November 1, 2020 “We All Need Something Special”

“We All Need Something Special”

Matthew 5:1-12

I don’t know why, but I can’t help but feel that today is…well, special. I can’t explain it. You know, for the past few months we have all needed for something – anything – to come along that we could call “special.” From the folks that couldn’t go to Europe this summer to the others that can’t even go to the movies, our lives have been cut short of “special” by the constant threat of an infectious disease. So we crave a reason to celebrate; we ache for a holiday to roll along. We need days to be special now more than ever before. Now, you’re going to laugh, but when I found out that All Saints Day (Nov. 1) falls on a Sunday this year, I got kind of excited. Maybe that’s a geeky thing or maybe I’m just desperate for a novelty; I don’t know, but there it is. Add to that the fact that Halloween fell smack dab in the middle of a full moon this year, we had to set our clocks back (again!), the whole world is turned upside-down by a virus that is out of control, and finally, that we are on the cusp of maybe the most contentious election of our lifetimes and yes…. I need a diversion; we all do. We need a reason to hope, we needs tools to fortify our faith; we need something special.

It is for this reason that I am thankful for this special day: the day that we celebrate the saints in our lives. Now I’m not talking about the ancient saints or the Mother Teresa’s of the world – they deserved the title of saint, for sure. But what warms my heart on this day is that it forces me to slow down and to take stock of the folks in my life that have, to put it bluntly, been bigger than life. Those parents and teachers and aunts and uncles and pastors and neighbors and countless others who managed to get it through my head that I’m not the center of the universe. These are the saints in our lives. Their words and their actions opened our eyes. They taught us the joys of compassion; they taught us the comfort of caring; they taught us how to love without boundaries.

It was a Mother Angelica that tells us, “Saints are ordinary people who do what they do for the love of Jesus, say what they must say without fear, love their neighbor even when they are cursed by him, and live without regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow.” I share this with you mostly because of the very first part of this quote: “Saints are ordinary people who do what they do for the love of Jesus.” This writer comes from a Catholic background – that seems obvious. Catholics have a long history of revering the saints. We, on the other hand, tend to recognize our saints as being a little more down to earth.

 

So, I have to ask myself, and I’ll ask you as well: What caused the saints in my life to do what they did? Did they “do what they do” for the love of Jesus? For the love of our God? Yes, I imagine so. But it seems to me that those saints that woke me up and turned me around did what they did with the love of Jesus more than anything. What makes them saints in my eyes was not that they could quote scripture all day long or were active in the church or did all the things you’re supposed to do to be considered a good Christian. All these qualities are important, of course, but once in a while we’ll run across someone that is, well…special. These are the ones that show up when we need them the most; these are the ones that give, that care, and that love us, even when we deserve it the least. They don’t do what they do for any other reason besides the fact that they have asked the love of Christ to enter their heart. And for that, they are special; they are blessed. They are truly Kingdom people.

Today we read from the Beatitudes of Christ. This was part of a much longer sermon that Jesus told to his disciples in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Blesses are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. These are words we know well, but sometimes don’t know how to take them. I’m reminded of the story of a pub in London where “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” was written on the bathroom wall, and right below that someone had written, “If that’s all right with the rest of you!”  Or of the 4 star general who woke up in a cold sweat. “What a terrible dream,” he told his wife. “I dreamed that the meek inherited the earth.” Like I said, these are beautiful words, but sometimes we don’t know how to take them. So, here’s a thought: Rather than dwelling on this world with all its nastiness and pain, what if Jesus is speaking of a Kingdom that can come, that is to come, thy will be done? A kingdom where the power structures we have made for ourselves are turned on their heads? A Kingdom where Jesus reigns? What if? If we look at it that way, the beatitudes do make a lot more sense. And that’s why we need the saints in our lives. They are Kingdom people and because they are Kingdom people they will give us a glimpse, every once in a while, of what it means to be children of God. Today we bless the saints. They do what they do with the love of Christ that has filled their hearts and is begging to burst out. Today we bless the saints of old and the saints in our lives. We all need something special. Let us never forget the blessing of the saints.

Amen & Shalom

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