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 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 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 baby will crying during the baptism, 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 recite our baptismal covenant - reminding us of and reaffirming the promises that we make to continue to lead the faith through to others still. Finally, it’s also the first Sunday of our annual Stewardship drive.
It’s a little unusual for us to be starting the Stewardship campaign so late in the year, but with all of the other business involved in calling a new priest and celebrating our 150th anniversary, it just made sense to push things back a bit this year. But it really is something of an unexpected blessing.
For so much of this year we’ve been focused on the past. And not the past only, but the past as it points to our inheritance, the future.
We have been richly blessed. We have these beautiful old buildings where we worship and learn and share in times of fellowship and community together. And we have this community itself: each week at the passing of the peace it warms my heart to see the eagerness with which you greet one another and show signs of love. The children of our church who sit together after services, and play together, and practice the genuinely loving relationships that they have been taught are signs of God’s blessings for us. We are blessed by a wealth of talented people who come together in this community to teach us and to feed us and to lead us.
I’m sure each of you could recount the blessings that you see in this place and in your neighbors around you. We could spend the whole day thinking of how good we’ve got it here. It would be easy to sit here and to pat ourselves on the back for the good thing we’ve got going.
But our faith in Christ won’t let us. The work of the Gospel is the work of turning the world upside down. Blessings come not only where we expect them, but also where we think they’re impossible.
In the next day or two you will be receiving an invitation to respond to the riches of God’s blessings in your life by pledging your support for the church. Over the next few weeks you will be hearing from your fellow members of the parish about how and why they respond to this same call. You will have a chance to take a share in turning the world upside down with us.
There’s certainly a degree to which this is a little bit about money. Okay - maybe even a lot. But even more, I hope the stewardship season will be about responding to the inheritance we have received in Christ, and about taking a bold stand to call ourselves people of faith even in the midst of a world that begs us not to do so. Just as those saints we remember today have done for generations. I hope it will be about daring to join with Christ in turning the world upside down and about taking the leap of trusting that blessings can be found where they had seemed most unlikely or even impossible.
Together we will prayerfully enter into the next 150 years of the ministry with which we have been entrusted.
It won’t be easy. The work of the baptized people of God almost never is. But together we will do it with God’s help. Amen.