Saturday, November 2, 2019

All Saints, Year c

I Have a Dream

Propers Daniel 7:1-3,15-18 Psalm 149 Ephesians 1:11-23 Luke 6:26-36

Martin Luther King had a dream. His dream was put into the most memorable speech in American history during the March on Washington in 1963. It was a dream for an end to the mistreatment and exploitation of people of colour. It was a dream that his children would live in a country that was free of racist bias. It was a dream that informed people, not only of his time, but of the generations to follow.

Daniel had a dream. It was the kind of dream that stays with you when you awaken. You know somehow that it is about more than simply the things that are going on in your life. He knew that his dream was coming at an crucial time in the history of his people. It was a time of crisis for the Hebrew people. They were living in exile in Babylon. His dream was a prophetic vision about earthly kingdoms that had arisen from the sea to terrorize the community of faith. It showed him that the present crisis would not last forever. It gave him great hope during a particularly difficult period of time.

There is about All Saints Day that kind of dream-like quality. It is a celebration that pushes us beyond our immediate struggles and joys. It puts them into a framework that includes God’s struggle against evil. It takes us beyond the present crisis and gives us a way forward. It gives us a glimpse of the heavenly scene. It helps us to realize that we are part of that great communion of saints.

Paul had a dream. His dream was that we are all saints of God. He talks about how that dream becomes reality. Paul understands that sainthood, sanctity, holiness, is our call as Christians. Most of us don’t think in those terms. When we think of the saints of God we think of those who stand as giants of spirituality in a past age, the ones we see depicted in stained glass windows. Or we mean someone who embodies for us what we think it is to be Christ like. We forget that we are all in that process of becoming sanctified, of becoming holy. We forget that we are all called to be saints.

Paul addressed his letters to the saints. He wrote of the inheritance that awaited them as saints. He called them to hope for the fulfillment of the promise. He had heard of the fruit being brought about by their witness, and he wrote to affirm their witness. Paul knew that sainthood begins with allowing ourselves to be enlightened by the Spirit of God so that the dream becomes a reality.

Jesus had a dream. His dream was a world of shalom, of peace. His dream is expressed over and over in scripture, but perhaps nowhere as clearly as in the Beatitudes. If we look at it in earthly terms it is an impossible dream.

"Happy are the poor," Jesus says. And the world responds, "You know what makes you happy. Look at the beautiful home you have. Look how you live. Look at all your things. Don't you have everything you want?"

"Happy are the hungry," Jesus says. And the world replies, "You need so much more to be happy. Go out and buy some more things. Then you'll be really happy!"

Jesus says, "Happy are you who weep now, for you will laugh." And the world says, "Enjoy what you have. Life is so short. Live the good life. Live it to the full. Live it now. You can have it all!"

Jesus says, "Happy are you when people say nasty things about you, when they exclude you, when they put you down, when they abuse you." And the world replies, "Put them down before they put you down. That will surely make you happy."

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus does not offer a cure for human ills. His sermon does not offer something to be attained or accomplished; it is the goal of Christian living. As saints of God we strive to live within its guidelines. It does not lead to salvation; that is ours by grace. It leads to authentically living out our Christian faith. It is the portrait of a saint that results in the kind of life that communicates God's healing power to the lives of sick, lonely, oppressed, broken and unhappy people in our world and community. It is a way of life that helps us to grow as members of God's family.

The point, then, of this All Saints Day celebration is that God is much more generous than we would ever imagine. Where we would put up barriers to keep people out God breaks down every barrier. Where we would include only the select few to be saved, those who are most like us, God wills that all of humanity might turn to God. Where we would cut back the numbers to acceptable proportions, God expands them to people of every language, race, creed and way of life.

And sometimes we catch glimpses of Jesus’ dream becoming reality. It is affirming to encounter people who stand up against the mores of society, the saints of our age. Such people are not necessarily well known. They are just people like you and like me. They may have gone through difficult times themselves. They may simply want to make a difference. They have a dream that they want to turn into reality.

I have a dream. I have a dream that no child should go to bed hungry, that no person should be living on the streets.

I have a dream that our country will embrace our First Nations People and right the wrongs of the past. It is a dream that reconciliation will really take place, that each of us will come to terms with our responsibility as a nation and as individuals.

I have a dream that racism will no longer exist in our country, that people of every race and religion will find a home here.

I have a dream that we will so care for the earth that the ravages of climate change will be reversed and our world will be a clean and safe place for all generations to come.

So what is your dream? Because the dream becomes reality in each of us. The issue is not whether we are saints; it is what kind of saints we are. I was here a few weeks ago for a baptism. At that service we all renewed our baptismal covenant. It was a reminder of the promises that were made for us at the time of our baptism, and which we now keep for ourselves. More than that it was a reminder of our call to be the saints of God.

Our baptismal covenant calls us to communal worship, to come together and break bread and to pray together. It reminds us of our sinfulness, and of our need to be forgiven and in turn to be forgiving. It reminds us of our obligation to share the good news of the gospel, to be witnesses to what God has done in our lives through our deeds and through our actions. It calls us to live out the great commandment to love God and to love neighbour. It calls us to act as the saints of God, to be advocates for the voiceless, to seek justice for the poor and those in need, to respect the dignity of others.

The title saint belongs to each of us. The readings remind us of the faithful ones who have preceded us on life's journey. They remind us of the community of joy that awaits all of God's people. We owe a debt to those who have passed the faith on to us through hardship and trial. We recognize our responsibility in continuing this heritage for those who follow us.

So take a look around you at the saints of God. We come at all stages of spiritual life. We may not even be ready to recognize the sanctity, the holiness in our own lives. Who has helped make the dream a reality in your life? Have you influenced someone on their spiritual journey? We are the saints of God, all sorts of saints. May we live our lives open to God's grace at work in our lives. May we be worthy of our calling. May we continue to make the dream a reality. Amen.

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