November 1, 2020 - All Saints Day
I’d like to start today’s sermon with a story from Robert Fulghum, a Unitarian minister. The story goes like this:
At the last session on the last morning of a two week seminar on Greek culture, the professor turned and made the ritual gesture: “Are there any questions?” He was greeted with silence. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence. “No questions?” The professor swept the room with his eyes.
Alas from the back row came the single question, “Professor, what is the meaning of life?” The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go. The professor held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at the gentleman who asked the question for a long period of time, asking with his eyes if indeed the question was serious or in jest. “I will answer your question,” he said.
Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into the leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter. And what he said went something like this:
When I was a small child during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.
I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was impossible, so I kept only the largest piece; this one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine, in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.
I kept the little mirror, and as I went through life, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light.
But light – be it truth or understanding or knowledge – is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world – into the dark places of human hearts – and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise.
This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life.
And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and slowly reflected them onto all that were in the room.
Friends, are you allowing the light of Christ to reflect off the mirror of your heart? Are you allowing God to shine through? That is what the Beatitudes are about! God shining through.
It’s always been God’s purpose that when He entered our lives, He would be allowed to fill our lives so that He would shine through… that He would be visible in our attitudes and actions... that Christ Himself would be allowed to live through us.
The Beatitudes are like a mirror that reflects the light of God. The Beatitudes are supposed to BE your ATTITUDE. The Holy Spirit has come to live IN us that He might work THROUGH us and shine through us and move through us; to meet the needs of our hurting world. And when He does, others see the image of Christ shining through us.
Jesus came to live within me to master the circumstances of my life. He came to manifest His character in my life, and to minister to others whom my life touches -- every day. Yet, does anyone ever see God shining through me? Well, if they did, I know what that person would look like, for the Beatitudes are a self-portrait of Christ. And we are called to be transformed into the image of Christ.
He was poor in spirit. Although He was Almighty God, He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in human likeness. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death -- death upon the cross. He mourned. He wept for Lazarus. He wept over Jerusalem. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He was meek. He hungered and thirsted after righteousness. He was merciful.
Measure the life of Christ by these qualities, and you will find that He modeled them all. Just as Christ was while on this earth, so we become as we yield our lives to Him. A key... if not THE key to this passage... is the phrase “Blessed.” Jesus got our attention from the beginning. Blessed is a good thing. Here is what others will see when God shines through: A Happy Person.
This is the first sermon recorded in Matthew as having been preached by Jesus. It begins with happiness. Jesus reached out to the people seated on that hillside nine times. He reached out to the politically, socially, and economically oppressed -- with a call to genuine happiness. Happiness for many is an uncommon feeling. Jesus used the Greek word “blessed” not to invoke a blessing but rather to affirm a quality of spirituality that already existed, to indicate a condition of happiness.
It is all about Jesus... it is all about opening up our lives to be transformed into the image of Christ. Only by being confident in our Faith, and by yielding to the Holy Spirit will we walk in Christ’s path and be transformed into the image of Christ who alone completely portrays all the Beatitudes.
Happiness in the readings today is the unexpected offer. Jesus used nine, back-to-back announcements of blessing. Having endured a lifetime of verbal assaults by the scribes and Pharisees, the multitude of people on the mount must have thought they had died and gone to heaven.
For some reason, many people look at the Scriptures and all they can see is the negative. They emphasize the prohibitions, the curses, and the judgments, and leave people with the impression that God is vengeful and never forgiving, stern and never joyful. Jesus painted a different picture. He showed them a God who wanted them to be blessed; wanted them to be happy; who wanted to fill their life with joy.
Friends, are you blessed? Are you happy? Too many people spend their lives thinking, “I could be happy if...” They are looking for happiness in the wrong places, associating it with the wrong things. And if we are not happy, if we are not filled with joy, then our lives very seldom show God shining through. When God shows through, the world will not only see a blessed person, but they’ll see something deeper. They will see A Whole Person.
The Beatitudes describe qualities that are available to every Christian. They are not guidelines for Christian character. No... the Beatitudes describe the evidence of a life lived for Jesus. They are not to be produced BY the Christian, but IN the Christian. They tell us what the world will see shining through in a life that is fully surrendered to the Lord. The Beatitudes do not represent individual qualities, but a complete picture of a life mastered by God.
The evidence that one is truly walking in the Spirit is that they exhibit the Beatitudes -- not on a perfect basis but a consistent basis. Are we seeing a work of God if a person appears to be “poor in Spirit” but still hungers and thirsts for the things of this world? Will God make me meek, but allow me to lack mercy and compassion? What kind of impression would the world have of God if He worked that way? It is impossible to genuinely display one of these qualities as the work of God without displaying them all. One or more will, at times, be more prominent, but the Holy Spirit will not manifest one with a disregard for the others.
The Beatitudes are not a standard for me to achieve, but a way by which to measure my submission to the Holy Spirit. I do not spend my time worrying about whether or not I am poor in spirit, meek, or merciful. My focus is on giving my life to the Holy Spirit. Because I know if the Holy Spirit is in control of my life, He will manifest these qualities IN my life.
The happiest people in the world are those who yield themselves to experience the grace of God -- every day. Why? Because theirs is the kingdom of heaven, they are comforted, they inherit the earth, they are filled, they obtain mercy, they see God -- and others see God in them, for they are called “the children of God.” They lead the most fulfilling lives -- because God makes them into a complete person, a whole person.
A little boy was once asked, “What is a saint?” He replied, “A saint is a person who lets the light shine through.” Evidently he got this idea by watching the sun shine through the prophets and other great people of God in the stained-glass windows of his church. But he was certainly not far off base. A saint, or a person who is pure in heart, will let the light of God shine through.
Today on All Saints’ Day, as we remember all the saints, I want you to do something right now. Mentally, reach into your pocket or your purse and pull out a little mirror. Now, look into it. Are you allowing God to control and fill your life that God “shines through you?” You know what God looks like. God’s portrait is painted in the Beatitudes.
If God is not shining through you then take the first step and let Jesus take the lead. Let the Holy Spirit transform you. Let a life lived by the guidance of the Beatitudes encompass you and make you whole. Let God shine through you! Be a saint! Yield to God’s love, and let God shine through you this day.