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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

610-459-2013
OFFICE




mail@calvaryepiscopalrockdale.org
SERMON
25 Pentecost - Proper 26
November 2, 2008
The Rev. Kristine Hill
667 Mount Road, Aston, PA   19014                                                 610-459-2013
Small Parish - Big Heart
The little church you've been looking for!
Our Mission:

To worship
the Lord

To serve the
community

To grow the
church
Revelation 7:9-17
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector
The  candle  on  the  altar  is  in  remembrance  of  the  saints  who  have  died  since  last  
year’s  All  Saints  Sunday.   It  stands-out    here-in-the-room  because  it  is  alone,  it  is  
lit,  and  its  light   draws  our  eyes, our  attention.  The  flicker  of  a  flame  is  intriguing  
--  we  could  watch  it  glow,  dance  or  burn  silently  for  long,  quiet  minutes  and  still  
be  fascinated  by  its  form.   And  yet  a candle  is  a  common  object  -  just  wax  and  a  
wick.   For  that  reason  it  makes  a  good  symbol  of  the  saints  --  common  people  
who  somehow  stand  apart,  not  in  a  flashy  way,  but  in  the  small,  every  day  things  
of  life.   Today  is  All  Saints  Sunday,  the  day  we  remember  those  who  died  trusting  
in  the  Lord,  the  unnamed  saints  along  with  the  well-known.   The  saints,  together  
--  (whether  we  sing  their  names  in  the  verses  of  our  hymns  or  not)  --  glow  like  a  
candle;  they  are  subtly  different,  just-noticeably  unlike  “life  as  usual”  in  this  world.  
The  saints  are  a  light,  however  modest,  that  shines  in  the  darkness  --  or  perhaps  
in  the  ‘sameness’  --  of  daily  life  on  earth.

Jesus  led  his  disciples  up  a  mountain,  where  he  sat  down.  His  disciples  
approached  him,  as  they  would  a  royal  figure  -  which  this  ‘new  Moses’  was  --  and  
Jesus  opened  his  mouth  and  began  to  teach  them  saying…  “blessed  are  the  poor  
in  spirit.”   It  is  important  that  we  grasp  the  context  here.  Jesus  is  on  a  mountain,  
the  place  where  servants  of  God  go  to  encounter  God,  where  godly  people  go  to  
be  in  touch  with  God.   Jesus  is  high  above,  in the  realm  where  God  reigns,  and  
when  he  sits  we  might  imagine  him  on  his  throne.  These  signs  are  intentional;  
Matthew  means  for  us  to  see  in  these  hints, “Jesus  the  King.”  So  that  when  
Jesus  begins  to  speak  about  who  is  blessed,  we  will  also  understand  that  he  is  
describing  what  life  is  like  in  his  kingdom.    It’s  pretty  different  from   life  here.   
“Blessed  are  the  poor  in  spirit.”

As  I  drove  home  from  church  last  Sunday,  still  in  my  clergy  clothes,  I  noticed  a  
blue  truck  in  the  left  lane  that  had  just  passed  me,  was  slowing  down.   The  
person  in  the  passenger’s  seat  was  holding  a  spiral  notebook  up  to  the  window.     
I  didn’t  pay  it  much  mind  because  I  was  trying  to  get  home  --  this  was  on  the  
blue  route,  and,   by  the  way…  I  have  an  Obama  bumper-sticker  on  my  car.   
Anyway…  this  truck  kept  slowing  down  until  it  was  right  alongside  me.  I  was  
puzzled  why  he  had  slowed  down  so  much  in  the  left-hand  lane,  so  I  glanced  
over  and  saw  that  the  sheet of paper  in  the  window  was  a  crudely  hand-written  
sign  with  the  “F”  word  and  then  Obama’s  name.   Well… I  figured  that  was  for  me,  
so  my  first  impulse  was  to    ‘converse  with  him  in  sign  language,’  you   
understand…    But  something  quickly  suppressed  that  idea  inside  me --  and  I’ve  
very  glad  it  did.  It  might  have  been  because  I  was  wearing  my  collar,  but  I  
refrained  from  any  gestures  and  just  kept  driving.   After  a  moment  to  reflect,  I  
was  so  grateful,  so  relieved  I  had  not  responded  in  kind.    How  would  such  a  
gesture  have  honored  God,  or  honored  either  candidate  running  for  president?   
Clearly,  not  at  all.   But,  you  see,  it  felt  as  if  I  avoided  it  by  this  much.     (fingers
barely apart).  

Sitting  there  on  the  mountain  with  his  disciples  at  his  feet,  Jesus  announces  the  
nature  of  his  rule.  “Blessed  are  the  pure  in  heart.”   It  isn’t  that  those  in  the  
kingdom  of  heaven,  the  saints,  are  perfect;  they  are  real  human  beings, after  all  
and  none  of  us  here  on  earth  is  perfect.   But  they  are  recognizable  in  the  mass  
of  humanity,  over  the  duration  of  their  lifetime.   For  example,  the  pure  in  heart.  
Maybe  we  have  thought  that  meant  people  who  are  innocent  of  all  wrong-doing,  
people  who  never  lie  or  cheat,  who  never  say  hurtful  things  to  others,  who  
never  let  bad  or  ugly  thoughts  linger  in  their  minds.   But  as  I  said,  Jesus  is  
blessing  real  people  today,  and  no  one  is  perfect.   No,  the  pure  in  heart  are  
those  whose  focus  on  God  is  steady,  not  easily  disrupted.  They  are  the  ones  who  
do  not  react  impulsively  to  insults  because  they  are  mindful  of  God  at  all  times.   
They  are  people  who  do  not  lose  hope  during  loss  and  hardship;  instead  they  will  
be  found  reflecting  the  light  of  God  to  others  who  are  discouraged,  to  give  them  
a  lift.    The  pure  in  heart  are  never  double-minded,  thinking  they  can  love  God  
and  the  treasures  of  the  world.   They  love  God  with  their  whole  hearts;  they  love  
God  exclusively.   

“This  should  be  our  resume,”  Pastor  Regina  said  at  our  Bible  study,  “then  we  
could  apply  for  the  position  of  standing  with  the  saints.   If  we  can  be  this – what  
the  beatitudes  say – then  we  can  stand  with  those  mentioned  in  Revelation  
chapter  7.”     Those  mentioned  in  Revelation,  of  course,  are  the  ones  who  have  
come  out  of  the  great  ordeal,  who  have  been  true  to  Christ  under  the  most  
difficult  circumstances  and  have  not  denied  their  faith.  They  have  washed  their  
robes  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb;  they  are  pure,  holy,  acceptable  to  God  without  
spot  or  blemish  because  Jesus  covered  them  with  his  righteousness.  Now  they  
are  gathered  --  people  from  every  nation,  every  race,  every  tribe,  every  tongue --  
before  the  throne  of  the Lamb  day  and  night  praising  God,  singing  and  
worshipping  God  with  full  and  joyous  hearts.  Each  has  a  place  at  the  banquet  
table,  each  is  welcomed  into  the  eternal  home,  each  is  fully  sister  and  brother  to  
the  others,  and  none  will  cry  or  hunger  or  thirst  any  more  for  God  has  wiped  the  
tears  from  their  faces.     These  are  the  saints  of  God.   All  the  saints.  As  we  look  
forward  to  being  in  their  company  some  day,  our  resume  is  spelled-out  in  Jesus’  
words  from  Matthew  five.   Let  us  hear  these  beatitudes,  know  them,  digest  them,    
so  that  they  become  part  of  our  very  being.    

“Blessed  are  those  who  mourn.”  In  Isaiah  61:1-4  the  prophet  foretells  one  who  
will  bring  good  tidings  to  the  poor  and  comfort  those  who  mourn.  The  mourning  
to  which  Isaiah  refers  is  grief  over  the  ruin  of  Jerusalem.   The  city  is  destroyed  
because  it  has  been  unrighteous;   the  wealthy  have  horded  everything  good  for  
themselves  and  left  the  poor  to  struggle  along  with  little.  “Those  who  mourned,”  
were  the  Israelites  who   grieved  over  that  situation,  who  felt  the  injustice  and  
lamented  the  destruction  it  brought.   Jesus  likely  echoed  the  message  of  Isaiah  
since  he  was  the  one  who  came  proclaiming  good  tidings  to  the  poor.  Blessed  
are  those  who  mourn,   those  who  grieve  the  unfairness,  the  injustice  of  the  
world,  who  want  and  work  to  see  the  poor  be  richly  blessed.  They  shall  be  
comforted.     

“Blessed  are  the  meek.”  Who  are  the  meek?  Sissies?  Folks  without  any  backbone  
who  let  others  walk  all  over  them?  No,  the  meek  are  strong,  well-defined  people  
who  choose  to  live  non-violently  out  of  reverence  and  love  for  God.     “Blessed  
are  the  peacemakers…”  ahhh,  I  think  of  old  timey  hippies  with  love-beads,  
flashing  the  peace  sign.   Quaint,  but  peace-makers  are  people  who  do  tough,  
tough  work.  They  are  Jimmy  Carter  after  his  presidency  and  Nelson  Mandela  
staying  patient  and  persistent  those  40  years  in  jail -  folks  who  sit  down  with  
opposing  sides  and  talk  them  through  their  disagreements  until  they  come  to  a  
resolution.  Peacemakers  reconcile  estranged  family  members  to  one  another,  they  
take  individuals  separated  by  intense  hostility  and  find  common  ground  between  
them,  they  carefully  construct  bridges  when  everyone  else  is  building  walls.   
Without  peacemakers  there  is  no  hope  for  human  beings  to  live  together  on  this  
earth.  But  with  peacemakers  everything  is  possible  for  our  future;  we  can  live  as  
friends  with  one  another  and  old  wounds  can  be  laid  to rest.   “Blessed  are  the  
peacemakers,  they  are  the  sons  and  daughters  of  God.”    

We  come  today  with  thankful  hearts  to  celebrate  the  saints,  all  the  saints.  We  
come  with  full  hearts,  rejoicing  in  those  who  have  shown  us  how  to  live  as  
faithful  followers  of  Jesus  Christ.  Maybe  you  especially  remember  a  parent  or  a  
grandparent,  a  neighbor,  a  friend,  a  pastor  or  Sunday  school  teacher;  each  of  us  
has  memories  of  cherished  saints  who  modeled  for  us  what  it  means  to  give  our  
lives  to  God  in  Christ,  to  be  daily  servants  of  the  Lord.  Today  we  think  on  them  
and  are  grateful  for  them.  We  give  thanks  that  they  have  found  their  rest  in  the  
loving  care  of  Jesus,  in  the  eternal  home  of  God.      

On  this,  All  Saints  Sunday,  we  also  recall  that  we  have  been  called  to  live  as  
saints.  We  have  heard  Jesus  describe  the  design  of  his  kingdom.  It  is  a  reversal  
from  the  way  things  run  in  this  world.   Here  the  powerful,  the  influential  inherit  
the  world,  there  it  is  the  meek;  here  the  strongest  armies  win  the  kingdom,  there  
it  is  the  peacemakers;  here  the  rich  and  the  satisfied  are  happy,  are  “blessed”,  
but  there  the  “blessed”  are  the  poor-in-spirit  and  those  who  hunger  for  God’s  
righteousness  to  rule  in  completeness.   That  is  our  home – that  realm.   We  are  
among  those  who  sit  at  Jesus’  feet  and  hear  our  resume  read  to  us:  the  merciful,  
the  pure  in  heart,  those  who  mourn  the  fact  that  things  are  not  as  they  should  
be  in  the  world…  blessed  are  you.

We  have  known  people  like  this  –  a  friend,  a  family  member,  someone  in  the  
congregation  who  was  a  living  sign  of  God’s  presence,    the  embodiment  of  mercy  
reflecting  the  greatness  of  God’s  mercy,  someone  so  good  she  never  answered  
violence  with  more  violence  but  always  returned  good  when  she  had  received  
evil.  The  saints  are  visible  in  the  world,  not  in  a  spectacular  way,  not  with  feats  
of  daring  and  boldness,  but  in  the  steadfastness  of  their  daily  living,  in  their  life-
long  devotion  to  God.  Their  witness  glows  quietly  among  us  like  a  long-burning  
candle.  Their  lives  point  to  God,  honor  God,  and  bring  hope  to  a  troubled  world.

It  isn’t  only  those  who  have  died,  however.   We  are  saints,  too.  You  and  I,  in   our  
ordinary  lives,  are  different  from  “business  as  usual”  in  this  world.   We  take  time  
on  Sunday  mornings  to  worship.   We  pray  daily  and  believe  it  matters.  We  don’t  
lose  hope  when  hard  times  come,  but  trust  that  God  will  see  us  through.   We  are  
not  satisfied  with  merely  our  own  well-being,  but  insist  that  our  neighbor  have  
enough,  too.  We  know  the  love  of  God,  a  knowledge  that  gives  us  peace  and  joy,  
and  we  are  ever  watchful  for  the  opportunity  to  share  this  news  with  any  who  
lack  it,  any  who  are  discouraged,  alone,  unsure  of  their  worth.  We  want  to  tell  
them  about  Jesus.   We  are  grieved  by  violence  and  wish  justice  and  peace  would  
rule  among  men,  women  and  children  everywhere.       

You  are  the  saints.   Blessed  are  you,  hungering  and  thirsting  for  God’s  will  to  be  
done  on  earth;  you  will  be  satisfied.   Blessed  are  you  showing  mercy,   you  belong  
to  God  in  Jesus  Christ.   Blessed  are  you  the  pure  in  heart,  you  shall  see  God.   
Blessed  are  you  the  poor  in  spirit -  knowing  your  total  dependence  upon  God,  
yours  is  the  kingdom  of  heaven.  Blessed  are  you,  walking  in  the  way  of  Jesus,
the  Prince  of  Peace…  you  are  the  sons  and  daughters  of  God.                amen.