Saturday, November 5, 2016

Year C, All Saints Sunday, Ephesians 1:11-23, Luke 6:20-31. "For all the Saints"

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
So I noticed a post on Facebook this week from one of my friends that admonished pastors, if they were going to say anything at all this Sunday about our candidates for President, that they say the same thing about each candidate lest we show our prejudice.
OK, game on.
Say what you want about either of them, but we probably all agree on one thing.  Neither of them is a saint. . .

Speaking of which, today is All Saints Sunday. . .
Now there is a transition of which I’m proud.
From Hillary and Donald to All Saints in a sentence or less. 
Top that.

For Lutherans, All Saints Sunday, or the commemoration of any saint, is a rather interesting practice from a historical perspective. 
“Sainthood”, as it is commonly understood is a Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox thing.  And much of what is believed about the Saints, is rejected within Lutheranism. 
One of the themes of Luther from the Reformaton is “simul justis et pecator”
“Simultaneously Justified (or Saint) and Sinner.”
No matter how good we are, we remain sinful as well.  None of us can claim to have achieved ‘saintly perfection’ in our lives.
One of my grandmother’s favorite quotes was:
“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.”

Grandma loved it because she couldn’t stand gossip.
But, it is also relevant to any consideration of “Sainthood”. 
Perhaps it should read:
“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us
To venerate the rest of us.”

Take Mother Teresa, for example.  She was just recently canonized as a Saint by Pope Francis because of her life of service to the poorest of the poor in India.  But she is not without her critics.
In an article in the Huffington Post titled “Mother Teresa was no saint” Krithika Verager writes:

“To canonize Mother Teresa would be to seal the lid on her problematic legacy, which includes forced conversion, questionable relations with dictators, gross mismanagement, and actually, pretty bad medical care. Worst of all, she was the quintessential white person expending her charity on the third world — the entire reason for her public image, and the source of immeasurable scarring to the postcolonial psyche of India and its diaspora.

A 2013 study from the University of Ottawa dispelled the “myth of altruism and generosity” surrounding Mother Teresa, concluding that her hallowed image did not stand up to the facts, and was basically the result of a forceful media campaign from an ailing Catholic Church.

Although she had 517 missions in 100 countries at the time of her death, the study found that hardly anyone who came seeking medical care found it there. Doctors observed unhygienic, “even unfit,” conditions, inadequate food, and no painkillers — not for lack of funding, in which Mother Theresa’s world-famous order was swimming, but what the study authors call her “particular conception of suffering and death.””

Well, if what the author says is even remotely true, then maybe Mother Teresa was not perfect.
That’s not a problem for Lutherans.
Simul justis et pecator.
Simultaneously Saint AND Sinner.

There is another misnomer about Sainthood that is very common, in fact, it plays into what we are doing here today.
For many of us, to talk about the Saints, is to talk about those who have gone before us in the faith, and who have died. 
Remembering those who have died is a good thing, don’t get me wrong.
But the more accurate term that we use in the Church to describe those who have died in the faith, is the “Church Triumphant”, as opposed to the “Church Militant.” 

The Church Triumphant is defined as “those Christians in heaven who have triumphed over evil and the enemies of Christ.”

That’s as opposed to the Church Militant which is defined as “the Christian church on earth which is regarded as being engaged in a constant warfare against its enemies, the powers of evil.”

Some of us are still in the battle,

Others of us have been raised victorious,

But all of us are part of the Church, and to that extent, Saints.

You see, we do not become Saints

By the sweat of our brow,

Or the trumpet’s call,

But in the waters of baptism.

We do not become Saints because we have lived lives so good and meritorious that we deserve veneration.

We don’t become Saints because we have died.

We become Saints because in the waters of Baptism we have been cleansed of all our sins, and emerge righteous and holy in God’s sight.

In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul puts it this way:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Christ became a Sinner

So that we

Might become Saints.

Christ took all our Sins upon himself,

So that we might stand blameless and righteous before God.

Also Paul writes in Romans 6:

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

You see, as far as Sainthood goes, it is not our bodily death that matters, but rather that in our baptisms we died with Christ and were also raised with him.

To speak about the Saints, then, is to speak about all those who have been united with Christ and are part of the Body of Christ.

That’s why Paul can write in our Second lesson for today:

“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints”.

When he talks about “all the saints” he is talking about the living, not just the dead.

What’s my point in all this?

Well, there are two things I’d like for you to take away from today:

First, we are Saints, not because we have achieved perfection in this life, but because in Christ we have been forgiven.

And second, that if we are going to remember “All the Saints” we should remember not only those who have died and are now part of the Church Triumphant, but also those who still walk with us in this life.


Some are now in Heaven.

Others still walk with us in this life.

Today, as we remember the Saints, I encourage you not only to remember those dear to you who have died and been raised, but also those who are with us this day.

For myself, on this day I will remember my mother, and Karla’s mom and dad, and also her brother Bill.

We miss them very much.

But I also remember so many, including you, who are the Saints of God through whom I have been blessed.

I remember Martin, our bishop, who has been with me through so much.

I remember my wife, Karla, and how she has walked with me in the faith over all these years.

I remember my children, precious not only in my eyes, but in the eyes of God.

But most importantly, I remember all of my brothers and sisters in this Body of Christ we call the Church, apart from which I would not have faith.

Some of you will gather together before this altar today.

And others will surround us with their love from heaven.

But all of them, Saints.

May this peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


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