Thursday, November 29, 2007


Slowly through the gathering darkness they came,
hoping, looking for a place to stay.
A confused young man and a pregnant young woman,
following the path, day after day.

She had heard voices, he had dreamed dreams,
they carried promise in their hearts.
But, for now, life was a matter of waiting,
of waiting for God, of playing their parts.

Advent is patience, Advent is hope,
Advent is walking slowly through life’s darkness
Holding words of hope and promise to our chests,
waiting for God to come, again.

Delmer Chilton, advent 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Advent I, Dec. 2, 2007

ADVENT I Dec. 2, 2007
Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14,Matthew 24:36-44

I’ll come right to the point. Today’s Gospel lesson is an extremely odd way to start our celebration of the Christmas season. Here we are all decked out in Advent Blue, we’ve lit the first Advent Candle, the Joy Group held a Christmas Party yesterday.

There are announcements in the bulletin about Christmas Poinsettias and the Gibsonville Christmas parade and the Children’s Christmas Program and the Choir Cantatas.

One thing’s for sure, we’re ready for Christmas, but the Gospel lesson isn’t about Christmas.
It’s about Noah and the flood and people dying and thieves breaking in and stealing and we have to wonder,


Well, if by Christmas you mean the Mid-winter American festival of excess and partying and gift-giving, the answer is practically nothing.

Don’t get me wrong; mostly I like that Christmas, it’s kind of fun. I like bright colored lights and shiny Christmas trees and Lord knows I like to get presents. I like parties and I like singing Christmas Carols. Heck, I even like singing, “Grandma got runned over by a reindeer.”

But almost none of that has anything to do with the Christmas we celebrate in the church. That’s the world’s Christmas, the secular Christmas, but it is most definitely NOT the Mass of Christ, the Feast of the Incarnation.

The Mass of Christ is a time to celebrate the fact that, in the words of St. John, “God so loved the world that he sent his only beloved Son.“ John 3:16

And in the words of the Nicene Creed, For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.

If we’re talking about the Christmas that is the celebration of the coming of God to Earth in human form, then our Gospel lesson is a perfect guide for our preparation.

One of the problems with what I call XMAS, the secular celebration, is that is focused primarily on the past and on the present without any thought to the future. We see the distant past, “The First Noel,” that long ago night when Christ was born, through the misty lens of our personal past. We struggle to recreate Family Traditions, we get all muddled up in images of real stables and hay bales and plywood in the sanctuary, between real shepherds and 5 year old boys in bathrobes.

We focus our energy on evoking the Spirit of the Christmas season, as if by faithfully observing the right rituals, singing the right songs, sending the perfect card to just the right perfect people we can somehow make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy and right with the world.

And what gets lost in all this is the sense that we are waiting on God; that we are not just thinking about the past, we are looking for God to DO something NEW, again. Instead of expecting God to come suddenly, we have tamed God, domesticated the deity.

We know when God is coming, one minute after midnight, December 25. We have 19 more shopping days ‘til Christmas, 22 if you count the Sundays. God’s coming is within our control, we can schedule it, plan it, orchestrate it, organize it; and if we can just get everything just right, it’ll be the best Christmas EVER!

Somehow, we have allowed ourselves to reduce the greatest miracle in the history of the world
to a matter of guest lists, recipes and the correct display of gaudy colored lights.


For, while Christmas is, quite appropriately, the celebration of that night, 2000 years ago, when Christ was born, it is more than that. And though Christmas is, again, quite appropriately, a time when families gather and we remember Christmases past with fondness and affection, it is also something more. And the season of Advent is designed to remind us of that Something More.

Advent is the season of Hope, a time when we are called to look to the future with confidence, a time to prepare ourselves for the new miracles God will work in our world. It is a time to get ready for the NEW movements of God’s Spirit in our lives.

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus uses three illustrations to help us realize the suddenness and unpredictability of God’s activity in the world.

First, he cites the familiar story of Noah and the flood, pointing out that the other people went about their normal business, ignoring God until it was too late.

Secondly, he gives twin examples about how some, even in the midst of their normal business, are ready to drop everything and go when Jesus calls.

And Third, Jesus makes reference to the age old problem of burglary, and makes the simple point that if you know when the bad guys are coming, you can be ready for them. But you don’t, so you have to be ready all the time.

And that’s the way it is with God; you never know when the God-moment is going to show up, so you have to be ready all the time.

And this readiness is not a matter of hanging decorations, and baking cookies, and sending Christmas cards, and going to office parties. This readiness is a tenderness in the heart, a willingness of the spirit to hear God’s word and to go God’s way.

To be ready for Christ to come into our lives and into our hearts, we must beat our personal swords into plowshares and our private spears into pruning hooks.

We must make peace in our families and in our churches and in our workplaces before we can make peace in the world. For us to be ready for Christ to come, we must lay aside all the works of darkness, we must put on the armor of light. We must examine our lives, and repent of our sins, and commit ourselves to acts of charity and goodness, to lives of love and generosity.

Advent is a time to Wake UP, a time to prepare ourselves to receive God into our lives. And, as you know, God has a habit of sneaking up on people. God tends to make appearances in unusual ways, through unlikely people, in unexpected places.

2000 years ago, it was a little baby, the child of an un-wed teen-age mother, in a dirty smelly cow-stall, on the other side of nowhere.

Who knows who, or when, or where it might be next time?

Who knows? It might be you! Now! Here!

Get Ready! Wake Up! God’s Coming! The Future is upon us.

amen and amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christ the King, Nov. 25, 2007

Nov. 25, 2007

Luke 23:33-43

Today is Christ the King Sunday. It is an odd sort of celebration for this time of year, with this story of Jesus’ crucifixion popping up between the Feasting of Thanksgiving and the Joy of Advent and Christmas.

And the very idea of kings, and Jesus as our King, is very hard for us to get a handle on in America in 2007. After all, we got rid of kings in this country 230 years ago. What do kings have to do with us?

We have silly images, like the Burger King, now being hunted by a hitman hired by suburban moms because his sandwiches are better than theirs.

We have Elvis, THE KING. A friend of mine is pastor of Christ the king Lutheran Church in Tupelo Miss., Elvis’ birthplace. I told her she should rename the church The King’s Lutheran Church and put a velvet painting of Elvis at the Last Supper in the Narthex. I figured she could work up a good crowd like that, but she declined.

Let’s see, what other kings are there? Well, there’s usually some loud-mouthed salesman on TV who proclaims himself the Mattress King, or the Used Car King, or the something like that. COME ON DOWN. WE’RE DEALING!

None of these ideas is of much help to us in thinking about what it means for us to call Christ our King. Let’s look at the Bible and see what’s going on for the Jews and for Pilate and for the thief on the cross.

Our Gospel lesson falls out into two basic sections.
1) verses 33-38 – the crucifixion
2) verses 39-43 – the conversation with the thieves.

Luke’s story of the crucifixion is very spare and simple; “they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his left and one on his right.”
That’s it. Very simple, very plain, and very clear to the people to whom Luke was writing.
Luke was a Greek, his main audience was Greco-Roman in culture, not Jewish, and they knew exactly was Crucifixion was, they didn’t need to have it explained to them. It was very common throughout the empire. Which was Luke’s point.

Jesus, the supposed Son of God, Lord of Lord and King of Kings, executed like a common criminal with a couple of petty criminals. Not very kingly, is it?

And then, more indignity, more shame; the soldiers kneel at his feet while he’s still alive. Not to worship, but to gamble for his clothes.

And people laughed at him, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen One.” There it is, the crux of the matter for the people then, and if we’re honest for us now.

We don’t want a suffering and dying God. We want a strong and powerful one. We want a Savior who can not only forgive our sins, but who will make us richer and prettier and more popular and help insure that all our plans work out for the best.

Joel Osteen is pastor of the large mega-church that meets in the large arena in Houston that used to be where the Houston Rockets played basketball.

He recently was interviewed on NPR, talking about his books and sermons and the interviewer pointed out there was almost nothing in his preaching and writing that had to do with God, or theology, or Christ or death and resurrection. The interviewer said, “It seems to be mostly pop psychology with a Bible verse attached.” And all Osteen could think to say was “Well, what I teach them helps people.”

Yes, we want a powerful savior, a helpful God, a conquering Messiah, a King who conquers. That’s why they were mocking him.

And the Romans made fun of him too, for different reasons. It amused them to see this carpenter; this rustic preacher wrapped in purple, with people claiming he was the King of the Jews, the rightful King, the representative of God on earth.

It amused them because they were Romans and they knew what a real king looked like, and this was definitely not it. A real king had power and arrogance and a hint of cruelty, and this Jesus had none of that. So they mocked him.

This first part of the Scripture shows us a man who is not anything like what anyone believes a king should be; not the Romans, not the Jews, not us.

The Second Part, verses 39 through 43 shows us what kind of king Jesus was, and is.

One of the criminals crucified with Jesus joins in the derision, (verse 39). He sees Jesus the same way everyone else does, as a self-deluded failure, as a pitifully deranged religious fanatic, as a nut.

But for some reason, the other thief sees Jesus with the eyes of faith.

He starts out simply by reminding the other man that while they are guilty, Jesus’ himself is innocent and does not deserve to die. So far, just a compassionate and honest thief taking pity on another condemned man.

Then he does this astounding thing. He turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Where did that come from?

How can he hang there on the cross and look over at a man dying beside him, and see in him a savior, a messiah, a king with a kingdom?

More importantly, how can we look upon this same man, this same small town carpenter and preacher, this same little Jew from 2000 years ago, and see in him not only the Saviour of the world but the Saviour of our souls?

It is because of something the Jews introduced to the world, that Jesus taught and lived out and died for, something which has become a part of our modern world; the idea that the true leader, the true king is the one who serves, the one who suffers for the people.

The Jewish idea of a king was that the king ruled under God, not as a God, that the king was as responsible to God as were the subjects.

This idea was taken further by the prophets, in particular Isaiah, who saw the king, the messiah as one who suffers on behalf of the people, as a suffering servant.

Jesus frequently said things like the true leader is the one who serves others. The one who takes up the burdens of others is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Particularly at the Last Supper, when he got down on his knees and washed the disciples feet, Jesus showed what true leadership, true kingship, is about.

And somehow, the second thief got it, saw what Jesus was doing, saw that here was the Lord of the Universe, the King of kings, refusing to swat his oppressors, dying so that they could be forgiven, dying so that by his suffering their suffering would be healed.

In 1988 an earthquake hit Armenia. Some years later Nishan Bakalian was in the town of Stepavan and met a woman everyone called, “Palasan’s wife.”
They called her that to show her great honor.
Here’s the story.

When the earthquake hit, it was nearly noon. Palasan was at work. He rushed to the elementary school where his son was a pupil. The front was falling, but Palasan went in and started pushing children out. He stood in a door, his back pushing up against the jamb and helped at least 28 children to safety before an aftershock collapsed the building and killed him.

The people of his town honor his memory by calling his widow, “Palasan’s wife.” They remember that he died to save others, the greatest act of leadership possible.

We celebrate Christ the King today, not because of his Regalness, but because of his humility, not because of his power but because of his compassion, not because of his triumph but because of his travail, not because he fixes our lives but because he shows us the way to live.

Amen and amen.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pentecost 25

November 18, 2007

Texts: Malachi 4:1-2a
2 Thess. 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Title: Visions of the Future

I have lived in and around a lot of the cities of the South. Raleigh/Durham in college and graduate school; Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, Whitsett.

In my last job I traveled around the country and flew into and drove around places like L.A., Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, etc. And they all have two things in common:
1) Bad traffic and 2) The Blame Game. Locals blame the bad traffic on the newcomers and the newcomers blame it on the locals.

One day I was driving Joseph to school in Nashville, in the usual 7:15 AM mess on I-40, when I saw a bumper sticker that expressed my frustration perfectly:


There you go, I thought to myself. Forget the big stuff, like Visualizing World Peace,” that’s too much, and too hard, and too unlikely to contemplate.

But I can visualize (and actualize) using my turn signal; just do the little things that make life a little easier for everybody.

Who knows? Maybe if everybody in Whitsett and Gibsonville and McLeansville and Burlington and Greensboro would use their turn signals properly, it might be a real start toward World Peace. I know it would reduce MY animosity toward my anonymous neighbors.

When I read today’s Gospel lesson, I thought about that bumper sticker. In the midst of all that big talk about big doings, Jesus sprinkles hints that its really about the simple behavior asked of us when such things inevitably happen.

Many people get all excited about that prophecy stuff in the Bible, all these dire predictions of awful things soon to come. People worrying about the end of the world, and I have enough trouble making it to the end of my paycheck.

And we have our modern versions. Remember Y2K? All that stuff about how the computers would shut down on January 1, 2000 and all the bad stuff that would happen because of that?

Had a church member in Nashville who filled his basement with water and food, and guns and ammo because when the time came, he said, he and his family would survive.

He quit coming to church because I wouldn’t take him seriously and get on his survivalist bandwagon, preaching the end of the world, etc. And January 1, 2000 came with nary a whimper.

I think with the drought, and the war in Iraq, and the falling apart of the ozone layer and global warming and aids and, need I go on? We have plenty of things to worry about in the present without fretting over predictions from the Bible.

One of the real problems we have is that all these things are so large and global and unmanageable and we are so small, that our temptation is to throw up our hands in despair and bury our heads in the sand and hope against hope that it all turns out alright.

But it is important to note carefully what Jesus says in today’s text:

Verse 9: “When you hear of wars and insurrections, DO NOT BE TERRIFIED.

Verse 14: “So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance, for I will give you words and a wisdom . . ‘

Verse 18: “Not a hair of your head will perish”

Verse 19: “By your endurance, you will gain your souls”

We have a tendency to hear only the bad news, don’t we? We’re like my Daddy with a report card. He could look at 5 A’s and a B and the first thing he did was point at the B and say, “What happened here?”

Yes, we hear the bad news, but these texts are really about Good News, about the Gospel. Jesus isn’t preaching gloom and doom; Jesus is preaching reality. Jesus was not predicting some far off day of ultimate battle; he was talking about the reality of life in Israel, which was an occupied country and had been buffeted about by war during its entire existence.

Jesus’ words remind us of our call to a life of endurance, patience and faith in the midst of a world that is often difficult and confusing.

We are called to a faith that looks above and beyond our personal circumstances to the promise of God to hold us and keep us safe forever.

We must not forget about World Peace, but we must remember that we move toward world peace in little things, like remembering to use turn signals.

Robert Fulghum wrote the best seller, All I Ever Needed to Know, I learned in Kindergarten. He tells the story of a pilgrim on the road to Chartres during the time its world famous Cathedral was being built.

Near the edge of the construction site, the pilgrim came upon a man cutting stones.
“What you doing?” The pilgrim asked.
“Cutting stones,” the man replied, “Every day, I cut stones.”

A bit later the pilgrim came upon a glass blower and asked him, “What you doing?”
“I am a glass blower,” was his reply, “I blow the glass to make it into large and more colorful panes.”

The Pilgrim went on and walked through the half finished Cathedral. There he happened upon a woman sweeping up dust from chipped stones and pieces of broken glass.
One more time the Pilgrim asked “What you doing?” The woman placed her broom against he wall, looked up at the spires reaching into the sky, smiled and said,
I’m building a Cathedral to the glory of God!

I’m not just sweeping up, I’m building a Cathedral!

I’m not just signaling a left turn; I’m building peace and civility in the world!

I’m not just helping out in Sunday School; I’m shaping a child’s soul for life and eternity.

In the big picture of God’s world, there are no small or unimportant actions.

The story is told that when Westminster Cathedral in England was being built, a merchant came by at mealtime everyday to take a look at the progress. (Like me, he was not afraid of work; he could stand and watch it for hours.)

He noticed a stonecutter being unusually careful with one particular piece, chipping and shaping it for weeks.

The man wondered, “What so special about that stone? Is it part of the Altar, or perhaps its part of the Pulpit, or maybe it’s to go over the front door.

Finally, he asked the mason where the stone would go. He took the merchant around to the back of a side aisle and pointed to an obscure, hidden spot.

The Merchant was stunned, “But nobody will see it back here!”

The stonecutter said, “That’s alright. We’re not building this cathedral for everybody, we’re building it for God!”

Our Gospel lesson is a call to faithful living, to endurance, to hanging in through tough times, to having faith in the God who has faith in you.

It’s about building your life into a Cathedral. The word cathedral comes from the Latin word for chair cathedra. It designates the bishop’s home church, where the Bishop “sits”. If we make our life into a Cathedral, it becomes a place where God can feel at home, where God is present, where God is in control.

And we move from that to making our congregation a cathedral, a place where God rules in every heart, where Christ’s love motivates all actions, where we remember it’s about God and not about us.

And we then move into the world, carrying this cathedral building with us, building networks of connection in the world, networks that share God’s love with those who need it most, those stepped on by war, persecuted by oppression, rejected by Society, left wounded and bleeding outside on the doorstep.

And it is our call to do the little things that open the door so that they can come in and be received into the arms of God’s love.

Amen and amen.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pentecost 24, Nov. 11, 2007

PENTECOST 24 Nov. 11, 2007

Texts: Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:27-38

Some time ago the Oxford American magazine had an article about what it called “mysterious traffic stops and starts.”

You know what they’re talking about; you’re going along the Interstate and suddenly traffic slows and then almost stops and then you creep for a while. All the time you’re wondering “What happened?” “What’s going on?” Oh, I hope nobody got hurt or killed.” “I wonder if its construction?”

You crane your neck to look ahead, to get a glimpse of the problem. Then as suddenly as traffic halted it speeds up again; and here’s the thing. There’s nothing there; no construction, no accident, no police check, nothing, nada, zip! It’s infuriating, isn’t it?

Well, the article in the Oxford American says that a group of Traffic Engineers investigated this problem. They tested a number of theories, and . . .

And here’s their conclusion. They don’t know. They really don’t know why it happens. It just does sometimes, for no apparent, detectable reason.

And that drives me nuts! Because I can’t stand meaninglessness. There’s something within me that rebels against the notion that things can happen with no cause and no purpose.

But, life feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it? There are times when it feels like we’re buzzing down life’s highway making good time, purposely going about our business; when suddenly things happen that cause life to seem totally meaningless.

That’s what happened to Job. As the book opens, he’s really making good time on the highway of life; things are great. Wife, kids, job, spiritual life: everything’s wonderful!

Then, in short order, everything grinds to a halt, the wheels fall off, and he’s left sitting on the side of the road in the burned out shell of his life.

No rhyme, no reason, no poetic justice, no novelistic irony, no cinematic climax; just meaningless disaster. His friends explore a number of theories as to the why of his predicament. Most of these ideas have to do with either Job’s hidden sinfulness or God’s lack of justice. Even Job’s wife tells him he should just curse God and die.

And yet, it is at this particular moment that Job make’s his impassioned statement of HOPE:
O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my redeemer lives. . .

In the midst of his darkest night, Job holds on to Hope.

Many people know of CS Lewis as the author of the Children’s books, The Chronicles of Narnia. Others also know him as the author of books on Christianity, as a defender of the faith, as a man who knows and explains all of what it means to be a believer. Another side of his life was told in the movie Shadowlands.

In the mid 1950’s Lewis, a lifelong bachelor, met and married an American woman, Joy Davidman. They had a few good years together, then she died of cancer.

Lewis wrote and published an anonymous book. It was called A Grief Observed. There Lewis poured out his pain and loss, his anger at God, his frustration and his loss of confidence in the very faith he had defended and proclaimed for so long. For me, his most powerful words of faith were these,
“You never know how much you believe ANYTHING until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life or death to you.”

Just as Job’s belief in the justice of God was strained to the breaking point by hardships he endured, Lewis’ belief in God’s goodness was almost overcome by the suffering and death of his wife.

In today’s Gospel lesson, the Sadducees ask Jesus a very silly question about the Resurrection. They don’t really care about the answer. It’s not a matter of life or death to them. They don’t believe in the Resurrection.

They are simply trying to trap Jesus into saying something objectionable; the way news reporters ask leading questions trying to get Presidential candidates to say something that will offend somebody enough to make news.

Jesus’ answer is a firm affirmation of the promise of the Resurrection.

The truth or falsehood of Jesus’ words became a matter of life and death to me a few years ago; on the night my wife was hit by a car while walking across the street near Vanderbilt University.

At 3 AM, as I sat, alone and frightened, in the Trauma Unit waiting room, waiting to find out if my wife would live or die that night – I pondered my belief in the promises of God.

Did I really believe? Believe; not just in God, or in the hope that God would spare her. No, my question was, did I really believe in the resurrection of the dead, in those words I so blithely and casually repeated Sunday after Sunday as I recited the Apostles’ Creed? Did I, did I really? It’s a very lonely place, and a very lonely question.

As Lewis said, “You never really know how much you believe anything until its truth or false hood becomes a matter of life or death to you.” “I know that my redeemer lives,” Job said. Did I know that, I wondered?
The questions before us today are these:

Is life meaningless, like the unexplainable fits and starts of interstate traffic?

Was Job a fool to continue to hope for redemption in the face of his suffering and loss?

And, how much do we, here, today, believe, really believe the gospel we read and preach and hear and recite Sunday after Sunday?

When we recite the creed – do we mean it, or do we just say it? Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ a matter of life or death to us?

Or are we like the Sadducees, making idle chatter and asking silly questions about things which we don’t really care about?

How committed are we, as individuals and as a community, to the most important truth we know; which is the truth that God is love, and God’s love is so deep and so true and so endless that God came and lived, and loved, and taught among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

And the truth that God’s love is so complete that, in a mystery too deep for us to fully comprehend; when Jesus died upon the cross, it was God pouring out his life for us, going to Hell for us, fighting sin and the Devil for us.

Indeed, God’s love is so immense that on Easter morning, God brought Jesus out of that tomb, and in that moment broke the chains of Sin, Death and the Devil for all of us.

To have faith, to really believe, to hold on to hope, is to embrace that story, God’s story, as our story, and to see every moment of every day as a moment and a day that has meaning and importance because it is a moment and day lived in the presence of God.

We are called to lay ourselves upon the altar of God and to cry out with Job,

“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and until the day when He shall stand upon the earth,
I will serve him.”
Amen and Amen.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Nov. 4, 2007

Text; Matthew 5:1-12

Boy, I love family reunions, mine and everybody else’s. The Hubbards, my Mama’s people, go to the old homeplace in Patrick County, Va. on the Saturday before Father’s Day every year. We eat a lot and play softball.

This year was kind of special; we surprised Mama and everybody else with a wedding. My younger brother Tony and his fiancĂ©e Terri got married and nobody knew it was happening except me and Terri’s parents. It was a lot of fun.

I go to a lot of family reunions as a pastor, especially those that happen at the church after worship. People graciously invite me to stay fro lunch and I seldom decline. You all know how much I love old-fashioned Southern cooking; and I need a break from my Jenny Craig regimen once in a while.

I remember one reunion back at Lutheran Chapel in China Grove when this one lady had gotten all excited about doing the family history. So after dinner, she began to give everyone a report.

She started with the first settlement in Rowan County and worked her way back up the Great Wagon Road through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the Pennsylvania Dutch area back over to Germany, to the time of Luther and beyond.

It was kind of interesting for a while, but it drug on and on for an hour and people started getting bored. As usual, I was sitting with the teen-agers and as she drew to a close, she asked, “Did I leave anyone else?” The kid next to me muttered, “Yeah, Adam and Eve.”

Today is all Saints Sunday. It is a day when we remember those who have gone before us in the faith. It is a day to trace our Christian family history, yes, all the way back to Adam and Eve.

It is a day when we thankfully remember those of our church members and friends and relatives who have died in the last year, who have gone on to join the saints in heaven.

It is also a day when we are called to examine our own saintliness, a time to remember our call to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors.

As Christians, our family tree is not limited to nor defined by our biological connectedness. We are all grafted into the family tree of God through the sacrament of Baptism; we have all been adopted as children of God and sisters and brothers of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus describes what a “blessed,” a “holy,” a “sainted” person is:

They are “poor in spirit” – that is, “they totally trust in God”

They are “those who weep” – “they share the sufferings of others”

They are the “meek” - they are “kind to others”

They are those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”
they “fervently desire justice in the world”

They are “the merciful,” - they are “full of forgiveness”

They are the “pure in heart,” - they are “people of deep integrity”

They are “peacemakers,” - they “work for peace and justice”

When I measure my life against Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, I don’t feel very Saintly. Indeed, I feel like the little boy Lois Wilson wrote about meeting at her door on Halloween.

He was about four and he was wearing a Superman outfit. He reached out his hand as he said trick or treat. Ms. Wilson couldn’t resist teasing him a bit, Where’s you bag?, she said. He replied, My Mom’s carrying it. It’s too heavy for me. Ms. Wilson smiled and said, “But you’re Superman!

He looked down at the S on his chest and looked back at Ms. Wilson and whispered, Not really, these are just Pajamas.

Though the Scriptures tell us that because we’re Christians, we’re also saints; most of us don’t believe it. We look down at the S on our chest and then plead with God, Not Really, I’m only human.

Which is really THE great mystery of All Saints Day. We are indeed only human, but we are also "The saints who gather" at Friedens Church, as Paul put it in many of his letters.

We are, as Martin Luther said, Saint and Sinner at the same time. While we do not go around in Christian Pajamas, with a big haloed S on our chest, we do have an invisible cross on our foreheads, put there at our baptism with the words;

Delmer Lowell Chilton, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the Cross of Christ forever.

Each of us has that mark on our lives; a mark which calls us forward into saintliness. We are called to continually try to live into our name as Children of God, as baptized Saints.

And, we never quite make it. We’re always aware of falling short, of not measuring up. We are also always aware that the other people in our family seldom measure up either. Unfortunately, we are sometimes more aware of the failures of others that we are of our own.

Someone sent me a little poem a few years ago. Its one of those things that got tucked away in a file. I ran across it the other day;

Oh, to live above, with Saints we love,
Oh, that will be Glory.

Oh, to live below, with Saints we know,
Well, that’s a different story!

The struggle of the Christian life is to remember that we are Saints in spite of our failures, and to remember that the other people in our Church Family are Saints as well, in spite of their imperfections.

One of the things I love about Family Reunions and Church Homecomings is that they are the most Grace-filled moments we share. It is a time when we look beyond the surface to see the mark of the family, the mark of Christ on everyone.

Regulars and irregulars, the faithful and the wandering, the staunch believers and “barely hanging on to their faith by the skin of their teeth,” doubters, those close at hand and those who came from far off; all together in one place, celebrating and enjoying their relatedness to each other and to God.

Our calling on this All Saints Sunday is to remember our saintedness, our blessedness, our holiness; which is a gift from God, a gift we were given for the benefit of the world.

It is also a day to remember the saintliness, the blessedness, the holiness of others. To remember that they too are the beloved Children of God and that we are to treat them that way.

Amen and amen.