All Saints’ Sunday Year A
November 5, 2017
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.
In 1976, when Nadia Comaneci stuck her landing off the uneven bars to score the first ever perfect “10” in the Olympics, I had just turned 10, myself. And I, like the rest of the world, glued myself to our TV every time she competed.
In those Olympic Games, not only did she earn the first perfect score, she made it look easy, and repeated perfection a total of 6 times. She never disappointed.
And with that, I was bit by the Nadia-bug. It didn’t matter that at age 10, I was probably already 6 inches taller and 60 lbs. heavier than she was at 14. I still pulled my hair back into a pony tail, tied it with a little ribbon, and cut my bangs straight across my forehead. My own balance beam competitions, held up on top of our family’s couch, were accompanied by the music which later became known as “Nadia’s Theme,” played from our family’s tape cassette player. And I always stuck the landing, of course. Just like Nadia.
But of course, as you know, Nadia only made it look easy – it wasn’t – and after a few months’ trial in gymnastics class, I realized that I was not, nor would I ever become, the next Nadia Comaneci.
Well, today, as we celebrate All Saints’ Sunday, listening in while Jesus exhorts his disciples toward what seems like ‘perfection’ – the Beatitudes, a perfect “10” in the Kingdom of God - we remember those Saints who have gone before us . . .
the ones, like Sts. Paul, Christopher, and Francis, who preached, taught, and modeled their lives in the way of Jesus Christ . . . the ones, like Sts. Agnes, Romero and Bonhoeffer, who practiced and proclaimed their faith, in spite of persecution, torture, even death . . . the ones like St. Augustine and Mother Theresa who lived exemplary lives of selflessness, holiness, and faithfulness.
From where I stand, they managed to ‘stick the landing,’ if you will, of the Christian life, and we remember them for that, champion disciples of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
But, of course you know, there’s nothing easy about being a saint, a faithful disciple of Christ.
It doesn’t mean I don’t try –
dressing the part in this collar and these robes,
praying the prayers,
singing the songs,
kneeling when it’s time to kneel and standing when it’s time to stand,
even being a ‘martyr’ from time to time.
- But I never measure up. I will never be the next Mother Theresa or the next St. Francis, or the next St. Agnes. I will never be the Beatitudes-living-perfect-10-Olympic-gold-medalist kind of saint.
But just recently, I received a gift, a gift from a dying man; one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. He taught me that saints aren’t just the St. Francis’ or St. Teresa’s of the world. That saints aren’t only like Mother Teresa.
You see, this saint was an accomplished man. Brilliant, actually. He was a man who honestly wanted to do ‘good’ in the world. And, he used his gifts for good . . .
well, most of the time . . . except for when he lost his temper, or demanded too much from others, or gave into temptation, or . . . or . . . you get the picture.
But at his funeral, it struck me that every person who spoke to eulogize and remember him, every person who loved him, offered a real picture of who he was. He was his brilliance and his gifts, just as much as he was his faults and foibles. It was honest. It was real. And when I stood beside his ashes to commend him to God, praying these words from our BCP,
“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy . . . and into the glorious company of the saints in light,”
I realized what the company of saints looks like. The company looks a lot like this man. And it looks a lot like others we’ve loved. Like Bruce, Peggy, Ruth, and Chris. Not perfect, but redeemed.
And yes, the company of saints looks like us as well. And while we look at Sts. Paul or Francis for examples of faithfulness, where we get into trouble is when we think we need to BE them or live up to their lives. Because, I think, what it means to be a saint is to be perfectly ourselves, to be the ones God has called by name, the ones God has known and numbered even before we were born, the ones God cherishes every day of our lives. But these lives of ours - as Christians, as disciples, as saints of God - are not static or complete. We are called to grow as saints. So, we sing. We pray. We give. We love. And we are called to do amazing things in our world trusting in God’s grace, TO USE US, not perfect, but redeemed, to make a difference, to give to the poor, to sacrifice for Love, to sanctify this world God loves so much. Amen