Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Saints Alive

Luke 6:20-31

Did any of you notice the title of the sermon this morning... Saints Alive? How many of you immediately thought of the New Orleans Saints? How many of you are willing to miss the Thanksgiving potluck in order to get home to watch them play today? Actually... Dave and I are big Saints fans ourselves. As a matter of fact, he decided not to come with me today for that very reason. Well, I guess they are still alive... and kicking... no pun intended!

How many of you kids went trick or treating last night? How were you dressed? Did you fool anyone... or scare anyone? Well... Halloween is a lot of fun... I know I enjoyed it when I was a kid!

Did you to know that "Halloween" actually started out to be a Christian celebration? Hallow, in Old English, means "holy" or "sacred." Therefore, "Hallows' Eve," or "Halloween" simply means "the evening of holy persons"... and it refers to the night before All Saints Day... kind of like Christmas Eve... the night before Christmas.

You see... in the early years of the Christian church... almost two thousand years ago... the Romans abused the Christians... and many of them died because they believed in Jesus. They were called martyrs... and so many of them died for their faith that other Christians decided to honor them with their own special day... and that day is called "All Saints Day"... and today... November 1... is All Saints Day.

Well, it's a little difficult to preach about saints... under the circumstances... since the word is so commonplace... and has such a different meaning... for those of us who live around here! However, since we are all saints in the true sense of the word... I'm going to try!

Does that surprise you... being called saints? Webster says that the number one definition... outside of New Orleans, of course... is "one officially recognized especially through canonization as preeminent for holiness." Canonizing a "holy" person has been done by the Roman Catholic Church for centuries... and many Catholic churches are named for saints. Perhaps that's why we don't think of ourselves as "saints"... it almost has a bad taste to those of us who are protestant.

The second meaning in Webster defines saints as the spirits of the departed who are in heaven... that's one we might use occasionally ourselves. Sometimes we say of the departed... "He/she was a saint"... meaning, of course, that this was a good person.

Then we get to the third definition... one of God's chosen and usually Christian people. This one we can identify with because we believe that God has chosen us for salvation... and sometimes we are even called "the frozen chosen."

The forth definition of saints refers to those who are well known for their piety or virtue. I suppose we all see someone from time to time who fits in this category... although not often!

Well... whether you feel like a saint or not... the early church would have considered you a saint. Paul definitely would have considered you a saint. He frequently refers to the saints in his letters... and that reference often includes all the members. So lets spend a few minutes talking about what saints are like. Maybe this little demonstration will help.

This piece of stained glass... actually, it's plastic... looks rather dull and lack luster... doesn't it. What do I have to do to improve it's appearance? Well, you're right... when I shine this light behind it... it lights up and becomes quite beautiful. Well... that's what saints are like. God's light shines through them in a very special way. Without God's light we would be just as dull and lackluster as this piece of glass. But as we begin to love and serve God... God's light shines through us... illuminating us... and we can be recognized by our behavior and the good and kind things we do to help others.

Now maybe we aren't illuminated as much as we would like... but the fact remains that we do all desire to seek God's will for our lives... to live our lives by God's power... and to see the world as God sees it... and all these things are a real challenge for us.

In our text today Jesus is talking to his disciples... the first saints who had decided to follow Jesus... to let God's light shine through them the way that Jesus did. Jesus begins with a warning about the way in which the world thinks... and a word about how God thinks. He is trying to help us see how God sees the world so that... as saints we also will be able to see the world differently.

It's not difficult for us to see our world in these words... we know about the poor... and the rich... the hungry... and the well fed... the suffering... and those who are enjoying life... the hated and rejected... and those who are honored and revered. We know which the world prefers... we know which we would rather be among. Wouldn't we all like to be rich... well fed... enjoying ourselves... honored... now tell the truth! You know that's what human beings want... what we strive for... what we give our very life blood for... what we want for our children... what we envy in others. What a shock to learn that's not how God sees the world!

Don't forget that these first saints thought that Jesus was going to be their king... that he would be rich... and powerful... and honored... and they would reflect his glory in the world! I imagine that this lesson from Jesus was more than a little difficult to swallow for them as well!

How does God see the world? Well... according to Jesus... God's favor... or blessing... is with the poor... the hungry... the suffering... and the outcasts... and we know that these are the very people Jesus loved and helped. Now that's pretty difficult for us to understand because these folks appear to be extremely sad cases... and certainly not blessed in the way that we define blessing. But I suggest to you that these are the people to whom Jesus came... these are the people most in need of what Jesus offers us... and these are the people who rejoice in his coming... and who will participate fully in his kingdom.

The parallel story in Matthew 5 does not make reference to the "woes" we find in this text... and I think it is the "woes" that make it so hard for us to accept. When Jesus says "woe to those..." he means that God's blessing or favor will not rest on them... those who are rich... well fed... enjoying themselves... well established and honored. We must admit that we... as Americans... living in this affluent society... with plenty to eat and drink and enjoy... fit much better into that picture... don't we? And I think it is a warning... especially for us... in our good times... that we have to be extremely alert to where our security lies... where our allegiance lies. "In God we trust" may be our motto... but it is easy to forget it when things are going well. There is a real danger in being affluent... a danger that we might live for material things rather than for God.

The last few verses of our text this morning tell us something about how we are to live as saints... loving our enemies... praying for those who are against us... being generous to a fault... refusing to perpetuate violence. When we look at these virtues that are expected of us as Christians... it's easier to see that we ourselves are poor in spirit... because we cannot claim them for ourselves. It is apparent that God's power is what we need... and the only way that we can respond in this manner.

Jesus calls us to a very difficult way of life... being saints is not easy... it requires more will power than we ourselves possess. Loving God and caring for others is something that comes as a response to God's unspeakable gift of salvation... and only sinners need salvation... and only sinners save by grace can become saints. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on November 1, 1998
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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