All Saints' Sunday, Year C
In the name of God: who was, and who is, and who is to come. Amen.
Sometimes I wonder why anybody would want to be a Christian.
There’s this great misunderstanding out in the world that says that Christianity is about being nice and doing good deeds. But Jesus keeps telling us that it’s not. It’s about turning the world upside down to deepen our relationships with God and with each other - even when that’s not easy or nice - no matter how much the world disagrees.
Sometimes, in our own efforts at either growing the church or trying to make ourselves feel better about a life that can sometimes be hard, we find ourselves perpetuating the misunderstanding: If only we could be nice and do good deeds everything would be okay.
If that were the case, I suppose more people might want to be Christian; but life proves, again and again, that that is not the case. Sometimes life is hard - even for us good folks. Sometimes the powers and structures of the world push us down. Sometimes we catch ourselves participating in the powers and structures of the world that push others down.
You can see why most people might want a cleverly packaged Christianity that wraps everything up nicely with clearly defined borders. It would be a lot easier that way. It would certainly be easier than the Jesus way.
But instead we get this: “Blessed are you who are poor… Blessed are you who are hungry… Blessed are you who weep….”
I often joke with parents at baptisms. So often they are nervous that the child will cry during the baptism, or make a fuss during the service, but I tell them that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s a good sign. I tease that it shows that the child knows what they’re in for!
The gospel lesson for today is another example of how true that little joke is. Christianity would be a lot easier to swallow if Jesus had just said, “Blessed are the people who get along alright and mind their own business.”
But, no, that’s not the faith we have received through the ages and continue to receive in our own lives.
Today we have an interesting confluence of events. It’s All Saints’ Sunday - the day we set apart to remember those saints, both known and unknown, who have led the faith through history even to us. It’s also a day when we celebrate new baptisms and remember our own baptismal covenant - reminding us of and reaffirming the promises that we make to continue to lead the faith through to others still.
It’s a day of intersection: past, present, and still unfolding; in the presence of the God who was and who is and who is to come.
It might feel a little bit incongruous to celebrate a baptism - a young life and a new initiation into faith - on the same day that we remember the saints who have gone before. But really, All Saints’ Day, and even the whole of the Christian life, is more about embracing those incongruities than we usually feel comfortable admitting. It’s in turning the world upside down, and upending expectations, that we truly find Christ: the one who turned the shadow of death into morning; the one who triumphed over death on Good Friday to show forth the light of Easter Resurrection.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
“Do to others as you would have them do to you,” isn’t just about going along to get along. It’s not just about playing nice so as to not upset the apple cart.
It’s actually more about intentionally upsetting the apple cart. It’s about radically changing the way we interact with the world because through Christ, we’ve seen another way: the way of love, justice, and peace.
All Saints’ Day is about remembering the ones who showed us the way: the famous ones who are celebrated by the church around the world, and even the simpler ones. The saints in our own lives who have taught us what it means to live lives of love, justice, and peace.
None of us stands alone. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, and we are the shoulders on which others will stand, and in fact, already do.
We are not only surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, but we help to make up that cloud for others on the way.
Today we welcome Isabella into that cloud, just as we remember all of those who have brought us this far. Parents and grandparents. Aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters. Teachers and mentors. Friends, and even enemies. All the ancestors of our faith.
They have brought us through the ages to this moment. And they lead us, with all who follow us, into the upended faith that is still unfolding. Amen.
(portions of this sermon appeared previously here)