think of that one person that you would love to sit down and learn from. The disciples most likely knew all of the Jewish laws and were now eager to hear what Jesus had to teach. Wow, were they in for a surprise! The gospel as it came to them from Jesus was topsy-turvy! It was not likely the teaching they were expecting.
Blessed are the poor and hungry? Blessed are those who are crying? Blessed are those who are hated on account of the Son of man. To us, two thousand years later, these words may sound familiar. They can be compared to the Sermon on the Mount that begins in chapter 5 of the gospel of Matthew. Jesus’ words here are still cringe worthy for us nonetheless, because they turn our world upside down.
While Jesus calls us to be other-worldly, looking towards the kingdom of God, we are more focused on this world today and how we can get ahead. We want to get ahead in our own lives. We want to get ahead in business. We want to make sure we have enough just for ourselves. Yet, Jesus says woe to those who are rich; woe to those that have had their fill; woe to those who laugh.
And while there is nothing wrong with having riches, being full, or being admired, it is only temporary. The only thing that we are promised is that in the waters of baptism we die to sin and enter into eternal life with God and become one of the saints.
Martin Luther, in The Freedom of a Christian, says that, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Luther’s statement seems almost as confusing as Jesus. The point that Luther is trying to make is that we have the freedom to do what we want, when we want. Yet, our calling in Christ, calls us to be a servant to care for and to love everyone. We cannot do this on our own, and In admitting this comes a sense of vulnerability. To recognize this vulnerability is what it means to be a saint. Quite often we let our pride get in the way of that vulnerability because of fear and shame of admitting that we need help and cannot do it on our own.
Jesus comes down to us from the mountain top in Luke’s gospel. He does not stay up there to teach to us. He comes down to be with us and to sit among us. He comes to those that are hurting and in need of healing. He comes to those that are broken and are looking to be fixed. He comes to those that are so full of themselves with a reminder that he loves them still.
Being a saint does not require anything special. It does not require us to be perfect. It does not require us to be different. It does not have a requirement that we have to act especially pious or zealous. What it does ask of us is to be open. To be open to the vulnerability. The vulnerability that allows God to enter into our hearts. The vulnerability that asks for mercy because we cannot do it on our own. In this vulnerability, we are blessed.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are his riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of God’s great power. Ephesians 1:17-19