Grace and Peace from the Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. Sainthood in the brokenness.
Blessed are you who are poor. Blessed are you who mourn. Blessed are you who are hated.”Luke 6:20-31 NRSV
This coming Sunday is All Saints Sunday in many churches. You know, the day when we celebrate the great heroes and heroines from our past. And so I want to ask you a question … raise your hand:
Who wants to be a saint?
I think I raised my hand higher than the rest of you. So much for learning to be humble from the tax collector two weeks ago.
Anyway, I always thought I wanted to be a saint. Honored and revered for who I am and how I live my life.
But then I read the Bible passage for today. The one that describes saints not from a human perspective, but from the perspective of God, the Mystery.
You know that hand I raised up so high?! Well, it’s shrinking faster than a wool sweater washed in boiling water and dried in a pizza oven!
This isn’t the image of a saint I had.
You know, I can’t remember the last time I drove by a person standing on a street corner begging for food or money, and then praying to God, “Thank you for showing me a saint today!”
And isn’t faith supposed to make us laugh in the face of death, rather than mourn?
Walking in Jesus’ Footsteps
And since Jesus is so well loved and admired, shouldn’t walking in his footsteps cause me to be loved and admired, rather than hated? Though I’m not really sure how we came up with that last one when the central symbol of our faith is a cross.
Anyway, I don’t think I want to be a saint anymore.
I’d rather be full than hungry. I’d rather be laughing than crying. And I’d certainly rather be rich than poor.
And if I’ve learned anything from our present-day politicians, it’s that if someone strikes you on the cheek, hit them back twice as hard. And then you can be elected and have 90% support from the evangelical community.
After all, “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, and it’s up to us to do God’s work here on earth, right? So let’s get the vengeance started!
Such is the state of American Christianity. But I don’t even think we should use the term ‘American Christianity’ anymore. I think we should use the term ‘Christian Americanism,’ because we have become an adjective to our cultural ways, rather than an alternative.
Don’t believe me. Let’s read Luke’s Beatitudes again:
Do these sound like American values or American Christian values to you? We’d rather be all the things Jesus warns us about.
Sooooo … “Who wants to be a saint” based on biblical values?
Definitely not me. They are losers. By any definition. LOSERS. And not just losers who are trying to hide their LOSERness. They are openly proclaiming it.
Blessed are the beggars.
Blessed are those who cry out loud, “For cryin’ out loud!”
Blessed are those who face public ridicule and persecution.
I would be so much happier if they took their LOSERness and hid it away, like I’ve spent my whole life doing. I’m so glad I’m not like them.
Oops! I guess the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector still has legs.
“God has blessed you.”
You know, maybe I can find some comfort in the fact that Jesus is standing apart from them and blessing them. Maybe that’s my out. Maybe as I drive by those people on the street corner I can stand apart from them and say, “Bless you. God has blessed you.”
But here’s the thing. This won’t be the last time Jesus brings up the poor, the hungry, and the hurting.
The Beatitudes are at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, in both Matthew and Luke’s versions. But Jesus also brings them up at the end of his ministry. No, not the end of his ‘earthly’ ministry, but at his ‘end of time’ ministry.
Jesus describes a scenario on Judgement Day, which I can only assume must mean he thinks what he has to say is rather important.
And on that Day, he doesn’t say the hungry are blessed, he says, “I was hungry.”
And “I am the one who mourns and languishes in prison.”
And “I am the stranger in your midst.”
“I am the beggar, Lazarus, at your rich country’s border. Only wanting the crumbs that fall from your table.”
Bless the losers
Jesus doesn’t just bless the losers. He becomes one. Even to the point of the cross.
And now I don’t know where to turn. Because not only are losers being blessed, but Jesus has become a loser.
And if I am to become a disciple of his, or if Jesus is to live in me, then I must embrace the loser in me. The beggar in me. I must confront the deep pain of my life that makes me weep, not over the world, but over myself.
And on one hand, that is incredibly terrifying. But on the other, it is terribly freeing.
Freeing from all the masks I wear on a daily basis. Like that of the strong Christian. Impervious to the ways of the world. Standing above and beyond it all.
Which is the common way we view the saints here on All Saints Day.
Taking off the mask
But this passage makes me rethink it all. Why, it actually forces me to take off my masks to listen more closely to his words. And maybe that strong, invulnerable Christian mask I wear to hide my pain and brokenness … well, maybe Jesus is giving me the freedom to take it off, and live an authentic life for once.
You know, I can’t help but wonder if the field Jesus spoke these words in didn’t look like the day after Halloween, with all the discarded masks we put on every day to look strong and invulnerable.
You know, I wish Jesus was just talking about ‘THEM’ when he talks about the poor and those who mourn and the rest of them. But he isn’t. He is talking about all of us. Something I have been slow to realize, but that isn’t anything new.
As many of you know, a few years ago I helped out and often attended a group called Community of the Wild Goose, who met on Sunday mornings. It was a gathering of people who are mostly recovering addicts and alcoholics, or families and friends of them.
Now, I was told early on that people in recovery do not refer to themselves as “Recovered” addicts, but as “Recovering” addicts. In other words, they are constantly in the state of ‘recovering.’ And they can never say, “Finally, I’ve made it.”
And when I first started attending there, I didn’t think I had much in common with them. But as I listened to Henry Rojas, the leader of the group, I began to see myself in so many of the things he was saying.
“I’m an addict”
And one Sunday, it finally dawned on me: “I’m an addict. Only I’m addicted to socially acceptable things. Things like money, the status quo, and prestige.” I’m addicted to avoiding being seen as weak. As a LOSER.
And then I realized that the only difference between those addicts and me was while they were ‘recovering addicts’ … I was an ‘uncovering addict.’
Henry, like the Bible, was and is continually ‘uncovering’ the addictions of my life. And it is absolutely terrifying. And absolutely freeing. All at the same time.
Just like the Beatitudes.
And now I am starting to see things in a different light. That I am the addict, and the addict is me. That I am the hungry, and the hungry are me. That I am the one who feels out of place, displaced, in this world, and those on the border are me. Longing to belong.
Sainthood in the brokenness
You know maybe, finally, I am beginning to see the Christ in them and the Christ in me.
Because according to Jesus, this is where my sainthood is located. In my brokenness.
AND HIS AS WELL!
In the night in which he was betrayed … by Judas or by me?
In the night in which he was denied … by Peter or by me?
In the night he was abandoned … by the rest or by me?
In THAT night, Jesus connected his brokenness to our brokenness. He became one with us in brokenness. He became one with us in our saintliness of brokenness.
And so, in this meal where broken meets broken, we experience the communion of saints.
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Spirit in the Desert faith mentor, Rev. “Bro. Jim” Hanson.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.