Sermon for All Saints’ Sunday Yr C, 7/11/2004
Based on Lk 6:27-31
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“The Life of a Saint”
Today is All Saints’ Sunday. It’s a day we Christians celebrate and remember the faithful—especially those who have departed from this world. However, it’s also a day to reflect more on what it means for us as Christians to live the life of a saint. What does living the life of a saint look like for you and for me? Well, today in Luke’s Gospel we have one picture of what true sainthood means. This, I suspect, is tough stuff for all of us. Notice how Jesus introduces the most difficult marks of a saint by saying: “But I say to you that listen….” Listen, isn’t that precisely the problem! How many of us really, truly listen to what Jesus says here? By listen I mean, and I think Jesus also means, that we listen in such a way as to put into practice what Jesus teaches us. I think a lot of Christians do a considerable amount of “squirming” and “beeping out” when they read or hear these words of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. A lot of Christians think these particular teachings of Jesus are impossible to live by.
How do we love our enemies, bless those who curse us, turn to offer the other cheek when we are struck on the first one, and freely give away our clothing and possessions to those who take them, without asking for them back? How do we treat others the way we want to be treated when that other seems to delight in making life miserable for us? This is impossible isn’t it?! How practical a way is this to live? Is this not asking for trouble? Is this not saying that abuse is okay? Is being a doormat okay? NO! That IS NOT what Jesus is saying. Life for Jesus is precious and holy—therefore abuse or being a doormat is not what he’s teaching us here. Rather, what he is saying is that the only way to cure violence and resistance in a lasting way is by non-violent, acts, words and thoughts of kindness and love. The Christian martyr Stephen is a good example of this. When he was being stoned to death, he prayed that his perpetrators be forgiven for shedding innocent blood. Paul was a witness to Stephen’s martyrdom and it had a profound effect upon him. He too would stop his violent inclinations against Christians, become a follower of Jesus himself, and live as a man of peace. If there is no violence, there is no need to dominate others or seek revenge against them. When that happens, a climate of forgiveness is created and people are able to be reconciled with one another.
In other words, by filling the world with peace, love, and good will towards all, there is less room or no room for filling the world with violence, hatred, and revenge.
Along with Jesus’ teaching to love one’s enemy, to seek their well being, comes the practice of surprising those who would take something from you by giving them more than what they are seeking. This teaching demonstrates the truth that it is difficult to STEAL something when someone WILLINGLY GIVES IT TO YOU AND EVEN MORE THAN WHAT YOU EXPECT. The following story is a good example of how practical this teaching of Jesus is:
Two thieves barged into the room of an old man and demanded, “Show us all of your valuables. You might as well cooperate, there is no way you can stop us.”
“And I don’t want to stop you,” the old man said. “Here take what money I have and anything that you can use.”
Quickly the men went through the small room, taking what few items of value they could find. Just before they left one of the thieves opened the old man’s small closet and spotted a new shirt. He tore it off the hanger and threw it into his sack.
As the two men left the house the old man grabbed a box that lay on the floor and ran to the door. “I didn’t realize that you were interested in clothing,” he shouted. “Here, take the coat that I just purchased this afternoon. I am certain it will fit you.”
One of the thieves turned toward the old man and demanded, “Just what is your game, old man? Why are you offering me this coat?”
“I try as best I can to live by the commands of Christ,” the old man replied. “He told his followers from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.”
The two men listened with amazement to the simple words of the old man. Then, they carried all of the items they had stolen back into the house.
As they left, the first man whispered, “Pray for us, old man.”
The second one just shook his head and said, “I didn’t know there were any Christians left in this world.” 1
What a wonderful world this would be if all Christians lived by these teachings of Jesus here in our gospel today! The world needs to know that there are Christians who endeavour, with Christ’s help, to live by his teachings. The consistency in these teachings of Jesus in verses 27-31 is, essentially, to treat others as you would want them to treat you. In so doing, there is less of a chance for evil powers to overtake us. In loving enemies, blessing those who curse, turning the other cheek, giving more than is expected, one is overcoming evil forces with the power of doing good, and God’s kingdom continues to come into this world. Ultimately, the power of God’s love in Jesus working in and through us shall overcome and defeat the powers of evil. So, on this All Saints’ Sunday we celebrate the life of our Greatest Saint, Jesus, who gives each of us the gift of sainthood, thanks to the rich inheritance of his life, teachings, death and resurrection! Amen.
1Adapted from: Wm. R. White, Stories For The Journey (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988), pp. 103-104.