The Saint within (11/06/16)

Read Luke 6:20-31
On this All Saints Sunday, I am reminded that saints, at least sometimes for Lutherans, are a little bit of a confusing subject.
That’s because at the time of the foundation of our Lutheran understanding of the Christian faith, in the days of Martin Luther, the culture was just awash in saints. Luther couldn’t turn around without there being a celebration of some Saint. And that wasn’t a problem in itself, but there was a problem of people getting a mistaken notion of what it is to be a saint.
Often times, when we talk about saints, people sort of equate them with Christian super-heroes.
Now, that’s not entirely wrong, but it puts the emphasis on the wrong place. We start to think, that these saints are different from us. We think they have some special connection to God that we don’t have, and they have all these fabulous gifts and powers to work miracles. And it feels a little bit intimidating, and it starts to put distance between us and the concept of sainthood, because, we aren’t like that.
So, because of Martin Luther and the Reformation, Lutherans tended to move away from saints. And the celebration of All Saints Sunday became largely focused on commemorating our loved ones who have passed on.
Now, that is a good thing because our loved ones, being baptized, are indeed the saints of God. Saints are simply those in whom God’s grace dwells. In our thanksgiving for Baptism at the beginning of our worship service today, we said, “We give you thanks, O God…by water and by your Word you claim us as daughters and sons, making us heirs of your promise and servants to all.” It is the grace of God which chooses us, and calls us with a holy calling to serve him, not because we are holy, but because God is holy. That’s what makes us saints.
Once we recognize that our sainthood is not dependent on reaching the status of “super-hero,” or being able to work miracles, then we can ask the question that every baptized Christian is encouraged to ask – “How am I going to let it shine?”
Am I going to put it in a box? Am I going to hide it away, and not let anybody see that I am a saint? Am I going to simply deny that God has chosen me in my Baptism, made me his own, and called me to serve him?
You see, we just have to get the cart and the horse in the right order to understand this:
We don’t act like saints to become saints – no, God tells us in our baptism that we are saints, and then we get to act like it.
I’m glad that All Saints Sunday comes each year before Election Day. Because this is about the time, with all our anxious concern, that we need to be reminded that we belong to God, that he loves us, that he has chosen us, and that he has a purpose for us – to live as his holy ones, his saints, in the world.
How do we do that? We start with the things that the Bible talks about: feeding the hungry, forgiving sinners, being with those who mourn, looking after those who are in need of justice and peace.
This is our life-long calling from God, and as we go through life, we “grow” into who God has called us to be.
It’s a little bit like the way you buy clothing for kids. You don’t buy the clothing that fits them right now, because they won’t be able to wear it for long. My wife and I were particularly worried, when our son was growing so fast all the time, and so it was always a big concern, “what size should we get him?” It’s not what fits him now it’s what will fit him next summer, or next winter.
That’s sainthood. You possess it already, and by God’s grace you also grow into it. It fits you better as time goes by, because as we live in God’s grace, and as God’s Holy Spirit teaches us to live now that we have been forgiven, we grow in our sainthood.
In our gospel reading from Luke, Jesus is helping us to just that – to grow into our sainthood, and to let our light shine.
Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are hungry now. And about that time, I remember the huge meal I ate last night, enough for two people, and I’m not really ‘that’ hungry. And then Jesus says, “Woe to you who are well fed now.” But I don’t really want to hear that, Lord, I really don’t.
But Jesus, in these words, is challenging our normal values and expectations in this world. I mean, let’s face it, the way of the world is to be constantly worried about ‘what am I going to eat, what am I going to wear, what am I going to do, what am I going to drive, where am I going to work, where am I going to vacation, what’s my credit limit – all that sort of stuff. And Jesus call us out of that, to see the world in the way God does, in terms of, ‘who is hungry, who is thirsty, who is mourning, who is without justice right now?’
And when that becomes our yardstick, we’ve grown a little bit in our sainthood clothes, because we are seeing the world a little more like God sees the world. We are not being told, ‘this is how you become holy.’ We are being told, ‘now that you are holy, this is the way you can express it, this is the way you can let is shine.
And that’s what we are called to do as saints – to let people see God in us, and through us, and with us. That is after all, what causes us to think of people as saints in the first place. It’s that we saw love in them. We saw compassion in them. We saw care in them. We experienced it from them, we received it from them. It just seemed natural. And guess what? Your sainthood is just as natural, because it’s already within you. Let it free, let it flow, let it shine, saints of God.


About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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